A Bright Future for Black Reality Television: From BET's College Hill to Zeus Network's Baddies South

Abbitt, Sakyra, Media, Culture, and Technology - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Wade, Ashleigh, Media Studies, University of Virginia

College Hill premiered in 2004 on Black Entertainment Network (BET) as the first Black reality television show. For the first time in the history of the genre, this meant the introduction of all-Black casting. With the excitement of its initial premier, Black audiences seemingly had high hopes for the series, but were ultimately let down due to stereotypical representations of Blackness presented in the series. Fastforwarding almost twenty years later, Zeus Network has come into the spotlight as one of the first Black-owned streaming networks producing primarily all-black reality content. Much of Zeus Network’s content displays different ways of being Black drawing on important discussions–diverging from normative politics of respectability. Drawing on early literature from Black feminist scholars, Black popular culture, and television studies, I argue that the introduction of Black reality television through the medium of Black-owned streaming platforms lends itself to the creation of a more diverse Black experience and representation of Blackness. Furthermore, I also argue that Zeus Network, through its affordances, enables subscribers to engage more actively in dialogue with one another that is celebratory in nature of Black joy and varied empowering representations of Black women.

MA (Master of Arts)
Black Reality Television , Streaming Platforms, Ratchetry
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