Susan Douglas’ The Mommy Myth brought up many great examples of the misrepresentations of minorities.First and foremost, Douglas talked about the way welfare mothers are often stereotyped. Hardly ever in mainstream media do we see Caucasian families portrayed as poor in the plays, commercials, and television shows etc. Most of the women on welfare presented in the media are minorities–African American or Hispanic–with a history of teen pregnancies, as well as welfare dependency.
As I was reading the article, which talked about characters such as Carmen, who are often portrayed as lazy, promiscuous and irresponsible, I could not help but think of Mama June, who is the matriarch of the hit show Here comes Honey BooBoo. The connection is very interesting because even though the entire family is Caucasian, they are still considered to be minorities within the social system. They are not the “Christi Brinkley[s]” or “Annette Bening[s]” of the nation (Douglas,178). They are marginalized because though they may not be on welfare, they are still atypical Americans–portrayed as uncouth country bumpkins, who are overweight and do not take care of their bodies. Indeed, Mama June is a Carmen character because she is neither “too rich…[nor]…too thin.” She is actually confident in the way she looks and conducts her life, often labeling herself as “smexy.”
While I am on the topic of self-confidence and sexuality, I also want to discuss the implied ties between welfare and sexual promiscuity. Mama June once again would fit this profile because she has four children and in one episode she was even wondering if she was pregnant again. As I was looking up footage for this post, I found myself attracted to the clip titled ‘Is Mama June Pregnant Again?’ Going out on a limb here, I am going to assume that Mama June did not personally title the YouTube clip. Instead, it is the executives involved with that network who know that portraying this woman as a sexually irresponsible woman will garner more views. Most people at this point know about Honey Boo Boo and her family, so when producers want to get more viewers, they will automatically go with the stereotypes.
The description of the Carmen character as a “welfare cheat” and an overweight African American woman reminded me of Mo’nique’s character in the award-winning film, Precious. The film received a lot of back lash from members of the African American community because it displayed, in a very raw, unabashed manner. The Carmen character. Mary, played by Mo’nique was this stereotypical, lazy, abusive and very angry woman, who keeps her kid around only because she would be able to swindle a welfare check. The character of Precious, naturally, would be illiterate, become a teen mother, giving birth to two children (one with disabilities) before she graduated high school.
What is most problematic in this situation, as in many others, is the fact that these profiles are being marketed to target audiences. Douglas writes, “ articles…like this exploited the fact that their readership was largely clueless about the lives of their impoverished fellow citizens,” (175). This goes on to show that, at the end of the day, almost every piece of media is made with an agenda and it is up to the consumer to be skeptical of the things they read. In this case, The New Yorker played on the fact that it’s audience was probably Upper West Sider’s, who are familiar with poverty verbally, but don’t have the slightest idea of what it means to be an impoverished mother.
Douglas, Susan. The Mommy Myth. 174-200. Print.