When the reality show “Braxton Family Values” debuted on WEtv last year, the famous Braxton sisters drew comparisons to the Kardashians, in a good way. How could they not? Both TV families are filled with big personalities who love as hard as they fuss. If anything, the Braxtons seemed to have the upper hand as far as initial popularity — sister Toni had already turned “Braxton” into a household name by winning six Grammy Awards and selling 60 million records. Plus, the Braxtons have an actual talent for entertaining. Those sisters can blow (and more than just mildly amusing, hot air).
Now, eight episodes into the second season, the comparisons to the Kardashian clan are coming up again — but this time not just for the right reasons. Of course, there’s Tamar and Vince’s recently announced spin-off show, which gives the Braxtons a Kardashian-esque franchise. But there’s also the way a recent episode reached a low viewers might expect of Kim & Co., certainly not the Braxtons.
Last week, Trina confessed to her sisters that she’d had an “oral transaction” with a man who is not her husband. (In the days after that episode aired, Trina confirmed she and her husband, Gabe, are legally separated.) Later in the show, she showed no shame when she blurted — in front of her mother —  “I su—ed on a d–k and I sure did and I liked it and I enjoyed it.”
For many viewers, “Braxton Family Values” had gone too far. It wasn’t so much the sexual act that was the problem — it was the admission on national TV from a still-married woman, combined with her crassness in discussing her deeds, so bluntly, in front of her mom. It seemed some folk expected more from the Braxtons, the family being one of the better depictions of Black women on reality TV.
But is that a fair request?
Over the last few months, I’ve gone hard on Real Talk over the actions of certain reality stars. I recall “Real Housewives of Atlanta” star Kandi Burruss responding in an interview, “When you come on a reality show you’re not trying to represent for a whole race, you’re just doing you. You hope people think you’re interesting and people like it.”
I admit, I have been unfair to expect each Black woman in front of a camera to represent for the race. That’s too huge a burden to carry on even the strongest Black woman’s shoulders. I also realize that the reality TV genre isn’t about documenting the beautiful, secret inner lives of Black women; it’s like the “E” in BET: Entertainment.
It’s just that I understand the impact of these images, from the way young girls perceive womanhood and what is appropriate, to the way non-Black people begin to think of Black women because of how they see them behaving on TV — and that does actually have a personal impact on my life. Most of the time, aside from Tamar’s over-the-top.com outbursts, the Braxtons had been doing pretty well in combating negative images. I hope Trina’s best-saved-for-when-cameras-aren’t-rolling admission isn’t a sign of more tawdriness to come. I guess we’ll see tonight.
Demetria L. Lucas is the author of “A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life” (Atria) in stores now. Follow her on Twitter @abelleinbk