First things first: Maybe you shouldn’t name your television show after a meme. “Bye Felicia” originated from an Ice Cube quote in the movie Friday and has since entered standard Internet parlance as a general term of dismissal. It’s confusing that VH1’s new reality show is named after this, not just because it’s a silly meme, but also because this series is supposedly about helping people, not dismissing them outright. Then again, maybe it is accidentally perfect for the series, because based on the pilot episode, Bye Felicia, which premieres tonight, should be dismissed quickly and entirely.
Bye Felicia arrives at a time when the awful and racist Lifetime series Girlfriend Intervention is still, unfortunately, fresh in our minds. The shows have a fair amount in common: both are ostensibly makeover programs (but pretend to be about something deeper), both feature “strong” and “sassy” black women who provide help (or something like it) to desperate white women, both include cringe-worthy rhyming one-liners, and both rely heavily on questionable and uncomfortable racial politics.
In Bye Felicia, our heroines are Deborah Hawkes and Missy Young, two life coaches from Atlanta, Georgia who relocated to Los Angeles to help the poor souls who live there. According to VH1’s press release, the series “aims to motivate, elevate and renovate the women of LA.” How will these life coaches do that? With a “dose of honesty” and “tough love” — which roughly translates to stereotypical sass and brilliant quips like, “She brought the ass and we gave her the class.” It’s as bad as it sounds.
Each standalone episode focuses on bettering two different white women. In the pilot, we are introduced to 27-year-old Kip, a model/bartender who needs help learning how to be mature for her age and starting a real career. In her own words, she “has all the assets of Kim Kardashian but no one takes me seriously like her.” The life coaches are horrified by her racy outfits and enhanced figure — one of them compares Kip to an expensive fruit salad with cantaloupe breasts and a watermelon butt. This happens on an actual program on television. They make Kip go through a mock interview (with real business execs hidden behind a two-way mirror, watching it all go down) and give her a makeover so she’ll start wearing more “appropriate” clothes (i.e., ones that completely cover her body). The self-proclaimed “booty-ologists” later inform Kip that her large breasts are covering her heart. It’s supposed to be the episode’s most touching moment. It is not.
The second victim is Talyn, a stunt performer whose biggest flaw is that she’s a bit of a tomboy — she likes knives, doesn’t wear jeans, and doesn’t have many woman friends — and that she’s socially awkward and has a hard time conversing with strangers. It’s really not so bad! But it’s also the worst, according to Hawkes and Young, who stare in disbelief as Talyn struggles to awkwardly strike up a conversation with a random woman.
Watching Bye Felicia is even more painful than it is for these life coaches to watch their subjects stumble around in heels (when Talyn picks up a pair of high heels, they remark that it’s like “a virgin sleeping with Rick James”) or wear a low-cut blouse. It runs into the same problems that plagued Girlfriend Intervention: Hawkes and Young are supposed to be boosting their subjects’ confidence, but instead they are just fulfilling old racial stereotypes — on both sides — under the guise of a typical makeover show.
But Bye Felicia even fails as a makeover program. After Hawkes and Young buy Kip a new wardrobe, she shows up the next day in her old clothing; they inexplicably dye Talyn’s hair and give her extensions, but they never explain these choices, because they have nothing to do with her social awkwardness, which is the main reason why she’s on this show. The only thing Bye Felicia succeeds at is making everyone involved look bad.