BET’s provocatively titled “Hot Ghetto Mess,” which drew sharp criticism and overshadowed the rest of the cable channel’s new schedule, is getting an upbeat new name.
“We Got to Do Better” is the title the series will have when it debuts Wednesday, BET spokeswoman Jeanine Liburd told The Associated Press on Monday.
“We’ve decided to change the name because we want to highlight the show’s real intent, which is to offer social commentary in a context that sparks dialogue, debate, and most importantly, change,” BET said in a statement.
The show’s content remains unaltered, Liburd said.
The half-hour video clip show is based on the Web site hotghettomess.com, which shows examples of outrageous fashion and behavior, mostly in the black community. The BET show will combine viewer-submitted and BET-produced content.
BET is characterizing the show as “pure social commentary.” But critics have said it risks holding blacks up to ridicule and perpetuating negative stereotypes.
The new title echoes the “we can do better” slogan of the Web site, which was founded by black lawyer Jam Donaldson of Washington, D.C., an executive producer on the BET show. On her site, she calls for a “new era of examination” by blacks.
“If this will help people not be distracted from the message, then fine,” Donaldson said of the change.
Whether the name change satisfies detractors remains to be seen.
A blog and audio podcast, whataboutourdaughters.blogspot.com, which focuses on how black women are depicted in popular culture, has been a vocal critic of “Hot Ghetto Mess.” In a posting Monday, it said the change avoids further promotion of an “abominable and disgusting” Web site.
Gina McCauley, who created the blog, said she’s willing to give the show a chance.
“If they can pull off what they say they’re trying to pull off, then I think it has value. So I’m willing to wait and see what it (the show) is,” said McCauley, an attorney in Austin, Texas.
But she said online: “We remain ready to respond in the event this ends up being the train wreck I think it is.”
In its statement, BET acknowledged that its other shows, including “Sunday Best,” an “American Idol”-like talent show for gospel singers, were being overlooked because of the furor.
The channel’s programming strategy is “to deliver smart, creative shows that explore the full range of the black experience,” BET said.
The newly renamed “We Got to Do Better” was characterized by BET entertainment chief Reginald Hudlin last week as an effort to take “a hard look at some dysfunctional elements of our community.”
“The intent of the show is no different than what Bill Cosby is doing as he’s going across the country and lecturing as he talks about the problems of the (black) community that we need to address,” he said.