MTV2 "satire" puts black women on leashes

Salon
August 10, 2006
By Tracy Clark-Flory

Clearly, we're satire lovers at Salon and, if Stephen Colbert's ubiquitous presence is any hint, proud of it. But there's smart satire, and then there's sloppy satire. Still yet, there's the cheap fare that's declared satire only after it has inspired extreme political ire. Reuters reports on an MTV2 cartoon that's garnered a lot of attention lately and that, it's safe to say, falls in one of the latter two categories. (It would, of course, be easier to determine if the offending episode hadn't been removed from the MTV Web site.)

In an episode of "Where My Dogs At?" a Snoop Dogg look-alike leads two leashed black women into a pet store, where they act like animals: walking on all fours, scratching themselves, and defecating on the floor. Snoop orders one of the women to "hand me my latte" and later dons a plastic glove to clean up their mess. Media watchgroups say the episode relies on racial stereotypes and derogatory images of women for laughs; also, it first aired at 12:30 p.m. on a Saturday, which critics say is a prime time for young viewers.

Immediately, MTV began clanging the satire bell to save face, and pointed to Snoop Dogg's 2003 appearance at the MTV Video Music Awards when he led two collared -- very real and very human -- women by a leash. "We certainly do not condone Snoop's actions and the goal was to take aim at that incident for its insensitivity and outrageousness," MTV2 spokesman Jeff Castaneda told the Associated Press. "Even one of the dogs, a main character on the show, states, 'I find that degrading and I am a dog.'"

The satire defense is a bit fantastical, especially if we're to believe that MTV -- the most popular distributor of "gangsta rap" -- was targeting unflattering mainstream portrayals of black men and women. In response to MTV's satire defense, Lisa Fager, president of media watchgroup Industry Ears, righteously asked, "Where's the context in that?" Likewise, New York Post columnist Stanley Crouch lambasted the network, which last week celebrated a quarter of a century of projecting what he calls "the most dehumanizing images of black people since the dawn of minstrelsy in the 19th century." MTV broadcasts -- to a worldwide audience -- "pimps, whores, potheads, dope dealers, [and] gangbangers" as images of "'real' black culture," Crouch wrote.

So, was this subversive commentary on the man, by the man? Or just a sloppy and reckless attempt at getting cheap laughs?