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Viewers slam Channel 4's My Crazy New Jamaican Life

JAMAICA, LAND WE LOVE: Holly, left, and Debbie

VIEWERS HAVE reacted angrily to Channel 4’s new reality show My Crazy New Jamaican Life and have written to the television station.

A spokesperson for Channel 4 confirmed that My Crazy New Jamaican Life, a First Cut documentary by Vanessa Van-Yeboah, received at least 69 complaints.

The show, which aired on TV last week (Oct 24), followed two white British women – dancehall fan Holly, 19 and mum-of-three Debbie, 25 – who love Jamaican food, music and men.

A large part of the show focused on Debbie’s partner – and the father of her three children – nightclub promoter Variel who had just fathered a child with his other girlfriend, Vanessa.

On Twitter, ITV presenter Charlene White wrote: “I thought we were beyond stereotyping Jamaica/Jamaicans. Clearly I was mistaken.” 

Another user said: “So bashment, dancehall and multiple babymothers are the epitome of Jamaican life...oh dear.”
misrepresentation

Executive chair of Jamaican think tank Facilitators for a Better Jamaica, Sylbourne Sydial, said he had boycotted the film because he suspected it would be yet another misrepresentation of Jamaica and its culture.

He said: “One of the things we have to be mindful of is that we might see ourselves in a certain light, but others see us in a different light. We can’t stop others from thinking the way they do and making programmes that portray us in a certain way. What we need to do is to create our own programmes.”

He added: “We can complain all we want, the more we complain the more we boost their profile. Now everybody’s going to want to know what this is about. The next thing you know there is a My Crazy New Jamaican Life part 2.”

The Channel 4 spokesperson said: “This film is not a representation of all Jamaicans but aims to document the personal stories of the contributors – who agree it is a true reflection of their lives.”

UK singer, Shola Ama, who also came under fire for narrating the show, defended herself in a Pappzd! interview.

She told the online magazine: “I’m not responsible for the programme. I’m hired to do a job, not rewrite the script.”

In September Zimbabwe’s president Robert Mugabe sparked outrage in Jamaica with his “pot-smokers” comment.

He is reported to have said, at the opening of an exposition in Harare, that “in Jamaica, they have freedom to smoke cannabis, the men are always high and universities are full of women. The men want to sing and do not go to colleges, some of them twist their hair.”

This is not the first time a Jamaican-inspired TV show received complaints. Rastamouse, a series about an animated crime-busting Rastafarian mouse, got the most complaints for a children programme in 2011. 

Last month Channel 4’s BAFTA-nominated drama Top Boy was slammed for reinforcing racial stereotypes.

When the show aired in August, author and blogger Dear Rob said: “Top Boy: another great series showing us black folk in a positive light. Drugs, guns, police and robberies. Fantastic.”

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MY CRAZY New Jamaican Life aired on Channel 4 to a mixed reception. Some found it entertaining and others criticised the show for its misrepresentation of Jamaican culture. Reporter Melissa Allison-Forbes took to the streets of Lewisham, where the show was based, to find out what people thought.

Chima Olughu, 41

I watched parts of the show, maybe about 40 minutes and, all in all, I thought it was quite good. Knowing what I know about the culture [Jamaican culture], I think it was a good representation. I would like more shows of black culture on TV. I mean, it is Black History Month.

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Rhiannon Harper-Rafferty, 28

It’s not just Jamaicans [who are misrepresented], but black culture as well. I think black culture on TV regularly plays second fiddle to [mainstream] white culture and overall we are not represented in a positive light. While Top Boy and shows like that are great because they have black people writing and they are employing black people, it shows an underbelly culture that we do not necessarily want. Where are the lawyers and the high achievers? They definitely exist in our culture but are not represented in the media. Kevin Hill [a US sitcom featuring Taye Diggs] showed someone positive, but the black culture here seems to always be concentrated on the same kind of thing.

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Natalie FFrench, 33

I watched My Crazy New Jamaican Life and I thought they made it a stereotype about Jamaicans. It was not a fair representation of Jamaican culture. It would make you think all Jamaican men are like that, with lots of baby mothers.

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Carmen Swayby, 51

I did not think the show was that good. When I was doing my nursing back in the eighties an African man said to me that all Jamaican men love to do is go to parties and get women. And that is exactly what came into my mind yesterday from the programme.

To me it was not constructive. Ok, so they said he had three children and was a promoter, but then they showed his dad who had 15 kids and three baby mothers. My partner is Jamaican and he stopped watching it because he said they were making us look like nobodies.

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Charles Tomlinson, 34

There are many iconic people from the Jamaican community in the public eye such as our athletes, so the media is not really stereotyping us as much. It was a lot worse before, especially with the gun and knife crime because they used to say those involved were from a Jamaican or African Caribbean background. But now you realise there all different nations involved with guns and that it is not always Jamaicans. Things are getting better and [the media] are taking their eye off us a lot more and giving us a chance to be ourselves and shining the light on our positives.

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