Monday, April 20, 2009

Candy Girls Are Not Made of Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice

Straight ignorance – this is the thought that runs through my mind as I sit down to watch the new E! Network series, Candy Girls. After the barrage of obscenities, including the offensive use of the “N” word, I feel like I have just wasted a half hour of my life that I will never get back. The imagery is destructive and counter-productive to the self-esteem of young girls who aspire to live the celebrity lifestyle. It’s the reality show gone wrong – again, this time remixed to fit the hip hop lifestyle.

What is this insatiable fascination that we have with reality shows? Reality shows create a bonanza for television networks as they are much cheaper to produce than sitcoms or other staged programs. However, the cost of exploitation may far outweigh any savings. Broadcasting images which are sexist and/or racist are not worth the stain on our moral fiber. Hip hop has enough negative images that are projected through the media. We do not need yet another reminder of the stereotypes that mischaracterize the true spirit and meaning of hip hop.

Candy Girls attempts to glamorize the video vixen. The “plot” features attractive young women who live together in a house in between jetting off to jobs where they star in music videos alongside some of today’s biggest acts. These “models” work for an untraditional modeling agency run by an over-the-top agent who acts more like a jealous girlfriend rather than a boss. The setting reminds me of a brothel. Danielle, the agency owner, takes on the role of the older madam who makes sure that the girls are ready for their johns while holding onto the purse strings. Danielle is an agent, yet she gets personally involved in her employees’ personal life. Danielle resembles the other women, with the exception of one cast member, in that she is a woman of color who is working to support herself while living to meet the expectation of others. Yet Danielle sells her girls out to the highest bidder.

Candy Girl’s clients include rap and R & B superstars who book the agency’s models to fill the set of their videos. The “girls” also act as eye candy for some of Hollywood’s hottest parties and venue openings, hence the title “Candy Girls.” With each video and each party we begin to see the ugly side of the entertainment business from the viewpoint of under-represented women clawing their way to the top of a short-lived career. The earning potential of these women is limited in that they will only book jobs if they fit the stereotypical demographic for what the artist or record company is looking for – the Latina girl, the biracial girl, the white girl with blond hair, the black girl with long hair and a large derriere. If they do not follow directions, they are threatened to be replaced by the next “it” girl lining up to take their place.

The working conditions on the set or at the club often include some form of sexual exploitation and harassment. The women are directed to wear skimpy and seductive outfits, which become their uniforms, while acting in a suggestive manner. At times they are approached by the celebrity client while being groped and served alcoholic beverages. All of this happens while the cameras roll, filming every indiscretion. Several episodes feature these young women becoming romantically involved with others in the music or sports industry while living under the constant accusation of being a groupie.

In the cut-throat entertainment industry, these women try to weather the storm of the sexual innuendos and allegations. A couple of the women are single mothers who suffer under their vulnerability as they try to parent and live the party lifestyle. Absent the fame and fortune, these women are struggling to make a name for themselves with their looks. Some crack under the pressure of the rumors of their sexual mishaps. They take pride in serving as the lead model rather than an extra in a rap music video, all the while ignoring their true potential to be the lead in the boardroom or the courtroom. While sex sells, the time has come for us to let the E! Network know that we cannot afford what it is selling. Microphone check 1-2, 1-2…is this thing on?

- Kamille Wolff


  1. Kamille,

    I never watched the Cady Girls show because I anticipated it being flawed in many of the ways you suggest. The fascination with reality shows is troubling at best and apocalyptically dangerous at worse. Instead of working hard we can watch others work hard on the Apprentice. We don't need to learn how to cook or desire to be a chef because we see people doing that on Hell's Kitchen and on Top Chef. Our relationship problems matter less because we're not the ones on Rock of Love or a Shot of Love.

    While I agree that these sorts of shows, and it seems Candy Girls in particular, are bad for teens and 20-somethings, I also worry that these shows negatively affect older adults. Are not we all impacted by reality television shows?

    I also wonder what impact True Life shows have on us. Cops, Survivorman (world renowned blues harmonica player and outdoors man Les Stroud), Manhunters (US Marshalls), Jacked (Auto Theft Task Force), Dog the Bounty Hunter, and Andrew Zimmern (guy eats bizarre foods around the world) have on us. It would seem that we're steadily being fooled into believing that we understand policing and law enforcement, intercultural awareness and whatever else. Television is telling us that our body of experiences is growing, when really we're just on the couch with some bad wine and a bag of Cheetos (not that I have ever combined the two).

  2. professor wolff: what is the answer? certainly the insatiable appetite that america has for reality shows feeds this frenzy. but if the hip hop video producers and party managers can fill this "need" with a simple phone call, and there are women lining up to be the next "it" girl in the video, then how can we suppress the exploitation and sexual harassment? i find this a vicious cycle that is completely frustrating.

  3. It will be extremely hard to change the “Candy Girls” reality without commercial music changing. We have to remember that the reason there is a market for video girls is because their images are embedded into the song lyrics. The hook to one of Jay-Z songs explains the perceived ingredients for a good music video, "Money, Cash, Hoes."

    If mainstream commercial hip hop music changes toward more socially conscious music, we would see a change in the actors that are requested for the accompanying music videos. Until then, I believe the previous comment writer might be on to something;

    "i find this a vicious cycle that is completely frustrating."

  4. Hi my name is carole and im a camerounian girl like the boss of this fashion enterprise.just to say that im proud of her and my best wish its to work whith her


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