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There’s Nothing ‘Real’—or Right—About the Violence on RHOA and Other ‘Reality’ Shows

On Sunday night, Bravo’s The Real Housewives of Atlanta returned with a new season, its first since cast member Porsha Williams physically attacked cast mate Kenya Moore during the show’s reunion special earlier this year. With cast and crew looking on, Williams found herself in tears on the floor of the set, restrained by security, wondering out loud how she’d allowed things to get this far.

But we knew this was coming. Williams’ mug shot had been leaked to the press a week prior, touted by entertainment blogs as the “most glamorous mug shot ever.” Arrested and charged with battery, Williams faced very real consequences for her actions. But what about the show’s producers? When will they take responsibility for creating and exploiting the conditions that led to the violence we witnessed that night?

With reports of the potential for even more violence to come on the network, it feels as if there is no end in sight to the show’s lucrative love affair with dehumanizing images of black folks.

Episodes that feature these brawls are hyped for weeks before their airdates as must-watch events. And these convenient plot developments-turned-marketing hooks are no accident, because so-called reality shows like RHOA are anything but real.

Producers strategically employ casting, location scouting, product placement and editing in the service of a contrived storyline that exists just to thread one act of violence or humiliation into the next. Then, when something like the reunion show fight inevitably erupts, they disavow any blame.

 

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