Being Mary Jane’s Biggest Problem

BET NETWORKS GABRIELLE UNION

So, I know what you might be thinking. You saw the title to this, and you likely assumed this’ll be another piece criticizing Mary Jane’s sexual behavior and/or calling Black women bed wenches for following the show. This is not that.

While some people tend to gravitate more towards shows that reflect their lives, my favorites have either been about antiheroes (The Sopranos, Mad Men, etc) or people whose lives are much, much different than mine (The Wire, Hannibal, etc). So I know it is possible to enjoy a show without wanting to emulate the people the show is about. Oh, and I actually like Black women. So much that I’m marrying one.

So yeah. This is not that. It’s something else.

For obvious reasons, Being Mary Jane is often compared to Scandal. Both shows are centered around very successful, very powerful, and very beautiful Black women who, despite their billion dollar wardrobes and trillion dollar homes, make five dollar dating decisions. Both lead characters are surrounded by impossibly attractive and impossibly smart people, and both characters seem to inhabit a sterile, Bougie Black dystopia masked as a utopia.

The shows are so structurally similar that Gabrielle Union apparently was considered for the role of Olivia Pope. She (obviously) didn’t get it. Which was unfortunate for her. But fortunate for fans of Scandal. Because if she did, the show may not have lasted a year.

Despite the writing, the outrageous plot twists, and the dozens of eccentric characters, Kerry Washington is Scandal‘s fulcrum. Olivia Pope does some legitimately terrible things on the show, but there’s something about Washington’s portrayal of her that still makes us root for her. Perhaps we don’t want her to succeed, but we do want her to be happy. And much of this is due to an inherent…something Washington the actress has always exuded, a something that compels you to pull for her. I say something because I really don’t know how to describe it. But whatever it is (and no, it’s not the lip quiver), Kerry Washington has it.

Gabrielle Union, unfortunately, does not.

I’ve watched three episodes of Being Mary Jane. And before Being Mary Jane, I’ve seen at least a half-dozen movies she’s starred in. I’m not claiming to be a Gabrielle Union expert, mind you — I’ll save that title for those who’ve seen H-E Double Hockey Sticks — but I’ve seen enough. Well, enough to know that, for whatever reason, she just does not connect. You watch her and you don’t really feel or think anything other than “That’s Gabrielle Union over there.” You don’t root for or against her. You just see her, acknowledge she’s very pretty, and try to pay attention to the words coming out of her mouth.

I don’t think she’s a bad actress at all. I don’t even think Being Mary Jane is a bad show. But with a show that forces the audience to wrestle with the lead’s moral ambiguity, you need someone more naturally compelling. Someone who makes you want to know what makes them tick. Someone who, when they share the screen with a costar (Robinne Lee, in this instance) doesn’t always make you wonder how much different — and how much better — the show would be if the actresses switched roles. It may not be as popular. But it would be a little sexier, a little less literal, a little more sly, and a little better. Now, though, it’s a $500 North Face with no lining. Kerry Washington turns Scandal into orange juice. Gabrielle Union makes Being Mary Jane a pulp-less orange.

And, before you go there, this feeling has nothing to do with Union’s well-publicized personal life. I’ll admit, there is an irony in watching Mary Jane Paul grapple with an, um, “nontraditional” relationship while we watch Union do the same thing, But this lack of connectivity is something I’ve always felt when watching her act. I also know I’m not alone. When I spoke to Maya about it, she called it a “dimensionlessness.”

Of course, it’s possible she’s aware of all of this, and just doesn’t care. And maybe Mara Brock Akil was also aware, and chose her specifically because the lack of connectivity and/or personality makes it easier for viewers to place themselves in her position.

And, maybe I’m just thinking too much about this, and should probably just stop watching the show.

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)

Three Quick Takeaways From The News Of The Kerry Washington/Nnamdi Asomugha Nuptials

kerry-washington-600

***Being that this is a holiday (Happy 4th everyone!), I’ll keep it short***

1. Between her star-making role as Olivia Pope on everyone’s favorite source of interracial angst, her turn as Broomhilda in Django Unchained, her commencement address giving, her Michelle Obama BFFing, and her appearing on covers of magazines that haven’t had a Black woman on its cover since Stringer Bell was still alive, Kerry Washington is unarguably the hottest/most popular/most relevant African-American actress working today. It was found out yesterday that she married Nnamdi Asomugha, a multi-millionaire NFL star and Cal Berkeley grad who is known to be one of the best players at his position. He is also the chairman of his own foundation (an organization that earned him a President’s Volunteer Service Award), has appeared on numerous TV shows, and has developed a friendship with Bill Clinton. 

They apparently have been married since June 24th. Shocking news, especially since no one (well, no one outside of their family and friends, I assume) even knew they have been dating.

My point? If these two extremely high-profile people can keep their relationship (somewhat) private, there’s really no excuse for your accountant-ass to ever allow “it’s really tough to date or be in a relationship nowadays cause the city is so small and Facebook and Twitter has everyone all up in your business” to drip out of your extra regular-ass life having ass lips.

2. Nigerians are apparently very happy about this. If you see a Nigerian tomorrow, and they  randomly give you an extra Nigerian hug, this is likely why. Don’t ask questions. Just embrace it, and accept their kind offering of stew and jollof rice.

3. I don’t know either of these people. I don’t know the circumstances surrounding their relationship. And, I don’t know if the relationship is going to last.

But, I do know they started dating last summer. They got married this summer. It didn’t even take a year. This reminds me of something else I know.

When you know, you know. 

And, when you know, there’s no “exploring other options to make sure I’m making the right decision” or “trying to get your stuff together” or “taking a break right now” or “not really being ready for something serious right now.” 

Why? Well, you just know.

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)

Be His Beyonce

Kerry-washington_03

Get married.

Pay for dates.

Introduce her to his friends.

Approach her.

Let her know where he lives. 

Commit. 

Make long-term plans.

Be affectionate.

Be seen in public together.

Be seen online together. 

Claim her. 

Propose.

Give head. 

The actions listed above are just a prominent few of the many things I’ve heard…

1. Many women claim that—despite however many requests they’ve made—the men in their lives just aren’t interested in doing.

…and…

2. Many men claim that they just don’t do. 

Usually, when you start to dig deeper, you’ll find that the man’s reluctance to do these things is out of “principle.”

“You know I don’t believe in marriage.” he’ll say over an half-eaten plate of under-cooked garlic parm chicken wings. “You also know I love you. Why isn’t that enough?”

“You know we’re together, and I know we’re together.” he’ll remark while watching back episodes of Hannibal, “Why does it even matter if everyone else knows? What’s the point in telling people and having them all in our business?”

“I’m just sayin.” he’ll type while in the comments section of his second favorite blog. “It just doesn’t make any sense to automatically foot the bill on a first or second date. I mean, she got a job too. Why do I have to be the one to pay?”

Initially, their reasons will make perfect and practical sense. I mean, a marriage is just a piece of paper, right? Why does any one need to know about your relationship? And, what logical sense does it make to pay for a woman’s food if her ass makes more money than you do?

But, after the smoke clears and the dust settles, there’s only one realization left:

Those guys are full of shit. All of them. Every single one. 

How am I so certain?

Well, let’s say Beyonce happened to break up with Jay-Z or Zoe Saldana happened to be single (and happened to be dating brothas) or Rihanna happened to be sane. Basically, let’s say whoever the baddest and finest woman of the moment happened to be happens to be single and very interested in one of those guys. Do you really think that if they happened to have a shot at locking down Kerry Washington, they’d still be on that “I don’t believe in marriage” shit? Do you think they’d refuse to allow Nicole Beharie to post and tag pictures they’ve taken together on Facebook? Do you think that if they finally were able to somehow land a date with that bad-ass chick at the gym that they changed their workout schedule for just so they might “accidentally” bump into her one day, they wouldn’t be ecstatic about paying for the first few dates?

Basically, their “principles” are opportunity-based…which means they’re not even really principles. Just arbitrary rules he’s found no reason to break.

Now, I can already see a counterargument formulating in people’s heads.

“I mean, of course they wouldn’t act that way if they had a realistic shot at Beyonce, but how realistic is that scenario? I mean, I know I’m cute and all, but I’m not Beyonce.”

You’re right, hypothetical woman asking me this randomly specific hypothetical question. You’re not Beyonce. But, that’s exactly my point.

We (guys) talk a very good game. I know this for a fact, because I am one. We’ll say what we’ll do and won’t do, and we’ll appear to be very insistent, stubborn even, about our relationship mores and principles. But, for 99.9999999% of us, all of those principles are thrown out of the window once we meet someone we really, really, really, really like.

The source of much (not all, but much) of the dating and relationship-related angst I’ve witnessed and read about—and the source of the “full of shit”-ness cited above—stems from the fact that many women find themselves in situations where they’re dating someone who just isn’t very excited about them. Maybe they’re not actually Halle Berry or Kerry Washington or Nia Long or whoever, but if a man is excited enough about a woman, he’ll think of her (and treat her) with the same regard he would with any of them. She would effectively be his Beyonce. And, if she’s his Beyonce, there’s no f*cking way he’s insisting on dutch first dates, no f*cking way he hides her from his friends, and definitely no f*cking way he allows “I like you, but I’m not ready to be in a relationship right now.” to escape his lips.

And, for women upset that the guy you’re romantically involved with just doesn’t seem that excited about you and is dead-set on his principles, the “goal” isn’t to convince him to change his mind. Just, well, just find someone who doesn’t need any convincing. We’re all full of shit¹. We just need to find the right person to help prove it.

¹Women are (generally) full of shit too, but today just happens to be about a particular type of man’s particular type of full of shit-ness

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)

New Features and a Live Event Starring The Champ

Hey VSBs and VSSs,

We have some exciting housecleaning announcements for you all:

1. Some of our readers asked us to get on Tumblr so they could keep tabs on us over there. Your wish is our command: Follow us here. For now it’s just an imported feed, but we might do some other things with it later.

2. A few of you were asking if you could subscribe to The VSB Files on iTunes. I’m happy to announce we’ve been added to the iTunes Podcast directory: Click here to subscribe. You can subscribe to the podcast’s regular feed over here. We’ll be back with new episodes shortly!

3. A new feature we’ve been trying out over the past week is AskChamp. The Champ really wanted a way to answer your dating questions via Twitter, but we thought adding a layer of anonymity (and more character space) would help people open up a little more, if you know what I mean. We hooked up a FormSpring account that feeds to our Twitter account. Our Twitter followers have been enjoying Champ’s answers, so be sure to follow us on Twitter and feel free to drop your questions in the AskChamp widget on our website’s sidebar. You can also enter your love questions directly on the AskChamp page.

4. If you can’t get enough of The Champ, you’re in luck because he is (finally) going on the road! I thought Champ had strict orders to never leave the State of Pennsylvania, but he’s coming to Washington DC for the Modern Day Matchmaker event, where he will be a featured panelist for the show! The event goes down Saturday, March 27, 2010 at 6:15 PM (ET) at Gala Theatre, 3333 14th Street NW, Washington, DC 20010. Tickets are $20 for the show, and $10 for the after-party. FOR VSB READERS WE ARE OFFERING A $5.00 DISCOUNT ON TICKETS! Use the discount code VSB at checkout to receive your discount. The code applies only to the full access show & after-party ($25) and show-only ($20) tickets. We only have a limited amount of tickets to sell at the discount rate, so it’s first-come, first-served. Get your tickets now!

That’s it for now.

Feature requests, suggestions, complaints? You can keep them to yourself always e-mail us, we’re all ears.

~Liz

all points bulletin

Crowd-cropped

in august of 2008, p blessed the vsb pulpit with wlsg, an entry which provided a definition for “light skinned points”

Light-skinned point(s). noun. 1) the additional attention that fairer skinned light skinned women receive over their darker-skinneded sisters whether or not their face actually warrants any attention at all. 2) the assumed increase in attractiveness laid before melanin deficient black women…whether or not their face actually warrants any attention at all.

***for those still unclear, just think christine beatty.***

yet, although this term gets the most mileage, its far from the only time black people assign “points”, the possession of an attribute or characteristic that makes a person seem much, much more desirable than they really should be.

here’s 10 more. Continue reading