Last night, I reluctantly watched the series premiere of TLC’s new show The Sisterhood, which follows the lives of Christina, Ivy, Domonique, Tara, and DeLana (who did not appear in the first episode)–five pastor’s wives in Atlanta. My reluctance stemmed from the way African American women are typically portrayed on reality television. (If you don’t think my concerns were valid, watch a few episodes of the Real Housewives of Atlanta on Bravo, the Basketball Wives and Love and Hip Hop franchises on VH1, or just about anything on the Oxygen network these days.)
In case you were not watching, here’s some brief information on the couples. Brian and Tara are the proverbial new kids on the block who are having trouble adjusting to Atlanta (and judgmental church folk) after losing their post. Their free-spirited and occasionally spooky quirkiness may end up being their undoing. I personally feel like Tara could have a better weave given that she lives in Atlanta and brags about looking like a black Barbie, but that’s just me. Brian (yes, another Brian) and Domonique are struggling to repair their marriage after having to close their church for financial reasons. (It is rather unfortunate that both pastors who lost their congregations are named Brian.) Domonique comes across as sour, but given the way that reality TV works, she has the potential to be a viewer favorite. (I could easily go through the task of mentioning all the sour minority women who have become reality TV favorites, but that would be a whole other article.) Mark and Ivy come across as very traditional, though the scenes detailing their sex life were just creepy. In some ways, Ivy doesn’t seem all that content in her life as a pastor’s wife. Maybe that’s why she and Domonique seem to get along so well
. Anthony and Christina are the hip, approachable, and successful ones. Although Anthony is a bit too straightforward (just check out his sex talk with his horrified daughters and equally horrified wife), it is easy to understand why his church is doing so well. Unfortunately, Anthony and Christina’s success has already caused struggling Domonique to become a bit jealous. As for DeLana, I guess she and her family will make their appearance next week.
Early on in the episode, I was hopeful. I thought that we may have finally had a show that demonstrated the difficulties that ministers and their families face in leading congregations. However, the show soon took a disturbing change in direction when the women began gossiping amongst themselves about why Brian and Tara had been fired from their church after six weeks. Sure Brian and Tara come across as a bit spacey. Indeed, I understood Ivy and Domonique’s frustration during their conversation with Tara. I tend to have trouble with ministers who preach 24/7 and then look at me sideways when I try to have a regular conversation without going out of my way to pull in a passage of Scripture within each of my phrases. At the same time, the incident illustrated the same clannish judgmental attitudes that scare a lot of people away from the Church as a whole. Ivy and Domonique were definitely out of line for trying to criticize Tara’s decision to allow her biracial children to identify as biracial. Some things are better left unsaid.
In the end, I decided that my main problem with The Sisterhood is its accuracy. The Church as a whole has issues and this show does a pretty good job of pointing them out–whether intentionally or unintentionally. It’s like looking in a mirror while you think you’re looking good and realizing that your pants are too short and your shirt has a hole in it. (Yes, both have happened to me.) I found myself cringing because I knew people who reminded me of each of the couples profiled on the show. I guess when you’re in ministry, it really does begin to feel like you’re seeing the same scripts played out over and over again with a different cast. I just hope this show doesn’t end up doing more damage to the already problematic image of minority women in the media. Then again, judging from that first episode, it may already be too late.
(That being said, TLC can do a lot better with the music on the show. After all, African American churches are known for our music. Besides, the show is being taped in Atlanta. Think of how many real gospel producers would love the chance to have their music featured on a show like this. Instead, TLC seems to settle for an embarrassingly bad imitation. Thankfully, most people won’t be tuning in to analyze the music in each episode.)
Did you watch it last night? What did you think?