TV ONE Network: Accurate Portrayal of an Atheist?

This past Friday TV One, an African American cable network, aired an episode on its show ‘Belle’s’ that highlighted one of the main characters, Jill, meeting a man named Jack.  Cute right?  Anyhoo,  Jack and Jill proceed to date for two months without incident.  After two months of dating Jill decides it’s time Jack meet her family over dinner at the family restaurant, Belle’s.  

Things are looking serious between Belle's characters, Jack & Jill

The dinner starts off well enough-after the family prays over their dinner,  Jill’s father Big Bill compliments Jack on his accomplishments as a War Correspondent for Associated Press and adds his parents must be proud.  And the conversation takes a nosedive after that:

Jack:  I wouldn’t know.

Big Bill: (looks confused) What do you mean you wouldn’t know?

Jack:  We haven’t talked in 10 years.

Aunt Gladys: Are they in some kind of a coma?

Jack: We had a falling out.

Big Bill:  What kind of falling out?

Jack: Over religion.

Big Bill: Yours or theirs?

Jack: Both in fact.

Big Bill: What are they?

Jack:  They’re baptist.

Aunt Gladys: (nodding in agreement) Alright.

Big Bill:  And what are you?

Jack:  I’m an Atheist.

**cue typical reaction from church community**

Everyone stops eating and all heads turn towards Jack.  Jill is very surprised to learn of this fact for the first time, especially in front of family during dinner.

Check out the video below, coversation picks up at 11:58

While I give credit to TV One for  featuring an Atheist character, I take issue with how the character played out.  Jack a seemingly good guy-  professionally employed, monogamous (a plus for most heterosexual women),  Jill’s daughter accepted him etc. , the character was made out to seem disingenuous because he kept his Atheism under wraps for two months.

Being an out of the closet Atheist myself and thinking of others who are out of the closet as Atheists…who’d keep their Atheist position under wraps for two months?  It’s agreed by myself and others when you’re an out Atheist,  that information is brought to the forefront  from the outset as being an Atheist can be a deal breaker.

It was also a disappointment that the family didn’t attempt to learn why he became an Atheist but instead condescended to Jack.  What happened to Jill’s love?

What are your thoughts?  Do you believe Belle’s accurately portrayed an Atheist?

7 comments

  1. I posted in the blogs on their forums but I won’t have to lecture fellow nonbelievers here. Jack is an easy target for them to channel their ignorance and misconceptions through. We already know that they(theists) believe that everyone outside their own community is inherently evil and this exchange just perpetuates this idea. I didn’t believe for a minute that he would date her for two months and never bring up the fact that he did not cater to her/his family’s delusions. Again, this reinforces the idea of the atheist community harboring some sort of skulduggery for ulterior motives. The writers of Belles seem like they have read a forum thread or two on atheism but lack any real knowledge about our community. When Jack went into detail about his disbelief it came across as a canned response someone saw on the banner of a website and not the intelligent discourse from a seasoned nonbeliever. I did not expect him to possess the verbosity of Krauss, Dawkins or Tyson but he is not a believable portrayal whatsoever. He did point point out that Jill could have been with a christian drug dealer and it would have been more acceptable than himself and the nuance was received quite well. I am personally thrilled to have never seen another episode of that show. I deal with enough religious ignorance on a daily basis but this show only puts another nail in the coffin.

  2. Drag,
    You hit it on the nail. I did send an email to TV One and I asked them if they consulted an actual Atheist or two? The robotic basic responses emitted from ‘Jack’ told me they hadn’t spoken to an Atheist. lol No I didn’t expect him to break out into a complex dialogue on a 22 minute sitcom but I was expecting…plausibility. I did inform TV One while I’d love to support Belle’s, it’s impossible because Belle’s has no interest in supporting me as an Atheist. And the intro of the show where the cast bow their heads in prayer sets the tone for the show. I’m ok with that (the family are believers)…I’m NOT ok with the inaccuracy of the show’s portrayal of an Atheist.

  3. First of all, I was sitting in the beauty salon not even watching the TV that was on until I heard the word “atheist”. I perked my head up and was stunned to see an African American show featuring anyone that was an atheist. I don’t really care that they didn’t ask him about his atheism, I didn’t care that they didn’t really accept it, I was just glad that they attempted it. It’s a start. I give the writers a lot of credit for going outside of the box a bit. I can’t really think of any other black show that has done this – not that there isn’t one – I just haven’t seen it.

    1. Hi Jennifer,
      My head perked up also when I heard the word, “Atheist.” I agree it IS a start. My issue, is the writers fell prey to the stereotypes found common among believers. I was greatly disappointed in that. Believers who viewed the episode didn’t come away thinking, they were only reinforced in believing what they’ve been taught about Atheists.

      I’m hoping writers of other black shows will have been made aware of the comments posted on the internet and will stretch themselves and realize Atheists are just like everyone else the only difference is-we do not believe in deities.

  4. Its quite unfortunate that the deal broke just they found out he is an atheist and didnt care about their daughters feelings. i like the idea of featuring an atheist character but i don’t like the fact that they made it in a negative light. same shit just a different program. they should be able to make it end by two of them living happily ever after.

  5. How do you accurately portrayed an Atheist? (It just means you lack a belief in God, but many people will go about it n different ways)
    Jack didn’t deal with the scenario how I would have but who’s to say someone else wouldn’t do it this way.

    I do NOT think the show portrayed an atheist in a good light. But somewhat a realistic scenario, where everyone looks bad.
    I’m an atheist and a black man and I didn’t feel sorry for him.

    Plenty comments on YouTube focused on the irrationality of the family but not of the atheist!
    He’s been an atheist for 10 years!! And hasn’t figured out to talk about this issue with the woman before you meet her family. C’mon! Then have absolutely no tact in how he brings it up (I wouldn’t tell them I haven’t spoken to my family in 10 years over religion, straight after I heard them pray!).

    Obviously, it’s not a small issue as he hasn’t spoken to his own family in 10 years over this. So he knows how seriously people take this issue.

    This dude even went to church with her without telling her that he’s an atheist. She has every right to be mad at him and end the relationship.

    14:44 “I didn’t tell you because I didn’t want to lose you”
    Guy Talk Translation: You got the kinda pussy that has an atheist dancing in church.

    On the flip-side, being a atheist black man who wants to date within his race, it’s incredibly frustrating and maintaining your character is more challenging when it comes to this issue.

    15:22 “I believe in one thing, you believe in another” Really! This isn’t like I prefer Coke and you like Pepsi. After 10 years, he’s probably so frustrated that he’s trying to make religion a non issue, which you can’t do.

    1. The episode was disappointing and unrealistic…period.
      //How do you accurately portrayed an Atheist? (It just means you lack a belief in God, but many people will go about it n different ways)
      Jack didn’t deal with the scenario how I would have but who’s to say someone else wouldn’t do it this way.//

      While not EVERY Atheist can be portrayed-and be portrayed accurately, how about consulting oh i don’t know…ONE, TWO Atheists?? lol

      //Obviously, it’s not a small issue as he hasn’t spoken to his own family in 10 years over this.// TVOne missed this opportunity. This could’ve been explored in such a way where the Belle’s didn’t look stereotypical and Jack didn’t come across as an asshole.

      //This dude even went to church with her without telling her that he’s an atheist. She has every right to be mad at him and end the relationship.// Highly implausible. I don’t know how many Atheists would go to church period, let alone attending church in an attempt to impress someone their dating. And let’s remember-’Jack’ didn’t write his lines and direct his actions. This was a direct result of the lackadaisical efforts of the TVOne writers.

      //On the flip-side, being a atheist black man who wants to date within his race, it’s incredibly frustrating and maintaining your character is more challenging when it comes to this issue.// As a woman who date women…I share your frustrations when I encounter challenges experienced when I attempt to navigate the dating pool. I’ve learned to not put my expectations upon others…it’s difficult to maintain-but I’m trying.

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