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, a popular music video channel on cable television, showed especially poor judgment because the weekly animated programme Where My Dogs At? appeals to young teens and airs at an hour, 12:30 pm on Saturdays, when many children are watching television.
The show just completed its initial eight-episode run on MTV2, a spinoff channel of the US 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 wise-cracking 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 satirising the outlandish behaviour of a real-life rapper.
"Where's the context in that?" said Lisa Fager, president and co-founder of the Industry Ears, a consortium of broadcast industry professionals who monitor and critique media content.
Crouch suggested in a column this week that the Where My Dogs At? segment was an extension of dehumanising 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.
The show carries a rating advising parents that they may find its material unsuitable for children under age 14.