BET’S ‘HOT GHETTO MESS’ BACKFIRES: Two advertisers pull out of premiere episode after backlash.
*At least two companies have pulled their advertising from the premiere episode of BET’s upcoming series “Hot Ghetto Mess” in response to critics who say the show perpetuates racial stereotypes.
State Farm Insurance Cos. and the Home Depot have released statements confirming their request that ads be removed from the television show and from a Web site promoting the series.
"We have reviewed the content of this program, which we just heard about, and we will not be airing any State Farm advertising during this program on BET," a State Farm spokesman wrote.
BET would not specify which advertisers dropped out, but released the following statement: "A few of our clients have asked to move to other programming dayparts, and we simply accommodated their request."
“Hot Ghetto Mess” is adapted from the popular Web site HotGhettoMess.com, which features photos and video footage of random African Americans engaged in behavior or dressed in attire considered embarrassing and socially unacceptable.
A DVD documentary was also released based on the 3-year-old Web site, which comes with the tag line “we got to do better.” BET’s version – due to premiere July 25 at 10:30 p.m. with host Charlie Murphy – will feature a mix of viewer-submitted home videos and BET-produced street interviews that show blacks in unflattering situations that typically illustrate the excesses of so-called hip-hop culture.
The Viacom-owned network and Jam Donaldson, creator of the Web site and an executive producer of the series, say the featured photos and footage are intended to encourage black Americans to question its standards.
BET president of entertainment Reginald Hudlin asks: "Is my goal to discuss these issues in a format and context that makes people who don't watch the channel comfortable or do it in a way that engages the 18- to 34-year-old viewer and makes them really think about these things?"
Critics like 25-year-old Chicago college student Latrice Janine believe BET’s intentions will be lost on its core audience. She launched an online petition against the show that has collected more than 2,000 signatures.
"Maybe after Don Imus no one seems to have a problem with this kind of thing anymore," Janine tells AP. "I still do. I may not stop Viacom from doing this on television, but it's an effort to let them know the days of sitting quietly are gone."
Another pool of criticism has come from What About Our Daughters?, a blog and audio podcast addressing depictions of black women in popular culture. The site has targeted advertisers that appeared on a BET.com Web page advertising "Mess," including AT&T Corp., DaimlerChrysler and Target.
Asked whether the series has been screened for BET's parent company, Viacom, Hudlin told The Hollywood Reporter: "BET is very autonomous. We don't run ideas past Viacom. It's me having a conversation with my boss, (BET chairman and CEO) Debra Lee."