Raven-Symoné, former child star and human manifestation of the Twitter trending topic, was officially hired as the fourth co-host of The View, making official a gig she’s been unofficially campaigning for regularly over the past year.
Seated next to an Oscar-winning Hollywood trailblazer (Whoopi Goldberg), a former Republican strategist (Nicolle Wallace), and a Latino icon and renowned activist (Rosie Perez), Symoné has been the salt, sugar, and spice making an otherwise woefully bland and mushy morning dish the hot breakfast ticket in morning TV.
She’s made headlines for speaking absolute nonsense—with great and admirable confidence—on a wide array of topics over the past few months. She’s angered some, amused others, and, most importantly, garnered the attention of all.
But you know what? Speaking freely (and occasionally like a lunatic) is her job. Now it’s a daily one. And boy is she good at it.
If industry whispers, gossip rag reports, and a long and damning Vanity Fair exposé histrionically titled “The View’s Epic Fight for Survival” are to be believed, Barbara Walter’s darling morning chat program is struggling. Its ratings have been dreadful, its buzz even worse, and talent shakeups—Rosie O’Donnell’s back! Now she’s leaving! Rosie Perez is fired! Haha, just kidding!—have nearly suffocated any positive sentiment towards the show.
All of this while rivals The Talk and The Chew and various other innocuously named talk shows featuring four hosts clucking at each other for an hour have been surpassing the daytime stalwart in numbers and in audience interest.
Well, you know what? Wacky, controversial, and self-assured lunatic Raven-Symoné is exactly what the show needs to be saved.
Symoné’s hiring has been written on the wall for a while now. (If you watch The View on a daily basis—and there are at least dozens of you—you’ve seen Symoné co-hosting so often that you probably already assumed she’d been hired.)
More, if you’ve followed her return to the public eye over the past few years, especially with her headline-making interview with Oprah Winfrey in 2014, you may have had a vision, That’s So Raven-style, of Symoné’s inevitable future.
“Oh, girl, don’t set Twitter fire,” Winfrey warned when Symoné, discussing being a lesbian and black woman in America, said she didn’t want to be labeled because of her race or her sexuality. “I’m an American,” she said. “I’m not an African-American; I’m an American.”
Indeed, a Twitter inferno waged in the wake of her comments. And, especially since she began regularly guest-hosting The View, it has never really extinguished. Symoné has become a bit of a pyro in this regard. And The View has been happily fanning her flames, basking in the headlines and attention she’s been bringing the show.
It hinted at the unapologetic candor that’s defined her time on The View, often employed without a thought of its consequences. It hinted at an ideology and opinionated mindset that would be most definitely off-center and provocative, divisive and unusual, humorous even when ignorant, and occasionally intelligent and sometimes informed.
Still, even if not the smartest opinion, hers is always a valid one, and one useful for sparking conversation. And as they say, all publicity is good publicity.
Remember when that TV reporter joked that a makeup artist who transformed herself into Michelle Obama “looked like a monkey”? Most argued that the reporter was shamefully racist. Symoné, instead, immediately defended the reporter on The View. “I don’t think what he’s saying is racist,” she said. “Some people look like animals… Is that rude? I look like a bird.”
Words like “controversy” and “scandal” were thrown around as Symoné’s comments took off. And, just as importantly for the show’s producers, The View suddenly catapulted itself to the center of this whole racist joke story.
Is she out of her mind? Does she have a point? Is she bad for the black community? Is she just simply progressive? People couldn’t stop debating Symoné. Some critics might say it’s irresponsible to give someone prone to controversial and maybe even offensive speech a platform like The View. Anyone who knows good TV, however, will say that Symoné was getting people talking—and that’s a great thing.
She ruffled feathers when she said that Harriet Tubman should not be on the $20 bill. She passionately insisted that stay-at-home moms get paid, which, you go girl! But also, by who? And in the grand tradition of Rosie O’Donnell, she is blissfully and almost uncomfortably vanity free in her penchant for confessional, like the time she confessed that she has been wearing Spanx since she was 14.
Sure, there’s shock value in such statements. But just as was the case with O’Donnell—maybe the best View co-host there ever was—there’s always value in these confessions, as they foster a relatability and intimate trust with the audience (something that yet can’t be said for Wallace and Perez) and cause people to think about our institutionalized values (such as body image and femininity) in different ways.
But unlike her other co-hosts—the more buttoned-up Wallace, the quivering Bambi Perez, and the you’ve-gotta-be-kidding-me-with-this-shit Goldberg—Symoné is not just conditioned, but game to handle the whiplash shifts in tone that a morning TV show requires with agility and enthusiasm.
“And that’s how we feel about ISIS. Coming up: We’ll show you how to make the perfect soufflé. And Jessie J performs!” It’s not every person that can handle the triviality of such high-low ambition. But Symoné thrives in it. And can do splits with Anthony Anderson, too!
Sure, Symoné can come off as misinformed and maybe even ignorant or sometimes delusional. But she stands her ground, unafraid to bicker a bit with her co-hosts who may differ in opinion. If there’s one thing we’ve learned from the very fact that Elisabeth Hasselbeck has a career in media, it’s that audiences love to watch people engage is fiery debates about insane opinions.
It’s undeniable, too, that—even though she insisted to Queen O that she wishes to not be labeled or defined by them—Symoné’s race and sexuality, and also her age, make her hiring a pointed decision and a big deal.
It signals where The View’s producers hope to drive the conversation, and how diverse and progressive they want that destination to be. It hints at a modicum of fun and youthful energy they hope to invigorate the show with. And it proves that its oh-so-brief experiment that started this season of The View failed.
O’Donnell, Wallace, and Perez were supposed to bring seriousness to the mornings. Conversations were supposed to be intelligent and meaningful, and we were supposed to appreciate that. After all, hadn’t we derided the show in recent years for its overdrive charge into batty asshattery?
It didn’t work.
Turns out, we didn’t know what we wanted. Sherri Shepherd and Jenny McCarthy were excised, but they took the circus with them. Like forlorn children, we’ve missed the clowns. The View producers have noticed our frowns, and they’re sending in the clowns to brighten our day again.