“Marriage Boot Camp: Black Edition” — it’s not the real title, but it may as well be

Graphic by Meghan Joyce

I think we can all agree that everything about reality television is terrible.

Yet the worse the show is, somehow the more fun it is to watch. The opportunity to jokingly criticize things can be a cathartic way to pass time, and so for some shows, it’s preferable for them to be bad.

“Marriage Boot Camp” isn’t one of those shows — there is absolutely nothing fun about watching it.

The show is a reality television series on We TV that features five celebrity couples who undergo relationship counseling within a 10-day period. The show used to have TV personalities Jim and Elizabeth Carroll as its main counselors, but newer seasons feature Ish Major, a certified psychiatrist, and Venus “Dr. V” Nicolino, who has a doctorate in clinical psychology.

Most of the seasons are 10 episodes long, with each episode translating to one day on set. During the season finales, the participants choose whether to stay as a couple or to go their separate ways. The show makes the stars participate in some of the corniest activities I’ve ever seen on television.

One recurring exercise throughout various seasons is a weird game of tug-of-war. Couples are given a rope, placed on opposite sides of a pool, and led to believe that they actually have to play tug-of-war against their partner.

At the end of the exercise, the counselors reveal that the only way to truly win the game was not to play. By saving your partner from getting wet, you supposedly save your relationship, or whatever.

This is one of the worst “truth bombs” ever deployed. If you didn’t want them to play tug-of-war, maybe you should have given clues throughout the day that signified the benefits of nonviolent resolution. But then again, maybe my IQ wasn’t high enough to fully appreciate the genius behind this activity. One of counselors has a doctorate, after all.

In “Marriage Boot Camp: Hip Hop Edition,” all of the participants are either hip-hop artists or married to one. Everyone in this season is black except for Dr. V, who attempts to dress more “hip-hop” than she does on other seasons.

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The counselors attempt to chalk up certain relationship problems to being common in “hip-hop” culture, despite them being universal among celebrities in general. People subconsciously associate “hip-hop” culture with black culture, and by using only black participants in this season, the producers unwittingly imply that certain problems, both in type and severity, are exclusively “black” problems; for instance, using someone for fame or money, or cheating.

In the second episode of “Marriage Boot Camp: Hip Hop Edition,” Major claims that there’s “a lot of blame and shame in the African American community, and that’s magnified times 100 in the hip-hop community.”

This is a weird, vague generalization based off of a whole lot of nothing. Blaming what? Shaming what? And in what context? What is a white audience going to pick up from this — that all black people (and hip-hop artists, I guess) blame each other for things that they shouldn’t?

This particular season also devises different “hip-hop” activities for its black cast. In the second episode, cast members engage in freestyle rap battles about things for which they blame their partner.

I get it, to some extent. Some of these people are in the music industry, so it fits.

However, some of these participants are not involved in the music industry at all, like Tiffany Campbell, who is involved with Lil’ Fizz, and Nia Riley, who is involved with Soulja Boy. So it just presupposes that all black people enjoy freestyling.

It’s not like “Marriage Boot Camp” is going to make a season solely based on white people in “country culture” and make them get married to their tractors anytime soon. So let’s just call this season exactly what it is: An exploitation of black and hip-hop culture in an attempt to entice black and white audiences.

Any other season of this show — especially season seven, where Tara Reid and Dean May get kicked off the show for faking a relationship — is a normal level of horrible, but “Hip Hop Edition” is its own special version of awful. What better season to run during Black History Month than one that exploits blackness for views, am I right?

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Brooke Sparks PO ’22 never thinks before she speaks. She mains Zelda in Smash Ultimate.

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