In the third season of BET’s The Real Husbands of Hollywood, Chris Rock tells Kevin Hart, “What you gotta understand is I’m actually famous, you’re more Black famous.” The joke reveals an interesting complication in the concept of celebrity hierarchies, which is that black figures (with the exception of superstars like Will Smith) exist in an entirely different world of recognition than their white counterparts. As the included clip demonstrates, within the universe of celebrity value, blackness is always worth less than whiteness. Rock makes the humorous contrast between his and Hart’s careers by associating himself with mainstream/white/crossover culture, and Hart with examples from black culture. When blackness is then coupled with marginalized mediums, networks, or genres (spaces where black images exist in higher numbers precisely because of the representational limitations of Hollywood), the result is that black celebrity is rendered virtually invisible in the larger public discourse. Indeed, there is a “Black-list” (in all of its connotations) that operates separate from mainstream celebrity hierarchies.
Thus, this clip from The Real Husbands of Hollywood is also a self-aware acknowledgement of its own marginalization in such hierarchies. A scripted parody of BRAVO’s The Real Housewives series, BET’s Husbands riffs on the BRAVO formula by featuring famous black celebrity husbands. Though the show became the #1 watched sitcom on cable among adult viewers during its first season and received NAACP Image awards for Outstanding Comedy Series and Outstanding Actor in a Comedy Series, the show has gone largely ignored by wider news and media outlets, a gross oversight as Craig D. Lindsey notes here. Husbands features black celebrities in the main cast and guest roles that span the range of Black-list hierarchy, from the mega popular comedian/actor Kevin Hart to reality show star Draya Michele. Further, it includes jokes only legible to audiences well versed in black popular culture, like the clip’s closing reference to the Worldstar Hip Hop website. And yet, the very factors which contribute to its popularity also mark it as an inherently Black-list show. No matter how successful Husbands becomes, it will always be merely “black successful.”