with Lynne and Leslie

Not sure how to feel about: “Girlfriend Intervention”‘s black fairy godmothers

by SweetMidlife

I’m afraid this “Lifetime” might be wasting mine.

Leslie here!

Because I write about entertainment, pop culture, and various entertaining goings-on and hooha, I have a lot of interest in news about upcoming movies and TV shows, both for professional reasons, and because I like knowing what on the horizon might be worth interrupting my steady stream of “People You Do NOT Want To Meet In An Alley In Any Lighting Situation For Reals” on Investigation Discovery (this is not a real show, but you know you’d watch it. Heck, I would.)

You know what is a real show, or at least is going to be? “Girlfriend Intervention,” Lifetime’s new “Queer Eye For The Straight Guy”-esque deal that substitutes pulled-together, savvy (and likely sassy) black women for the pulled-together, savvy and sassy gay men. This is how the press release describes it:

“Four wise, poised and stylish African-American women, who, in each episode, help a white sister seeking a complete makeover to restore her confidence and inner glow.”

Umm…not so fast there, Lifetime Television For Co-Dependents. On the one hand, it’s nice to see a network that considers black women the go-to for style and refinement, unlike, oh, pretty much every other network. (As the home of the black “Steel Magnolias” remake and the Fantasia movie, it’s clear Lifetime values black women and the women who like them as an audience, without weave-pulling).

And if “Girlfriend” matches “Queer Eye” in tone, any tough love and joshing at expense of those being intervened upon will be worth it at the affectionate and successful reveal. I like encouraging togetherness among women (I’m looking at you, Bravo’s “Real Housewives of Ethno-Cultural-Class Stereotypes and Public Shaming.”)

But…(and you knew that there was one)…I’m not sure how to feel about so much of it, because the premise deals in some mule-tired stereotypes that I’m not sure are a good look on anyone. Even the title makes my teeth start itching, because it reminds me of white strangers who, upon meeting me, suddenly go “How you doin’ girlfriend?,” in some weird Southern/Brooklyn/imagined black person accent when I swear I just heard them speaking in proper English sentences that ended in consonants before they turned to me. Umm, one day I might be your girlfriend, as in your good pal. But let’s start with “Leslie,” OK?

Here’s the other thing – that “girlfriend” stuff opens to the door to an otherness that’s at the root of every other comedian on “Def Jam” – the “black people be like this and white people be like this” thing. And yes, there are some truths in all stereotypes, whose exceptions don’t become apparent if the only people that you encounter from another groups are the ones you see on TV. And continues a really, really lazy trope seen everywhere from “Ghost” to “The Help” – that black women exist mostly to teach you a lesson, make you grow as a person and heal your aching heart, until your soul glows and they get back into their magic Escalade and go off to save some other white people, like Atlanta Mary Poppins.

Then there’s the weird message that white women are somehow obviously more clueless about body image, style and getting-it-togetherness than black women, because I know some dang fine white women who are actually my personal “Girl, what is wrong with your nails?” patrol. Is that OK? And how come these “Girlfriend” folks aren’t helping black women, or Latinas or Asians or Native Americans? Is it assumed that we don’t need any help? (Because I don’t want to get too personal, but if I go too long between pedicures my husband starts making random references to “getting that talon attended to.”)

I have a lot of friends who are black and white and Latin and biracial and Indian and Sri Lankan-Australian and Jewish and atheist and whatever else you’ve got. We all help each other. Some of us have strengths that fit stereotypes, and some of us defy definition. We do for each other not because of some ethnically-defined mission to meddle or swoop in. We are friends. We are not each other’s staffs or acolytes or fairy godmothers with no lives other than the one in which we’re of service.

I am gonna check out “Girlfriend Intervention” because I kinda have to now, don’t I? And also because it could prove me wrong. I thought “Queer Eye” was going to be full of gross stereotypes, and although it sometimes was, it was also bold, sweet and gave the world Carson Kressley and my food boyfriend Ted Allen.

I just wish it didn’t have to be another show about clueless white people and the magic black people who live to help them. Because as my husband – sisters need help sometimes, too.

6 Responses to “Not sure how to feel about: “Girlfriend Intervention”‘s black fairy godmothers”

  1. tcandori@gmail.com' Tess says:

    Please tell me people don’t go “How you doin’ girlfriend?” when they meet you.

  2. bride35 says:

    Tess…Does this surprise you? And yes, they do. They really, really do. Not a lot. But a few times a month. And I never slap any of them, ever.

  3. sam@madebysam.com' Brother Sam says:

    I was horrified at the promo for exactly the reasons you were, plus I worry that it’s going to add yet another layer of vague resentment to the already weird and complicated relationship white America has with any female, especially any female with melanin.
    On the other hand, it’s no worse than any other makeover show, in premise at least, so, hey, a little less lily-white TV is probably a net positive. I keep telling myself.
    By the way, I will totally “hey girlfriend” you, but only during fashion consultations…

  4. niknak411@yahoo.com' Best Friend Nikki says:

    Hey, girlfriend!!
    So…this show sounds like something that’ll make me grind my teeth and shout that THIS is why we can’t advance as a people! (Thank you, Lynne!)

    I dunno…maybe I’ll watch it with Sam. He can be my canary in the mine. These types of things bother him WAY more than they do me (I’m the one who’s likely to say “Oh…were they being prejudiced? Huh.”), so if it doesn’t anger him, maybe it’s ok. But if I hear one Black woman on that show say “chile” or “mmm-hmm” with the neck and head gyrating, I’m punching someone in the eye socket.

  5. bride35 says:

    Nikki and Sam: It could be OK like “Queer Eye” turned out to be, but when it’s couched in such racial terms, where the black women, though chic and stylish, are the acolytes of some helpless white woman, nobody wins. Not black women who want our own show where we get to be fly but not be serving somebody, or white women, who are not helpless and clueless and don’t need to be saved.

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