Monday night, a question came to me that I have yet found an answer. During the commercials of The Voice, they previewed a clip showing a performer to come with one of the most captivating voices I heard all night. When the performer, Jamar Rogers, segment finally came on, he added a very unpopular dose of reality that we have yet to see on a reality show for some time– he’s HIV Positive. And Isn’t ashamed. Or crying about it. With an explosive voice and an even bigger smile, I wondered: ‘Why is this the first time I’ve been reminded of this epidemic on television… in years?’
There is one commercial on television that often runs on BET, with two sisters (that I couldn’t find online for your viewing pleasure.) And it’s very possible that there is a show or series that has delved into this recently for an episode or so, that I’m unaware of. But for the most part, there are very short and few instances I can recall. I do remember 1994’s MTV Real World San Francisco. Documenting the struggle Pedro Zamora faced from health issues, public scrutiny, and self-conflicting insecurities, it was the first time HIV was nationally broadcast in such a light.
Since ’94, we’ve come a very long way medically and socially. There’s more education available; national and global awareness; myths have been debunked; expensive drugs are not cures but can extend a life drastically; and clinics can provide testing for free. But in reality television, which isn’t necessarily ‘reality’ at all, HIV/AIDS survivors have yet to be portrayed in a very humanistic way since Zamora. Shows like The Jersey Shore, Real World, and even scripted shows past and present like The Game, Sex and The City, and Gossip Girl make very light of the casualties of sex.
Having seen Jamar Rogers excitement and imminent success on The Voice, I want to see more of him and his story. Not because I want to ‘see how he does it’ or some other obscure insensitivity, but because he deserves representation too; to bring awareness and to incite action.
A disease does not define a person, but only adds to their characterizations. It’s time that we have the ability to take in the reality in reality television. Rogers is just like many others of the contestants: he can sing, he has unique style, he’s attractive, and he’s honest. The difference is, he survived an addiction and picked up a life-threatening disease, two of which many are still very ignorant in understanding. But the humor, the wit, the talent, and the appeal seen in Rogers proves that there is more to be seen than just knowing that he, too, is determined to win the contest. He’s also important in defining a group of people beyond their Scarlet Lettered label.
Check Out What He’s Working With Below: