Criminalization of Black Men in these united states has always had its concomitant ritual of pathologizing those same said men. From Sameul Cartwright’s drapetomania to modern era framing of schizophrenia as a “protest psychosis”, Black Men have had their mental health defined along a political axis.“Can Black Men Heal Thy Self???”, J. OWL Farand
If I had to write this in an inverted pyramid style, I would open up with:
Love & Hip Hop Atlanta serves a pornographic but necessary message of Black Male mental Health and Fatherhood.
That is a ‘too long, did not read’ take, my presumption is that I would be remiss if I did not explain why I use ‘pornographic’ in my own ‘pornographic’ take there.
Allow me to stroll through a more scenic route, as my mother might phrase it, to clarify my thoughts here. When we use this term ‘pornography’, it is so often used in relation to sexual performance that it can be like picking out locked hair to detangle it from that meaning alone. However, pornography is more than just sex. It is a particular style of sexual performance recorded for an audience. In visual language, we see this when considering or thinking about differences between types of movies or shows labeled ‘soft porn’ or ‘hard porn’. ‘Soft porn’ is not a label we give to a production with softer people, in that same way, ‘hard porn’ is not always a recording of machines having sex. Those descriptive terms, those qualifiers, are used to tell us what degree of spectacle, exploration, or extreme variance from a social norm(I choose not to use ‘deviance’) a productions presentation of sexual acts will be.
It is a measure of libidinal energy associated with recorded productions produced for mass audiences seeking that which is vicarious, that which is voyeuristic, that which is vice and variety via mediated proxy. Libidinal energy can be simply dubbed, “desire”. In a Freudian or Marxist sense, desire tends to be less specific to sex, but a sexual-like drive for a coveted “thing”, for lack of a better term.
I do not think ‘pornography’ is immoral in and off itself. In a society that consistently wishes to present itself in fake conservative language, while revealing its true nature through its excesses and extremes, I believe ‘pornography’ is probably more healthy than not. As I believe ‘pornography’ should not be confused with sex, it should also not be confused with freedom. However, that is not why we are here.
On Love & Hip Hop Atlanta’s season 10 finale episode, members of its Black male cast came together to discuss trauma. Throughout this season, this topic of mental health and Black Men permeated. These vignettes culminate in this one scene where Love & Hip Hop Atlanta’s Black Men descend upon a set of bleachers alongside a basketball court.
From Safaree’s robbery to Scrappy’s instagram post where he identifies with suicidal tendencies, these men take turns opening up and sharing recent traumatic experiences. As stated above, I absolutely believe this scene, as most of its show, is for spectacle. It is a porn of reality. This does not make it unhealthy. It is pornographic gospel. It is safety as spectacle. It is alarm as art.
It is important not only due to its televised display of Black Men bonding over a topic that has been addressed by Black scholars of psychology and psychiatrist for many decades.
Of Black Men and suicide, scholar Dr. Amos N. Wilson writes,
The rites of passage through racist White American-dominated society is extremely stressful for Black youth. This is more so the case for the Black male since he receives the brunt of the White supremacist attack against Black America. Stripped of appropriate male support, guidance, protection, education, and other important coping skills by a White racist system which fears his Afrocentric competence, he is left vulnerable to the thousands of little nicks and burns, physical and psychological insults, which cumulatively push him towards self-annihilation. Not allowed the privileges and status of full and unfettered manhood by White racist male domination, a significant number of African American males are immaturized or are often led to express their “manhood” in self-destructive ways: in ways harmful to other Black males and the Black community in general. Immaturized by White racist oppression, void of overarching and long-term Afrocentric goals which provide them with maximum and healthy control over their impulses (including impulses to kill themselves) they may commit suicide. Without Afrocentric self-definition, possessed by an introjected alien identity, and racked by neurotic and psychotic conflict, the Black psychopathological promptings and persecutions. Consequently, he may come to think that the only effective solution to his problems lie in physical or mental self-abnegation.“Black On Black Violence”, Amos N. Wilson, pg 156
Wrapping this up, Love & Hip Hop Atlanta is a sensational production that uses a pornographic model of scripted reality to make its points. One of those points is that Black Men often suffer from unaddressed trauma. Regardless of how manufactured this show’s presentation and delivery of that message is, they deserve a hearing and viewing.