After online protests and much criticism in the media for bad girl behavior on the fourth season i.e. beat downs, bullying and sheer and utter foolishness, Basketball Wives Miami returned to Vh1 for a fifth season to little fanfare. Amid the outcry from fans and foes about the negativity of the previous seasons, the ladies embarked on an apology tour, giving interviews about how this season will be different from seasons past which was mired in gossip, mean-spiritedness and extreme immature behavior not befitting of any women, let alone mothers knocking on the door of age 40.
More drama unfolded after season four ended when Basketball Wives star Evelyn Lozado’s much-hyped wedding to NFL pro and reality star Chad Johnson was upstaged by an incident of domestic violence. Lozado says that three weeks into the marriage, Johnson headbutted her causing a gash in her forehead that required stitches. Apparently the two got into a fight because Lozado found a receipt for condoms in their car. Add to the mix the death of her brother-in-law from cancer and the cancellation of a spinoff series about the duo’s wedding and Lozado’s life was a certified mess.
In true reality star fashion, Lozado got busy getting divorced and fixing her life on national television with life coach Iyanla Van Zant’s OWN television series “Fix My Life.” Van Zant took a tough love approach reminding Lozado of her thuggish ways and imploring her to work on herself to figure out why she is filled with so much anger and venom and would choose to marry a man whom Lozado’s daughter even admitted that “No one liked” on this season of Basketball Wives.
Is it any surprise that at the center of the fifth season is Lozado’s devastation over the loss of her marriage, best friend (Johnson) and brother-in-law. Lozado literally weeps through the entire first episode of the reality series. While it is difficult to have sympathy for a woman who doled out so much physical and mental pain to other women over the prior seasons, I do feel sad that some of her so-called friends are encouraging her to consider reuniting with Johnson (Tami Romano and Lozado’s mother) and making jokes about her head injury. In a move that stuns returning cast member Suzy Ketcham, newcomer Tasha Marbury jokes about Evelyn needing to wear a helmet in her next relationship. Marbury is supposedly Evelyn’s friend whom she recently introduced to the “circle.”
Several things came to mind while watching this episode – with friends like these, who needs enemies? I often quip to my colleagues that reality television is a public platform for the mentally ill. I’m not a psychologist, but if you weep enough to fill a one-hour episode of television with all of the production and editing that takes place, then you probably don’t need to be on television. You need to be in a therapist’s office and luckily Lozado’s session with a therapist is part of the show. On the subject of friendship, if you call yourself someone’s friend and berate and humiliate her on or off television, then you are clearly not a friend. Perhaps Lozado needs to discuss her warped concept of friendship with her therapist as well? She talks about Johnson being her best friend, but we’ve seen how she treats her best friend (cue former cast member Jennifer Williams). Why is she still calling someone who headbutted her a friend? I suppose for the same reason that she thinks of Tami Roman, a woman who fought her in the street and constantly makes physical threats to her “friends” as a friend. Lozado is clearly used to being abusive and being abused. Is there any wonder why someone who is as abusive as Lozado has been in her past, is surrounded by abusers in her present?
There is the rub – choose any reality show starring women in general and women of color in particular and a pattern of abuse in their past emerges. We often wonder why people would willingly subject themselves to what looks like a lot of physical and emotional pain in the realm of this type of reality programming and the answer is glaring — pain is what they know and do best, so why not get paid for it?
This makes the domestic violence storyline all the more troubling. These women have to know that domestic violence is nothing to make jokes about or treat lightly, so why do it? Why pile on more pain in an already painful situation?
The women of Basketball Wives and many other reality shows are in need of therapy (Love and Hip-Hop Atlanta), not exposure on television. I know that many people don’t feel sorry for Lozado because of her prior bad behavior. Many believe that Lozado jumped on Johnson when finding the condom receipt and that he is the real victim having lost his livelihood and going to jail. The issue isn’t who is the real victim? If you are physically fighting in a relationship, then you do not need to be together, period. Staying in toxic relationships when we know better is a surefire recipe for disaster.
I am also alarmed that a woman whom Iyanla Van Zant called a “thug” is now the poster child for anti-domestic violence. A regular perpetrator of violence (Lozado) is now the “official” symbol of anti-violence. As the kids say, “Where they do that at?” I do not believe that if you are a perpetrator of violence that you can never be a victim of violence, but I do know that if you are a victim of violence, then you should stay away from the perpetrator. Joining said perpetrator and his family at a restaurant with the world watching is not a good look.
What is good about this season is that Evelyn is being challenged by Suzy to stay away from Johnson. Suzy, who has been mocked during the course of the series for a number of reasons including lacking common sense, discretion and for having a lisp emerges as her true friend. She shocks Evelyn by admitting abuse in a prior relationship that looked “perfect” from the outside, stating that she stayed in touch with her abuser until she ended up in the emergency room with head trauma.
On an earlier episode, series creator and producer Shaunie O’Neal challenges Roman when Roman suggests that Lozado work it out with Chad because “sometimes things happen” by asking Roman if she would give that advice to her daughter. Tami says she would, which is an honest and unfortunate answer for the millions of young women watching the show, particularly Roman’s daughters. Not only is this an indicator of Tami’s toxicity and shortsightedness, but also that she doesn’t understand real friendship.
Real friends challenge each other when needed (Shaunie and Suzy) and help you get through tough decisions that have to be made, like leaving an abuser whom you still love. Lozado’s ambivalence over what to do when facing domestic violence is real. As Lozado states constantly, she is human and like many victims of domestic violence confused about how to move beyond the trauma of the experience.
Lozado will need professional therapy and support from friends. Sadly, in her well-guarded “circle,” real friends are hard to find.
Basketball Wives airs on Vh1 on Mondays at 8/7 EST.
This post was written by Nsenga K. Burton, Ph.D. founder & editor-in-chief of the award-winning news site The Burton Wire. She also serves as editor-at-large for The Root. Follow her on Twitter @Ntellectual or @TheBurtonWire.