Games, Gaffes and Gurus: ‘Tee-Tee’ Disses Oprah in an ‘Unh-Unh’ Moment
[“Diss”claimer: I don’t follow the sport of football; nor do I understand the game. No double takes. You’ve read correctly. And while we’re at it, I don’t follow basketball either. Chantale’s a non-stereotypical sista. To me, the Super Bowl is the grand championship for either leather-ball grippers or three-hole-fingering pros. And no, the latter doesn’t refer to extraterrestrial arousal; that would be the foreplay to a lesser-known tournament: the Super Ball.
Seriously, though, I’m an armchair cyclist, and I don’t mean spinning class. (Cue the opening bars of “La Marseillaise.”) Come July, my glutes will be glued — not literally — to my sofa while I fantasize rolling past cheering, inebriated, French-spewing spectators through château country, cursing the rain as I pedal up le Col du Tourmalet and then edging out my all-male competition the nearer our wheels spin toward Napoléon I’s arch at la place Charles de Gaulle. Of course, I’m referring to le Tour de France.
While I plead a case of total ignorance to the sport of football, I have a passion for a TV show that does more than a passable effort of satirizing the lives and predicaments of professional football athletes. Yes, I am referring to “The Game.” (Can you hear the aggressive electric guitars of the theme music right now?) In today’s blog post, I will be plugging the show with wild abandon. Not pulling the plug, which some very unwise TV people did several years ago — but now I’m getting ahead of myself.]
In 2010, I joined the waves of fans who clamored for the return of “The Game.” We made some noise and way past prime time. We produced more noise than a global flash mob of thrash-metal guitarists, but we did so via our keyboards, utilizing social-media channels and e-mail. Yeah, we raised hell as well as Black Entertainment Television’s then-shallow estimation of its core market. We proved that a quality dramedy with a nearly all-Black ensemble cast was a sure bet rather than a high-risk gamble.
When “The Game,” which was created by and is executive-produced by Mara Brock Akil (she’s also the creator of “Girlfriends,” of which “The Game” is a spin-off), returned with swagger to the BET network on January 11, 2011, we “Game” fans shattered TV viewership records. How does 7.7 million viewers sound? Yeah, we made history and left seasoned TV executives’, marketing pundits’ and journalists’ mouths agape.
When we rallied for the return of “The Game,” not only BET but also major advertisers listened. To Us. I’m not saying that most of the fans are Black, although I do believe so; but when one considers that in the United States of America, Black people are invisible, I think it’s fucking amazing that, abracadabra, all of a sudden a whole lot of White folks were able to see us. Not really us, though, but our green. Our money. Even still … baby steps can effect change. Yes, our voices were heard. To borrow from Dr. Spock, the Vulcan, not the pediatrician: It was only logical.
Black people, African Americans, are still a minority of the U.S. population. After all, we can’t count as “Black” or “African American” the thousands, if not millions, of American-born citizens who ignore the one-drop rule. We also can’t count the others who have no knowledge or awareness or documentation of their African-slave great-great-great-great-great grandmothers. Yet Black citizens and non-citizens disproportionately spend their salaries on consumer goods — essentials and doodads.
In a country bestowed with the gift of the Statue of Liberty, where Black people’s humanity continues to be devalued (true, sometimes by Us) and where we are relentlessly demoralized (sometimes by one another) — from schools and workplaces to banks and supermarkets — we try to delude ourselves and boost our self-worth by piling on and in things. We whittle down our paltry paychecks by purchasing unappraised jewelry, expensive cars and toxic junk food (a list of things by far from complete) as if any of those items can comfort Us through the deliberate, psychological offenses that we experience in everyday transactions, and overtly and subliminally in and from the media. However, if U.S. Black consumers suddenly were to decide not to live beyond their/Our means, the U.S. surely would suffer a Great-Great-Great-Great-Great Depression.
So, y’all, screw those medical-news stats about not eating after seven in the evening and about obesity’s takeover of America, for Madison Avenue counts on Us to crave juicy, no, greasy, hamburgers after ten o’clock. (Do you know where your insulin and BP monitors are?) Ooh … diabetes and hypertension! Yummy! Have I crinkled a nerve? No worries; just think about crunching French fries by moonlight — or by TV light — and awakening with indigestion at dawn.
By now you may have surmised that I have nothing but love for ya — and for “The Game.” Wrong. Well, I do have nothing but love for ya, but I have a bone to pick today about intragroup cattiness. By no means is this a rah-rah-shish-boom-bah post about the popular show. While both the writing and acting in Season 5 — the current season — are the best since the series’ early years, now and then a character rubs me the wrong way. Now and then, a character, in this case “Tee-Tee,” utters a line that registers a WTF? Writers of “The Game” episodes would best beware not to alienate fans who cherish or otherwise appreciate Black icons who paved the way for Black artists’ enjoyment of, and wealth from, mainstream celebrity. Case in point: last week’s episode (Season 5, Episode 17) titled “A Woman’s Right to Choose Herself.”
During that episode, Wendy Raquel Robinson‘s “Tasha Mack” seeks barside counsel from Barry Floyd’s “Tee-Tee” (alias “Terrence”) a childhood friend and lackey of Tasha’s son, “Malik El Debarge Wright” (portrayed by Hosea Chanchez). When wingmeister Tee-Tee isn’t ducking flying grease inside his “cluck truck,” the entrepreneur with slim build doubles as a street-wise philosopher. At the swanky bar, Tee-Tee tries to convince love-starved, hypersexual Tasha to change her mind about serving as a surrogate mother for “Melanie” and “Derwin Davis”‘ fertilized embryo and to choose the love of “Pookie” (played by Rockmond Dunbar — one of the most gifted guest stars on “The Game” thus far).
The twist in the Melanie-Derwin-Tasha story arc, which inherently punishes career-oriented women, is that Melanie [played by Tia Mowry-Hardrict], when she was still med school student Melanie Barnett, had had an abortion. By forging an identity through her pro-footballer boyfriend-turned-husband, Melanie lost her way and her scruples (especially when she tried to ruin the lovelife of Derwin’s babymama, such as screwing around with the paternity test on her son, “D.J.”), and abandoned her medical goals. Now that her fertility is a gigantic question mark, she is experiencing an existential crisis.
Fans know that “The Game” has its misogynistic moments, although many more occurred in the show’s first era. Then again, the series is a satire about male athletes. Feminist rants aside, I want to focus on an unnecessary meanness within Tee-Tee’s advice to Tasha over drinks at the bar. He tells her that he’ll be Gayle (King) to her Oprah (who else?), to which Tasha agrees. If the writer(s) of Episode 17 had left the Oprah mention there, I wouldn’t have been inspired to pen this post. Then Tee-Tee pauses pensively and mutters, “Sensible in life, not in love — yeah, you Oprah all right.” Ohmmmm … my … God, I thought to myself.
Look, writers of “The Game”: Oprah Winfrey has come a helluva long way from new-car giveaways and other types of focus on material excess. She need not apologize for being wealthy. Brava to her for transforming herself into a self-made billionaire! Now that her inspirational, Emmy-winning program “Super Soul Sunday,” on the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN — how ingenious), kicks off each new week with spiritual uplift, Oprah has attained the status of guru. And one day, she’ll rise to the firmament as a deity. She isn’t the kind of hammy life coach that sometimes makes me crave bacon when my remote gets stuck at Dr. Phil’s show, however. Nuh-unh, Oprah is an earthy guide.
Prior to Oprah’s launching of OWN, I had perceived the gifted actress as a talk-show host, albeit a megasuccessful one. Then “Super Soul Sunday” began shining with its neo-hippie aura on my already bohemian life. (Cue Seals & Crofts’ “Hummingbird.” Mmm, mmm, mmm … Oh, how I love that song. Really, I do.) “Super Soul Sunday” segments feature legendary gurus that don’t even get upset when Oprah interrupts their effusive explanations for the meaning of life, which makes for great comedy when my eyes aren’t glossed over in spiritual transcendence. Oprah, if you’re reading this: Meditation is about being in the moment, so let your guru guests have theirs … and then some. We don’t want you mushing up what the spiritual teachers are saying until it’s pablum.
Jokes aside, I’ve been thoroughly enjoying “Super Soul Sunday” at the start of that day, which ends (on television, anyway) with “Finding Your Roots,” a documentary series about ethnic and cultural identity on PBS hosted by Professor “Skip” Gates that features interviews and big reveals based on genetics tests and genealogical research. Now every Sunday is quite meaningful. You see, I remind myself of my purpose when I awaken, and I wonder who the hell I am before I fall asleep. Just in case I never open my eyes again, this thing called life is just a dream. [Update, August 2012: I thought the “Finding Your Roots” series would continue through the summer. I hope it returns in the fall. C’mon, PBS. I’ve donated enough money, cumulatively speaking, over the past decade, to get more than a tote bag. I know I’ve gone naptural, but gimme my roots back!]
Getting back to okra. I’m sorry; I was craving some gumbo. Yaya! Getting back to Oprah …
For a few weeks recently, she was following up the spiritual programming on Sunday (including “Master Class,” a series of first-person profiles by iconic people such as Sidney Poitier, Jane Fonda and Jon Bon Jovi) with a Monday-night program featuring one or a group of motivational speakers. The latter was the case when Oprah hosted Deepak Chopra, Bishop T.D. Jakes, Iyanla Vanzant and Tony Robbins in one show!
I find much inspiration viewing “Super Soul Sunday,” the format of which calls for an interview with an iconic spiritual teacher in his or her natural environment; an indie film that involves love, spirituality or metaphysics, or a combination of all three; and social experiments/sketches by members of SoulPancake. All of the positivity in that 11 a.m.-to-2 p.m. programming block anchors my being in the universe so that I can enjoy a guilty pleasure such as “The Client List” — starring the multitalented Jennifer Love Hewitt as a reluctant hooker in the guise of a massage therapist — on Lifetime late on Sunday night and then survive the psychological challenges and resist the temptations of the coming workweek. [Update, August 2012: Now that “The Client List” has wrapped, so to speak, this attention whore has to wait until 2013 to find out what’s going to happen to the Texas hoes? WTF! The only wrapping that would’ve satisfied me? How about more tape on Jen’s boobies. In the last few episodes, I was thinking: Those editors must’ve had close calls with wardrobe malfunctions on the set.]
Again, back to Oprah …
I’m not trying to portray OWN as all meditation bells and incense. After viewing the episodes documenting Oprah’s India visit, where people living in abject poverty pelted her with roses — a sign of honoring a person of renown — as she barely squeezed through the narrow lane of tiny houses, I was appalled that she opted to dine with an affluent Indian family high above the slums. Why couldn’t the she dine with the other loving family that she had visited earlier (in TV time), on the floor of their one-room dwelling? It was like, one minute: Look at the poor people living on top of one another. Then, the next minute: Wow, where can I find these fab chargers in the U.S.? Oprah didn’t say either of these statements, of course, but the camera captured her discomfort level not long after she had strode through those sprinkled rose petals. She glanced about the impoverished family’s abode, and the communal, outdoor shower with disdain.
On the other hand, when Oprah sat at the table of the upper-class Indian clan, she looked glam but snobbish. Talk about being hippocritical. The contrast of living conditions in India, her dinner location choice, and, in general, the in-your-face disparities and racism of the caste system in India, all made me cry. I’m talking boo fucking hoo. And don’t get me started on the glitterati party later on in the episode, where, after making an entrance on elephant with friend Gayle’s daughter, she was led around by an aging, tugged-and-lifted socialite and introduced to Bollywood actors.
On another, less emotional matter, hawking material things are unavoidable on any network; even the PBS network airs car commercials. What puzzles me, however, about OWN is Oprah’s decision (if it was hers) to sign off on vast blocks of negative and oddball programming. These back-to-back (and sometimes knife-in-back) crime shows are more morbid fascination than punishment and redemption — and strange medical and sociological fare. Let’s see, there are “Cuff Me If You Can,” “Deranged,” “Unusual Suspects,” “Nothing Personal” and “My Mom Is Obsessed.” My personal fave, though, is “Unfaithful: Stories of Betrayal.”
So Tee-Tee of BET’s “The Game” wasn’t completely wrong in saying that Oprah is sensible in life, for gurus have stacks of bills — in both the physical and virtual realms — to pay, too. However, as to whether the goddess of gab and green is sensible in love? Well, that’s none of Tee-Tee’s, my or Our business.
© 2012 Chantale Rêve
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