A new MTV cartoon depicting black women squatting on all fours tethered to leashes and defecating on the floor is drawing fire from several prominent African Americans who call the episode degrading.
Critics say MTV showed especially poor judgment because the weekly animated program, Where My Dogs At?, appeals to young teens and airs at an hour, 12:30 p.m. on Saturdays, when many children are watching television.
The show just completed its initial eight-episode run on MTV2, a spin-off channel of the music video institution that recently celebrated its 25th anniversary.
The half-hour show lampoons real-life celebrities and pop culture as seen through the eyes of two wisecracking stray dogs--Woofie and Buddy--voiced by comedians Tracy Morgan and Jeffrey Ross, respectively.
A statement released this week by the Viacom Inc.-owned cable network, whose president, Christina Norman, is black, defended the episode in question as social satire.
In it, a look-alike of rap star Snoop Dogg strolls into a pet shop with two bikini-clad black women on leashes. They hunch over on all fours and scratch themselves as he orders one of them to "hand me my latte." At the end of the segment, the Snoopathon Dogg Esquire character dons a rubber glove to clean up excrement left on the floor by one of the women.
MTV said the Woofie Loves Snoop episode, which first aired on July 1, was "in fact a parody of an actual appearance Snoop Dogg made where he was accompanied by two women wearing neck collars and chains."
"We certainly do not condone Snoop's actions and the goal was to take aim at that incident for its insensitivity and outrageousness," the statement said.
But several prominent blacks, including New York Daily News columnist Stanley Crouch, condemned the segment as misogynist, racist, and crude, and they questioned the sincerity of MTV's contention that it was satirizing the outlandish behavior of a real-life rapper.
"Where's the context in that?" said Lisa Fager, president and cofounder of the Industry Ears, a consortium of broadcast industry professionals who monitor and critique media content.
Representatives for Snoop Dogg, who had no involvement in the show, were not immediately available for comment.
Crouch suggested in a column this week that theWhere My Dogs At? segment was an extension of dehumanizing images contained in gangsta rap videos aired by MTV and projected "around the world as 'real' black culture."
Payne Brown, a high-ranking executive at cable giant Comcast Corp., said he lodged a personal complaint in an e-mail to Norman but found her response, essentially the same as the network's press statement, to be "unsatisfying."
"Clearly, it goes far beyond the pale of anything that remotely could be considered acceptable," he said of the episode, stressing that he was not speaking for Comcast. "This is just me as an African-American father, husband and son."
The first season of the show, which carries a rating advising that parents may find its material unsuitable for children under age 14, drew a cumulative audience of 17.2 million viewers, according to Nielsen Media Research.