Dr. Phil’s Beatdown – Live on TV!

14 May 2005

If I run from the subway to my apartment after work, I can usually catch the last 40 minutes of the Dr. Phil Show. This past Wednesday, I really hauled ass because I wanted to see Dr. Phil interview Omarosa Manigault-Stallworth from The Apprentice reality series. Since her appearance on the first season, she has been on a couple of other reality shows, but since I avoid watching grown-ass people make fools out of themselves for fifteen minutes of fame, I was previously unaware of her latest exploits.

I am not really a fan of Dr. Phil. I do enjoy some of the topics he covers, especially the ones that have to do with adultery (even though the episodes make me even more resistant to ever trusting a man again, albeit marrying one), but the trailers for this particular episode seemed too juicy to pass up. The clips showed Dr. Phil getting red-faced, frustrated and insinuated his victory, proclaiming to the world that Omarosa is a liar and a victim of her own behaviour. Hey, he even brought in Donald Trump to back up his theory that this uppity Negro’s britches were getting too big. And everyone knows that cannot be tolerated. But after watching the episode, I realized that the trailers were definitely edited to show that Dr. Phil was in control. 50 minutes of his self-righteous attitude and stupid analogies were going to prove that he is right, he is always right, and goddammit if you don’t agree, there is something wrong with you.

But it was Omarosa who was in control. She knew exactly what she was saying, and she knew how to answer his questions– that is, not really answering them directly, but skirting around them and then twisting them around as a question directed towards him. It is obvious that even though Omarosa is a manipulative, semi-sociopathic creature, you have to admit that she is an incredibly smart, poised businessperson who knows how to exploit her image to her own benefit.

During the segment, she admitted that she purposely shaped her image to be the villain, knowing that by cultivating that image she had a better chance of sticking out in people’s minds after the show wrapped up and it would keep her in the spotlight a little longer. She also admitted that despite the emotional challenges of being hated by the majority of television viewers, she questions the portrayal of other African –Americans on reality television. She pointed out the differences between her and Kwame, the semi-finalist she royally screwed over in the final episode. She was the aggressive go-getter while he played ‘yessum’ to The Man. While that worked, as he stayed on the program longer than she did, it was her who was not forgotten after fifteen minutes.

But what does that do for the other potential African-American reality hopefuls? Do they have to play up a negative image in order to stand out from the rest? What about moral responsibility not to reinforce negative stereotypes? Is Omarosa, despite her emphatic rebuttals that she is trying to do a ‘study’ on the negative images of blacks in the media, selling us out for a quick dollar?

She has two instances that do prove her assertion that there is a problem. She mentioned the portrayal of Stacey on the second season of The Apprentice . Stacey, an intelligent black woman was almost immediately labeled as ‘crazy,’ when she stood up for herself to her fellow contestants, and was perceived as dangerous and some of the other contestants said they were afraid of her (where have we heard that before?)

The second instance is Dr. Phil’s not-so-hidden repulsion and the unwarranted hostility of Omarosa during the segment. It wasn’t because she was an obnoxious bitch; it was because she could outsmart him and he didn’t like it. Also, if you also want to bring in black characters from MTV’s The Real World, Making The Band 2, and Survivor , us Negroes usually don’t come off smelling like flowers in reality television. With the addition of Donald Trump’s subtle insults, it was evident that they wanted to take her down, that uppity bitch. This was not a professional sit-down chat: This was a chance to take her down a peg. And why would Trump take the time to be on the show just to slag Omarosa, anyway?

Because a strong black woman is still perceived as a threat. If we can play the game just was well as white folks that would mean that there would actually be some competition, and historically, capitalism for some means keeping others down. And when the downtrodden of society rise up, there is a plethora of smarts, talent and determination to be reckoned with. And no one likes to lose. And while the African-American population represents a huge buying market – even though we are too busy buying oversized white t-shirts, jewelry, rims and drinking Nelly’s Pimp Juice , there is still room for us at the table.

So while I don’t really have a positive opinion of Omarosa, I have to give her props and wish her well on her new talk show, slated for the fall. Now she ain’t no Oprah, whom while she is an incredible success story, knows ‘what side of the bread is buttered’, in Dr. Phil-speak. And even though we be makin’ progress, Omarosa is going to have to kiss a little ‘mo ass if she wants her talk show to last more than one season.

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