Reality TV, of course, is not always (in fact, not often) based on actual reality. So why, of all so-called reality shows, is Lowe's Home Improvement Stores choosing All-American Muslim as a target?
The Learning Channel show depicts Muslims in Michigan as—gasp!—normal folks who happen to practice what is, in America, a minority religion. It's not that the show advances negative stereotypes. No, the problem here, it seems, is that the show fails to advance the cause of divisiveness.
Lowe's pulled its ads after a group calling itself the Florida Family Association called for a boycott of companies that advertised on the show. Says the group on its website:
The Learning Channel's new show All-American Muslim is propaganda clearly designed to counter legitimate and present-day concerns about many Muslims who are advancing Islamic fundamentalism and Sharia law. The show profiles only Muslims that appear to be ordinary folks while excluding many Islamic believers whose agenda poses a clear and present danger to liberties and traditional values that the majority of Americans cherish.
… Many situations were profiled in the show from a Muslim tolerant perspective while avoiding the perspective that would have created Muslim conflict thereby contradicting The Learning Channel's agenda to inaccurately portray Muslims in America.
… Clearly this program is attempting to manipulate Americans into ignoring the threat of jihad and to influence them to believe that being concerned about the jihad threat would somehow victimize these nice people in this show.
As defenses of bigotry go, this is unusually brazen. True, the show does not depict Muslims as inherent terrorists. Nor does reality TV depict American Christians as inherent terrorists, citing the behavior of Timothy McVeigh in the Oklahoma City bombing.
Stereotypes sell, so one can't blame TLC for trying to make a buck on this one. HBO's Big Love and Sister Wives (the latter also on TLC) depict polygamy as though it's just another quirky lifestyle choice practiced by Mormons. In fact, the Mormon Church now rejects polygamy. And the shows aren't so much a look into Mormonism as they are a cheap celebration of a male fantasy involving harems. On Big Love, the wives are helpfully populated by a blonde, a brunette and a redhead, as though the women were flavors of ice cream for their husband.
There are lots of reasons not to watch reality TV of any kind. It can, in fact, be summed up in one word: "Kardashian." But hatefulness is not an acceptable justification.