Pop Culture

Is Bob Hearts Abishola #cancelled?

Written by Penelope Farthing

In today’s episode of outrage, Bob Hearts Abishola, a freshman comedy new to CBS, has been slapped with a Change.org petition calling for its cancellation.

 

The clips that I’ve seen getting the most backlash feature the Nigerian Abishola insulting a black American mother and son after a fight that broke out after Abishola’s son was called “jungle bitch” (starts at 0:23 mark)

 

And the other clip was that a side character categorized her preference in men with Nigerians (Yoruba, Igbo, other Africans, Caribbean, white, then African American men). I cannot find the whole clip, but I will put a link to it if I do. This one is particularly interesting to me, because people will defend their racial/ethnic dating preferences all the time, and will often put down the least preferred option as they go.

 

Outrage is just free press, but that’s nothing new. Why pay for advertising when you can count on the anger of social media users to do it for you for free?

 

Were the jokes funny? Not even remotely. Relying on stereotypes is among the lowest forms of humor. Bear in mind, I haven’t seen any of the episodes, just the trailer and some clips. But the outrage to me seems out of proportion with what was said. Beyond that, I’ve noticed a few eccentricities with this outrage that I wanted to point out:

 

Finding fault with CBS

Many commenters were decrying CBS, saying that they were tired of the disrespect and that they should be embarrassed to have let this air. However, it is not the job of “others” to ensure that our promotion is in line with the kind of positive promotion we want. In a perfect world we could all take turns being the belle of the ball, but everybody is out here fighting for their own, with “their own” meaning their tribe.

Taking aim at CBS is all well and good, but maybe it would hold more value in creating and promoting positive images on our own networks instead. Instead of Iyanla fixing people’s lives and broadcasting our dysfunction for public consumption, maybe black network owners could feature black students in STEM, or a show about black people in the arts like ballet and orchestral music, or informational things like the black equivalent of Dr. Oz (without being a scammer).

All the smoke for Gina Yashere

Gina Yashere, a Nigerian-British writer on the show, has come under fire for her part in this flap. Her name is coming up the most on who should make things right on behalf of the #ADOS the show has offended. However, Gina is listed last behind three other writers in any credits online. Shouldn’t this energy be directed at those other three dudes? Why is she being singled out over the three other showrunners? Why is she, a foreigner, (who detractors of the show have made no bones about making the distinction between her and the ADOS), expected to care about our media portrayal at all?

 

Mobilization is quick when they want to be

Black Twitter came through with a list of advertisers, and has tagged them, demanding they drop the show due to the offensive jokes. I wish this rapid mobilization was used in other more pressing issues, but hey, priorities, right?

 

The collective is so easily triggered

Did anyone think that this was done on purpose just to get people #triggered? Like I said, it’s outrage marketing and saves them a ton on advertising.

 

Getting mad at the wrong thing

Bob Hearts Abishola is still new, and therefore fresh in the minds of everyone, so I get why it’s trending now. It’s just a little surprising to me that all this effort is being put into getting a TV show with only three episodes aired so far cancelled. It seems disingenuous to me. Meanwhile, entire decades of music, from within the ADOS community, focused on calling the daughters of that very same community bitches and whores and thots and freaks and skeezers and baby mamas and the rest of it. That was allowed to prosper, and continues to do so today. If clips from a sitcom 3 episodes in are this damaging to our image, would rap and hip hop and the culture surrounding it not be even worse? Why and how is Bob Hearts Abishola that much worse that what we produce?

 

The art of “keeping that same energy”

 

Where was this energy in the Great Black Woman Dragging on social media circa 2009 – 2016?

 

Where was this smoke for people WITHIN the community who have said and done things that make the ADOS community look bad?

 

Where was this outrage when black American comedians donned the wigs, ridiculous lipstick and ratchetry in a caricature of black womanhood?

Did anyone get their feet held to the fire for the music videos of past and present showing black women in the worst light? Women who did speak out on it were blackballed and condemned – C. Delores Tucker and Dee Barnes come to mind.

Violent women beaters and prolific child molesters still have diehard fans in the community, but a sitcom that cracked some lame, unfunny jokes backed by a weak laugh track is what will be our undoing?

What is being done to reclaim our image from the people within the community who seek to destroy it, unintentionally or not?

What is the intended outcome? Say CBS pulls the show. Bob dies of a heart attack and Abishola moves on with her life with only some compression socks to remember him by. Then what?

We need to collectively stop looking to others to take a genuine interest in our positive promotion.

If you are offended by weak jokes in a Monday night sitcom, I wonder what scale you must use to determine how angry you get and how #cancelled something should be.

Here are some comments from the petition that gave me pause:


Whose responsibility is it to portray positive images of black couples on television? How does this show break down the black family structure? Why would a sitcom even pose a threat to the black family anyway? If we can answer that question honestly we might be able to get somewhere. 

A mediocre sitcom is not what has divided the community.

Well, what black-lead images have we put up to counteract it? 

Me too, but this 22 minute comedy is not really high up on my disrespect radar.

Yup. Us swirlers, up to no good with our propaganda again. Shame on us.

What are your thoughts on this whole cancellation thing? Have you seen the show? Sound off in the comments.

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