Monday, August 27, 2007

Essay 4380

From The New York Times…


BET Says Cartoon Was Just a Satire


Black Entertainment Television’s new animation division seems to have stepped right into a pitfall of self-parody: a short cartoon video it introduced on July 20, “Read a Book,” seems to flaunt every negative stereotype in the African-American community.

In a gloss on the hip-hop videos frequently shown on BET, an animated rapper named D’Mite comes on with what looks like a public service message about the benefits of reading, but devolves into a foul-mouthed song accompanied by images of black men shooting guns loaded with books and gyrating black women with the word “book” written on the back of their low-slung pants. The uncensored cut is making the rounds on YouTube, while a cleaner version was shown on BET.

The cartoon, which represents an effort by the network to broaden its programming, was the subject of an article on Friday in The Los Angeles Times, which noted that the network has been “long criticized for showing gangsta rap videos and those with scantily clad female dancers.”

“It’s meant to be very satirical, and in a real way kind of mimics and mocks the current state of hip-hop and hip-hop videos,” said Denys Cowan, senior vice president of animation for BET. He said the video was not part of any literacy campaign or “Schoolhouse Rock” alternative, but was intended for BET’s demographic of 18- to 34-year-olds.

Opinion online has been divided. Someone who posted the video on YouTube praised its “positive message” and “social satire,” while another anonymous user uploaded it under the title, “BET racist rap?”

“Read a Book” makes an especially jarring contrast with another animated short in rotation on the network, “Bid ’Em In,” a sharp and sober depiction of a slave auction.

Mr. Cowan said the contrast was a deliberate reflection of the broad range of projects that his division hopes to tackle.

“They’re not the same, and there’s room for both of them on the network,” he said. “We don’t want to underestimate our audience’s ability to understand what they’re looking at. There is no one monolithic black way of doing things.”

No comments: