On Wednesday night’s episode of the MTV reality challenge show “Battle Of The Exes” the last black contestant almost went home not because he lost a challenge but because his own teammate/ex-girlfriend mocked him with “one of the most offensive pranks” in MTV Challenge history. “The Challenge: Battle of the Exes,” an offshoot from the reality series “The Real World” that puts former MTV reality TV show participants up against each other in grueling physical challenges.
In last night’s episode a Southern “sheltered” white contestant named Emily decided to mock her African American ex-boyfriend Ty by dressing up in his clothes and covering her face in Nutella… aka blackface.
“I’ve never even heard of blackface before,” Emily said in a confessional after the incident. MTV later showed scenes of Emily telling cast members she grew up in a “religious cult” in the South that kept her sheltered and apparently away from black people and black history.
The Challenge is produced by the same group that created “The Real World,” the reality series that changed the face of television by putting “seven strangers, picked to live in a house, work together and have their lives taped.” The show that in 1992 introduced the world to a man living with AIDS and has since included story lines that deal with social issues like homophobia, transphobia, sexism, racism, domestic abuse, mental health issues, lyme disease… you name it and show has death with it.
Generally MTV runs public service announcements or resources at the end of the show that deal with issues like this but yesterday after the show skipped a second challenge to focus on the black face story line there was no acknowledgement that black face did indeed have a deeply rooted racist history.
On MTV.com, where MTV also posts resources after shows, MTV didn’t even refer to the incident as black face—in a post devoted entirely to the episode there was no use of the word blackface, instead they referred to it as the stunt when Emily “lathered her face in Nutella chocolate.” And what could have become a teachable moment didn’t.