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By Alicia J Waring
Tasha Mack is a mid-thirty year old single mother originally from Richmond, California. She got pregnant while still in high school by her boyfriend Chauncey Wright, but the relationship was short-lived because his parents wanted him to maintain his grades and hassle free life and go on to college (Season 3, Episode 14). With no formal training, Tasha comes into the show as her son’s football agent for a professional football team, the San Diego Sabres. Despite Tasha being viewed as a loud-mouthed, volatile, crazy mother, she is able to maintain somewhat stable relationships with two of the other main female characters in the show, Melanie Barnett and Kelly Pitts. Melanie Barnett is involved with Derwin Davis, fellow teammate of Tasha’s son and quarterback Malik Wright, and Kelly Pitts is the wife of the team captain, Jason Pitts. Tasha initially had her own management company, labeled Tasha Mack Management. Unfortunately, after a conflict with Malik where he fired her, she was forced to seek employment and was brought on reluctantly by Irv Smiff of Irv Smiff Management where she worked as an agent. Tasha’s relationship with her son seems a bit peculiar because he is a grown man and still lives at home with her for the first two seasons notwithstanding both of them boasting large bank accounts and many assets. Tasha has had bad luck with the men in her life and therefore, is skeptical of every man and extremely protective of her son. She becomes defensive and even belligerent when it comes to issues around men as well as her relationship with her son. Tasha comes across as a “ghetto girl” in her role and does not hesitate to attack and verbally assault those around her. She constantly reminds her friends that she is from the ‘hood and can slip back into that realm at a moment’s notice (
The theory of Psychoanalysis, founded by Sigmund Freud deals with the three components to one’s personality: the id, the ego and the superego. The id functions on the basis of the pleasure principle and satisfies the innate urges of aggression and sexual drives one possesses. The ego acts as the reality principle and involves norms of the society and resolving those norms based on the id, which can lead to unacceptable forms of behavior. The superego serves as the morality principle and is responsible for choosing right from wrong. These three aspects work in tandem to maintain a socially acceptable performance. In Tasha’s case, it is obvious that her id is the driving force in her personality illustrated by how violent and sexual she acts. This is demonstrated in a number of different situations. One of which is in Season 3, Episode 3 when she feels she is being harassed by Kelley for being boring. Tasha retorts, “I’m not boring…bitch, I’ll kill you”. This directly relates to the aggression Tasha feels and is unrelentingly expressing. Tasha exhibits her sexual nature constantly in the show with her many sexual encounters with men which we will explore in further detail as it relates to the psychosexual developmental stages Freud established.
The psychosexual stages of development Freud pioneered guide one from infancy to adulthood if one successfully resolves each stage. For the purposes of length and applicability, we will only investigate the first three stages. It begins with the oral stage which is characterized by an infant’s need to transition from being breast-fed to feeding from a bottle. Freud would argue that in all infants, “this creates a conflict between the desire to remain in a state of dependent security and the biological and psychological necessity of being weaned” (Friedman, 2009, p. 70). Therefore, if one does not transition out of this stage effectively, they may express dependency on others or demonstrate the need to fulfill an oral fixation. It would appear that Tasha has not resolved this stage due to her drinking wine heavily and her reliance on marijuana (Season 4, Episode 9).
Following the oral stage is the anal stage which is portrayed by a toddler’s forthcoming ability to relieve him or herself on the toilet. This proves to be a source of contention for Tasha as well since she constantly is intruding in the lives of others and causing disturbance. This is apparent when Tasha feels affronted by Kelly’s lack of dedication to her by continuing to work at Irv Smiff Management despite the layoffs that affect Tasha’s future employment. Tasha seeks revenge against Kelly in this episode as she attempts to end Kelly’s already fragile marriage by introducing her husband to a beautiful and available television personality (Season 3, Episode 16).
Subsequently, the phallic stage, which the child reaches around age four, is when he or she concentrates on their genitals (Friedman, 2009, p. 72). This phase proves to be the most obvious area where Tasha exemplifies her childlike tendencies. The child is supposed to effectively reconcile this stage after coming to grips with the Oedipus complex for men and the Electra complex for women. Freud believed that all young men yearn to have sex with their mothers and kill their fathers and the realization that this cannot happen, results in castration anxiety for men whereby they quell their feelings toward their mother and try to emulate their fathers in hopes of finding a woman who resembles their mother one day.
In the case of young girls, they see that they do not have a penis, which symbolizes power and is termed penis envy, and after their initial attraction to their mothers, they turn to their fathers, “responding to the affections and strengths [of her father]” (Friedman, 2009, p. 73). This shift from being attached to the mother to desiring the father is caused by the girls’ erroneous belief that it is the mother’s fault girls do not have penises. Freud’s explanation for this goes on to infer that girls, knowing they cannot be with their fathers romantically, vow to grow up and find a man who resembles their father and have children of their own thus giving them the power that men have (Friedman, 2009, p. 74). In looking at Tasha through this lens, we are able to see that she is most definitely suffering from Electra complex because she is extraordinarily power-hungry and strives to be the dominant figure in her household and in the show in general. Freud might also conclude that Tasha did not have a stable relationship with her father and that is the reason she is untrusting of men. This is evident in Tasha’s shaky relationships with men that always seem to end in her breaking it off due to her lack of commitment and trust issues. That may also play a part in her hording her son’s attention and her influential role in her son’s career.
Tasha displays many of the defense mechanisms Freud details in psychoanalytic theory that serve to “distort reality to protect the ego” (Friedman, 2009, p. 77). These coping strategies are spurred by the individual riddled with anxiety which Freud defined as “a state of intense apprehension or uncertainty, resulting from the anticipation of a threatening event or challenge, either external or internal” (Friedman, 2009, p. 77). Tasha, obviously grappling with trust issues, is perhaps repressing some feelings of anger or sadness toward her mother from not resolving the first psychosexual stage of development. Since repression deals with propelling those feelings into the unconscious, signifying her potential ignorance to her true state, she actively projects her anxiety onto those around her, namely Melanie and Kelly. Tasha has difficulty maintaining a healthy relationship with men and in an effort to not be singled out because of this, she ridicules Melanie’s and Kelly’s relationship as superficial and domineering, respectively. Tasha also shows signs of denial in comprehending that she is the root of the problem in failed relationships. Lastly, in the conflict above between Kelly and Tasha where she introduced Kelly’s husband to another woman, Tasha rationalized that as helping Kelly get rid of Jason since they were already experiencing trouble in their relationship and Kelly appeared to be fed up with Jason’s behavior. The true cause behind this malicious act was to seek revenge, but also to avoid being single alone.
Behaviorist theorists believe the environment is the sole influence in shaping one’s identity (Friedman, 2009, p. 190). They adhere to the idea that everything is based on rewards and punishments and those alone dictate how one acts. Behaviorists strongly regard the impact of what Pavlov termed classical conditioning that involves the “pairing of an unconditioned stimulus [that] elicits an unconditioned response and a neutral stimulus, the previously neutral stimulus can come to elicit the same response as the unconditioned stimulus” (Friedman, 2009, p. 191). Consistent with this theory, Tasha has undoubtedly made the association that men who are interested in her are only invested to a certain degree. This erroneous thinking may be due to her potentially unstable and possibly damaging relationship with her father, which may well have been the unconditioned stimulus. In other words, the men in Tasha’s life function as the previously neutral stimulus, triggering the same emotional response—feelings of inadequacy—that accompanied the relationship with her father. This is also evidence that Tasha has generalized her experiences by being skeptical of all men and is not able to effectively discriminate between men who are worthwhile versus men who educe the same response.
Behaviorist B. F. Skinner was a staunch proponent of reinforcement which he characterized as “an event that strengthens a behavior and increases the likelihood of repeating the behavior in the future” (Friedman, 2009, p. 197). Adding to that, Edward Thorndike’s law of effect proposes, “the consequence of a behavior will either strengthen or weaken the behavior” (Friedman, 2009, p. 197). Tasha’s life can be seen as illustrative of reinforcement stemming from her growing up in the ‘hood and essential adaptations to ensure her not getting beat up or killed. Tasha’s forceful attitude proved to serve her well in this arena. Thus, her manner was unquestionably spurred by her environment and she was reinforced by preserving her existence; the association can be seen as reciprocal.
Similar to reinforcement and the law of effect, another component to behaviorism is operant conditioning. This is described as “the changing of a behavior by manipulating its consequences” (Friedman, 2009, p. 198). The idea behind operant conditioning involves rewards and punishments as a means to shape behavior. Tasha’s tenacious approach has secured her a job as an entertainment agent despite her lack of higher education. Also, as a single mother with limited resources, she was able to raise her son who grew up to be a professional football player and role model. These “rewards” have been instrumental in Tasha maintaining her hard exterior. In the form of punishments, single motherhood may have forced her to rely on the external environment for feedback on how to manage, which is precisely what behaviorism is founded upon.
Lastly, Dollard and Miller gained recognition for their philosophy on how individuals resolve or fail to resolve disparities between primary and secondary drives. (Friedman, 2009, p. 210). The approach-avoidance conflict is what most resembles Tasha’s divergence and is classified as, “a conflict between primary and secondary drives that occurs when a punishment results in the conditioning of a fear response to a drive” (Friedman, 2009, p. 210). This can be observed in the extreme tentativeness with which Tasha embarks on the journey to a relationship. In the case of nearly every man Tasha gets involved with, she insists upon keeping their relationship a secret at first to spare her feelings if (and unfortunately, when) things do not work out. In this way, we see that she is equally attracting and repelling men which is consistent with the neurosis accompanying approach-avoidance conflict according to Dollard and Miller.
In analyzing Tasha Mack through Freud’s psychoanalytic theory, it would appear that she has not successfully accomplished and/or transitioned out of at least some of the psychosexual stages of development. Further, she is driven solely by the part of the personality designated as the id whereby she regularly expresses her aggression and sexual urges. It seems then, as though she lacks the balancing act the superego is presumed to be responsible for. What is unbeknownst to the audience is her relationships with her parents, but based on her behaviors, one may gather that they are nonfunctional hence her odd relationship with her son and her lack of commitment to the love interests in her life.
The behaviorist view, on the other hand, deems the environment as the only means of influencing individuals and given Tasha’s upbringing in a lower-class economic bracket, she would most assuredly have to adapt to that environment and adopt successful ways of navigating it. Thus, her relentless personality is the resulting factor. Behaviorism is concerned with the impact of environment on the person and Tasha Mack is the quintessential prototype for this theory.
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Tasha Mack sings take a bow
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Dugan, D. (Producer). (2011)
Tasha Mack!! Funny clip from BET’s “The Game” (old)
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Mack, T. (2011).
Images of Tasha mack
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List of The Game characters-Tasha Mack
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