When Being Mary Jane Ain’t Good Enough

Yeah boo, I see you. I want to give you a hug.

Yeah boo, I see you. I want to give you a hug.

I will never purport to be a woman. I’ve got one hangin’ and two swangin’ so my commentary in this matter is purely driven by keen observation and a perhaps morbid curiosity usually reserved for stalkers and Beyoncé stans.

But I don’t understand the the hype and hoopla surrounding Being Mary Jane, which began its season last night on the only station bringing us high quality programming from the Black perspective: ESPN.

Wait? It was on BET? My bad.

BET rolled out the red carpet for this. Gabrielle Union was doing rounds everywhere (except possibly her home…low blow, my bad, Gabby). To an outsider, it would seem that this is a big damn deal in the way that Red Tails was supposed to be. So in that sense perhaps its an apt comparison since Red Tails did not love me like XO. But it’s BET’s job to sell a product. So let’s move on from them and get right into the show.

From my perspective, Being Mary Jane is a much more realistic Scandal. As I said on Twitter though, Olivia Pope and Mary Jane Paul need to be each other’s accountability partners. They are bad decision mavens wreaking havoc on common sense with the passion of Jameis Winston during a post game interview. But where Scandal trends towards “no f*cking way” territory, nothing about Being Mary Jane seems that unreasonable. She’s a very successful woman with personal life issues that include romantic, family, and personal relationships. I know quite a few women who have slept with or are sleeping with married men. And even more that make bad decisions when it comes to men. None of this is new or crazy. I know a LOT of women who are very driven and successful in their careers but struggle outside of them.

[Aside: To be fair, I know men are the same, but we're talking about women in the media right now.]

So from that end, I can understand Mary Jane resonating with so many women because they can see themselves in her. Except…ouch. But again, such is life.

It did make me wonder though about the representation of Black women on television. To be clear, I realize that they are just characters and that to my knowledge no woman I know wants to BE Olivia Pope, Mary Jane Paul, etc. In fact, the only woman with a life WORSE than Olivia Pope on television is Fiona Gallagher from Shameless. Seriously, have you seen that show? The fact that Fiona hasn’t murdered anybody is a win in and of itself. I love Shameless.

Are Black women that starved for representation in the face of the “reality” shows out there that these shows which all seem to include Black women chasing married and unavailable men (you can throw in Tyler Perry’s The Have and the Have Nots in there too though I’m not sure anybody’s actually watching that) and pretty much failing on all accounts welcome respites from the ratchetry? In all of these shows, you have women who can’t seem to NOT be better than the paltry options presented before them. I said already that sidepieces are having the best year ever (2013), well this show picks the ball right up from where Scandal left it. Seeing a soft porn shower scene with Gabrielle Union is always going to be a win, but you can’t help but feel like, man, is this what Black womanhood is being whittled down to these days in the public sphere?

I remember many moons ago a slight uproar over the fact that the Taye Diggs show, Kevin Hill, didn’t include him dating enough Black women. He had a parade of women who were mostly white and a few really high yalla women. His main love interest, Leila Arcieri, was light skint as the day is long and it was a thing back then. Well it seems today that Black women are all side-pieces on our own shows but I don’t hear the uproar. Seems like everybody’s a fan. Or at least a majority rule of Black women anyway. It’s okay; judgement free zone, but I am curious about the why.

Back in like 2010, Black women dying single was the big deal. It seemed like all Black women were doomed to empty ovaries and unfulfilled hearts while all Black men ran amuck with racially ambiguous ESL women. Or something. This was proven to be untrue and the narrative (I HATE this term but it fits here…TWSS) got old quickly, almost reaching revolt-like levels. But it seems like, somehow, someway, the normality of sidepieces has entered the consciousness just like that old narrative did. Like, it’s okay. And these shows (reality and scripted) are more or less following in that vein in a life imitating art imitating life type of way. I don’t know if this is for better or worse and trends gon’ trend and eventually fade away anyway so maybe it doesn’t even matter in the long-term, though because I love my Black women, I do notice.

Obviously I like Scandal and will watch Being Mary Jane though it’s fairly boring so far (including the “movie”) and could easily be chopped down into a 30-minute show. I watch most of the ratchet reality shows because I feel like if I don’t, I’ll miss out on the Big Black Conversation About Nothing That Matters. I do think Mona Scott-Young sold her soul to the devil though.

So I ask, what gives? Does this get to be “just entertainment”? Is there a bigger picture here? Am I making a mountain out of a molehill?

Hell, does any of it even matter?

One last word of advice: don’t be Mary Jane.

-VSB P aka THE ARSONIST aka MR. MAKE GOOD CHOICES aka GIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIRL HE A 3

7 Reasons Why Men Should Watch Scandal According To An Actual Man

photo(1)According to an article I came across while googling two separate things (“why men should watch scandal” and “scandal audience demographics”), I found that Scandal has one of the most female-centric audiences, like, ever. If the numbers in this article hold true, then about a solid quarter of Scandal’s viewers are men. This makes complete sense.

Without any facts to back this up, I’m going to wager a guess at the way the demographics break down. The audience is largely Black women (duh) with the remainder probably being Black men who have girlfriends who watch Scandal, white women who sympathize with Mellie and want to smash Fitz and possibly gay white men who like seeing the gay white male couple on television who adopted a Black baby that seems to have mysteriously disappeared. I can’t decide if I just missed the episode where they gave the trendy adopted Black baby back (can you actually do this?) or if they just pulled the “if we never mention the baby again, then maybe the baby never existed” script tool. These things keep me awake at night.

The point is that men, in general, aren’t watching this show. Which is a shame. The only people saying that men should be watching Scandal (see above linked article) are other women since, well, men aren’t watching the show. Trust me, I’ve looked for articles about Scandal written by men and they are scarce to non-existent. Twitter and social media would have you think otherwise but I’d be willing to bet that a solid 90 percent of the men popping off about Scandal on-line haven’t actually watched an episode. And to be fair I get it. Men out here with sidepieces get slandered to high hell as ain’t sh*t men (which they are), only to have women everywhere in love with a show that glorifies being a sidepiece. Or at least seems to. I get it, but its really a bad argument.

So I, an actual man who watches and enjoys it, am going to try to undo some of this. Or at least present a good enough list of reasons, some very man-centric, as to why men should be watching the show.

Shonda, you’re welcome (even though you’re doing just fine without my input).

1. Scandal is currently the equivalent to the ending of the Alabama vs Auburn Iron Bowl game from Saturday. Every week.

You see the guy in the pic up above? That was me at the end of the Iron Bowl. Laid all the way the f*ck out on my floor. I have hardwood floors. It was so cold. The epicness of that game is experienced on nearly a weekly basis during Scandal. There is ALWAYS something to make you yell out “oh sh*t” or “no motherf*cking way”. Shonda Rhimes has thrown out the book on subtlety and said let’s just punch folks in the mouth with ridiculous epicness every.single.week. So she does. Scandal is the Iron Bowl for women…

2. As per a few paragraphs ago, there is some vindication.

Look bro, your girl KNOWS that Olivia Pope is a sidepiece and she’s STILL rooting for her to win out. We all know that sidepieces never truly win, but women seem to think that the heart will never fail you. She knows she’s rooting for the very thing that she swears she’s against in real life. She knows. She knows Olivia Pope is weak and she knows that she could easily be Olivia Pope. There was a scene from two weeks ago where Olivia takes a stand for all of 30 seconds before she gets her back bent…because the philandering President with the penis of gold unverifiably told her that he had a house built for the two of them (likely with tax payer dollars). He definitely flew her to the house that may or may not have been built for her with a gov’t issue helicopter (definitely with tax dollars). Point is, she knows how ridiculous this sh*t is, but she ALSO knows that if you scoop her up with a helicopter and tell her you built her a house in Vermont, you could bone as many women as you want and come back home…cuz she ain’t going nowhere…and she’ll smile about it.

Ladies? FIGHT ME.

3. As per number 3, you basically get a birds eye view into the mind of a woman like the woman you want to date.

For all intents and purposes, Olivia Pope is your standard issue professional Black woman. She’s educated, multiple times over, from a two parent home (well…kinda…) and drinks wine while wearing killer outfits. She’s a boss. And her life f*cking suuuuuuuucks. She’s lonely. She makes bad choices. She has a thing for white men (not that there’s anything wrong with that), and she especially has a thing for unavailable men. But she’s smart and quick on her feet. She’s remarkably efficient at her job while being remarkably inefficient in her life. Granted, this is not how all women are and most Black, professional women I know are doing quite well and seem to be very happy. But so many women look at Liv as a sort of representative of a woman who is handling her business (which she is). They just forget that, again, her life suuuuuuuuuuuuucks. Point is, women love her because they can identify. Stay woke dog.

4. The men on the show are extremely bad ass.

Some for good reasons and some for bad reasons. Daddy Pope aka Rowan Pope aka Joe Morton is the baddest mofo lowdown around this town (sho nuff). The President has no more f*cks to give and stays checking folks about aforementioned f*cks. The President’s Chief of Staff, Cyrus, is one of the coldbloodiest motherlovers who ever did live (seriously, buddy almost had his HUSBAND offed for the presumed greater good of America), Huck is (or at least was til the third season kind of played my man…) is one of the most loyal, dedicated, and sympathetic characters on television. Point is, everybody gets down and dirty on this show in a way that can be appreciated by all. All the characters are flawed. They’re all McNulty and Stringer Bell mixed into one person without the good looks.

Sidenote: I binged watched Scandal when I was furloughed by our good friends in Congress. Season 1 will suck you right in. Season 2 isn’t as good, but Huck gets his own episode where they delve into his backstory. I cannot tell a lie, I actually shed tears watching that episode because they made his story a little too heartbreaking. You want to root for him because he’s just that real as a dude. And he is/was the one person that Olivia needs in her life.

5. Kerry Washington

She’s kind of far down this list because she gets lost amidst the non-sense of the show, but she’s still a beautiful woman even if she’s pining away for people she shouldn’t be, on bird status. The show’s acting is over the top, but she entertains while looking good.

6. The only reason you probably refuse to watch it is because all the women love it.

Which is a stupid reason. It’s a good show, if not entertaining. Choosing not to watch it because women swoon too much over it is perhaps the worst of the reasons not to check it out. You could attack the premise. You could attack the side-piece ness of nearly EVERYBODY on the show (seriously, I’ve counted at least 4 sidepieces on this show…even the sidepieces have sidepieces), the lack of realism at times, Quinn (who we all want to die), Liv’s wardrobe consisting of only white, or maybe it just ain’t your thing. But for all of those, you’d have to watch it to know. And you’re not doing it. Besides we like tons of sh*t that women hate and tolerate because they care about us.

7. Scandal provides you with the best game ever.

I see via Twitter and Instagram, fellas are laming out daily. What’s the hardest part about pulling a chick? The cold open. You need something to talk about right? Well there’s a better than 50 percent chance that you can go in with a Scandal reference and totally win. Fellas out here thinking that their sardonic disdain will work in their favor. Sure it will get you a convo…one you don’t want. Besides all the bad chicks are watching Scandal. I know this because they’re all tweeting about it. And I am too.

I’ll stop there. Those are good enough man-centric reasons to watch Scandal.

Stop b*tching and start a revolution.

-VSB P aka THE ARSONIST aka MR. SNAKES ON A PLANE aka GIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIRL HE A 3

Significant Moments in Black History That Never Really Happened

You know why this cat never got work again? Because this n*gga SHOT RICKY!!!!!

You know why Lloyd Avery’s career never really took off? Because this n*gga SHOT RICKY!!!!!

Once upon a time not long ago, when people wore pajamas and lived life slow, we got freed. At last. In order to get to that point, a lot of very important people and occurrences had to happen. It’s the reason we celebrate Black History Month here in America. Without that month, we’d forget half of the accomplishments of great Black people like Tiger Woods and Robin Thicke.

Wait. What?

Exactly.

Well because we tend to be a jovial, communicative, and emotive people, those events hold near and dear places in our hearts. Deuce. But because we care so damn much about our peoples, those events aren’t just limited to the Dr. Martin Luther Tha King, Malcolm X’s and Beyonces, traffic lights, spinners, and beatings by police officers…they extend to things that actually didn’t happen but matter a whole heap anyway. We got heart.

Is there a heart in the house tonight? Stand up.

So here are a few things extremely significant moments in Black history that never actually happened in real life. Liiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiike…

1. RIIIIIIIIICKKKKKYYYYYYYYYY!

Yo, you can go into nearly any Black home in America or gang outpost and yell out the name Ricky and everybody will know exactly what you’re talking about. Chauncey shot him dead in the alley when Ricky zigged when he should have zagged. Actually he didn’t zig or zag which is likely why he got hit in the leg before he got hit in the back with the sawed off shotgun (hand on the pump). When Ricky died, then his mama opened up the SAT test scores to reveal that Ricky had gotten the 700 score he needed to receive a football scholarship and make it up out the hood and go to college like Trey and Brandy were going to do, the hopes and dreams of the hood all song cried. That sh*t hurt. It still hurts. Ricky been dead for 22 years now. Doughboy too. MJ gone. Our nword dead too. Just saying, that was a significant moment in Black history is all I’m saying.

2. Stringer Bell’s death

Notice a theme here? Maybe its the way he died. Maybe its because of all of the people on The Wire who died, he’s the one who deserved his death the most. But that was a pivotal moment in Black history if only because Stringer was the quintessential prototype of who most educated ninjas want to be and who most women seem to be in love with. Idris hasn’t managed to shake the Stringer ethos and why would he want to. He’s tried to. Lord has he tried. Not quite as poignant a death as Ricky, but when String got shot, I heard Black women’s vagina’s scream from my third floor window. Too much? Possibly. Hi, my name is…Panama Jackson.

3. Dwayne Wayne breaking up Whitley’s wedding…and then marrying her

I can’t lie, I’ve often been amazed at how many women love Dwayne Wayne. I always viewed him as goofy as sh*t but somewhere along the way, he became “the man”. Either way, none of us wanted Whitley to marry Byron Douglass III even though that made total sense. So in that wedding episode when you could tell Whitley was losing it and then Dwayne hit her with the “baby PLEAAAAASE…” (that was possibly the most sincere beg in the history of begging – Keith Sweat gave it a 10 and a thumbs up) everybody jumped up and got excited. And I was like…13 at the time? Even I wanted their love to prevail. And it wasn’t real. Which might explain why the show lasted only one more season.

4. THE Fresh Prince Episode

You know which one I’m talking about. The one where Will Smith became WILL SMITH.

I can sum it up in 6 words and keep it moving before I start crying…

“Why he don’t want me, man?”

Man, it still hurts. And it wasn’t real. Will knows his daddy. I never looked at Ben Vereen the same again. She looked like Ben Vereen…b*tch don’t call here anymore.

5. The moment where Martin started to suck

Two words: Shaquille Sunflower

That boy was never the same after that. AND IT NEVER EVEN REALLY HAPPENED but the community took Martin sucking as likely the true beginning of the end of hip-hop. Wait…what? Exactly. This one might be a stretch. But that’s what she said. So we’re even.

That’s 5 significant moments in Black history that actually never really happened in real life that had an impact on the community. What else you got?

Can you think of any moments that occurred in some fictional environ that impacted our community at large?

Talk to me.

-VSB P aka THE ARSONIST aka MR. NOW YOU SEE ME, NOW YOU DON’T aka GIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIRL HE A 3

Characters Who Need Spin-Offs

(Today we have a guestposter, Morgan Collins, who I came across via Twitter amid a conversation/debate we were having about Black movies. Please welcome her to the podium with a soul clap.)

tyrone-biggums1Every now and then, a movie or TV show will have a supporting character that keeps our attention as much as the lead does. Here are a few characters I wish we could see more of in their own spin-off or sequel.

Roger from Sister Sister

After Tia and Tamera got boyfriends, went to GA Southern, and turned into some freaks, I still wonder what happened to annoying next-door neighbor Roger Evans? Yes, Marques Houston, the real-life Roger and Jaleel White’s half-brother, if you believe the Internet, went on to work on a solo music career with mild success, but what I still need the type of closure that a singing cameo on the show’s finale episode couldn’t provide. The first revamp of the Roger character that comes to mind is a show in which he helps police catch criminals using the advanced stalking techniques he groomed while living next to the twins, but more lighthearted fare would be better. No, Roger’s show would revolve around his relationship consulting business. Grown-up Roger, after trying to forget has mackless past, now helps other unlucky lovers–with the occasional slip-up. Har-dee-har-har!!!

Gerald from Hey Arnold!

Though Arnold was the coolest 4th grader, Gerald Martin Johansen was a close second, and even the second coolest 4th grader deserves his own show. Why? In addition to being a confidant and wing-man to Arnold, Gerald was the glue to kid culture in his role as the Keeper of the Tale (maybe a tribute to Are You Afraid of the Dark?). Just a little bit of bongo playing and Gerald would recite all of the legends of the hood with a flair deserving of a half-hour show. Imagine a mystery-adventure show in which the legends come to life as crimes. Gerald, the only person who knows the legends like the back of his hand, is forced to solve them and the save the day without messing up his (super) high-top fade.

Tyrone Biggums from Chappelle’s Show

It’s been 10 years since Chappelle’s Show and seven years since the show abruptly ended after host Dave Chappelle’s received a fame reality check. And yet dudes still dress up as Tyrone Biggums for Halloween and sometimes just for an ultra casual Casual Friday. Though Chappelle had many great skits, a few I would argue that are better than the Tyrone series, this loveable crackhead still resonates with us, which is why Tyrone deserves his own feature-length movie. It may seem hard to imagine Tyrone being able to have the desire to do anything that lasts up to 90 minutes other than smoking rock, but as many an episode has shown us, if you give a crackhead the possibility of some rock, he’ll ask you for some hot sauce. Tyrone’s Excellent Adventure would be in the vein of National Treasure, only instead of money, there’s a giant, mythical crack rock hidden in an exotic locale. A repentant fellow crack addict passes on the Legend of the Golden Rock to Tyrone, who sets out on an adventure around the world to find this elusive treasure. Before he can reach it, he has to battle the toughest crackheads in the world and his own inner demons, brought out by his would-be Narcotics Anonymous sponsor played by Andre Royo, AKA Bubbles from The Wire, in an amazing cameo.

Daughter of a Son of a Gunfighter from Django Unchained

Most of the conversation surrounding Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained was about whether it was too racist, too long, or too anachronistic. This thought-provoking dialogue surely made for dozens of well-written pieces of film criticism. But with all this heavy analysis most people skipped over Amber Tamblyn’s brief cameo as the Daughter of a Son of a Gunfighter AKA That Girl In the Bandana. You probably missed this too if you took a quick nap around the time Django was having a good ol’ country shopping spree. Her character’s name is a little long-winded but not the product of a Tarantino cocaine-induced writing binge. Tamblyn’s father, actor Russ Tamblyn, made several westerns for MGM, including Son of a Gunfighter, in which Tamblyn Sr. seeks revenge for his mother’s death. Supposedly intended as an inside joke for Western fans, this was a failed opportunity for an interesting character. It’s not surprising in a movie where all attempts at developing complex female characters were as half-hearted as throwing a tampon into a flood. To make up for this, and to give a job to an actress whose talents are severely underrated, Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants notwithstanding, Tarantino could develop a Daughter of a Son of a Gunfighter TV show. The setup? Think Deadwood meets Xena. The Son of a Gunfighter is on his deathbed, and he needs his daughter to settle some unfinished business, and of course the Daughter will be able to fill his gun holster.

So, what other characters do you think should have a spin-off?

-MORGAN COLLINS

A graduate of The University of Florida, Morgan Collins writes about TV and film at www.nostoryboard.wordpress.com Soon she’ll learn how to write movies and TV shows as a graduate student at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts. She currently lives in Brooklyn. Follow her on Twitter as @mashclash.

BET On Black?: Does BET Get A Fair Shake Nowadays?

A few weeks ago,  I got into an argument with a friend of mine who happens to work for what I once dubbed “The Evil Empire”. That company is BET. The argument was about the fact that I seemed to lack any sort of positive vibes towards BET. Basically upon mention of those three letters in order caused an impressive array of profanities that would leave a person afflicted with Tourrette’s in awe.

And I cuss real good.

Her point was that I was so prepared to dislike anything associated with BET that I wouldn’t even give the lineup of shows they had a chance. Perhaps – the plea went – if I were to give love a chance, I’d find that the programming was worth my time. Also, given how much I tend to b*tch and moan about Black programming, its possible I was doing a bigger disservice to the community by not only not supporting, but actively UNsupporting. I was like one of Aretha’s bras.

Can’t lie. That hurt a little. The bra parallel, not the lack of support comment. I mean, have you seen one of her boobs? Cleveland is hiding in there.

Moving on. While I could easily shoot down her latter argument using two words – Tyler Perry – I realized that I wasn’t even sure why I hated BET so much…anymore (the former arguments were very strong). Hell, I watch “The Game” even though I think the show has totally devolved into dramatic f*cktasticness. I attempted to watch “Let’s Stay Together” and “Reed Between The Lines”. I actually didn’t mind “Let’s Stay Together” that much, though now that I think about it, I can’t actually remember who was in it or what the show as about. “Reed Between The Lines” attempted to be a modern day Cosby Show, except with a blended family, etc. That show did little more than make me go back and realize how much edge “The Cosby Show” actually had. Cliff and Claire really didn’t take no sh*t.

Well, BET has decided to trot out two new shoes: “Real Househusbands of Hollywood” and “Second Generation Wayans”. So I figure, what the f*ck, I’ll give them a shot. Can’t hurt right and plus it’s 2013 and I’m trying to center my chi and meet this ninja Fung Sway. Or Schway. Somebody told me he stays in Cali. And in the spirit of positivity, let me maintain expectations.

Let me tell you something about expectations, they’re almost impossible to not have. I’ve watched the trailers for RHOH numerous times and you know what, them sh*ts were hilarious. You’ve got Kevin Hart in his prime and a slew of random arse hasbeen actors on a fake reality show, which to me means script. Yeah, there ain’t one on this show obviously. And this first episode left something to be desired. One thing I realized while watching this show was this: comedians need a script. Very few are just funny off the cuff for long periods of time unless they get on a roll.

See: Harvey, Steve. He can go for hours on one thing and get funnier and funnier. But that wouldn’t make for a television show.

“Second Generation Wayans” managed to be funnier than RHOH which, again expectations, surprised me. That didn’t make sense except…it had a script. I’ll tune in.

This was a long ass way of wondering two things: 1) are we giving BET a fair enough shake anymore? Hell, they snagged TJ Holmes for a weekly show that we must have somehow forgot existed because now its on once a week…right?? 2) Is BET doing a better job of bringing the type of programming we claim we want than we give it credit for?

I’m as guilty of making BET the culprit for all that’s wrong with Black America. But here’s something to think about. Melissa Harris-Perry’s show on MSNBC comes on every Saturday and Sunday from 10-noon. I love it. Actually, I just think I love her, but whatever, I’m tuning in. No seriously, I love her. Like looked her up to see if she was married type love her.

As Twitter is the best way to see what’s happening in Black America, it seems that many of the Ninjerati do indeed tune into her show on Saturday or Sunday mornings. On purpose. Which means we gave it a chance and I’m curious why b/c until her show aired, I’d never heard of her.

Would we have tuned in at all if it was on BET? Hell would we tune in NOW if it was on BET? I wonder. Actually, I don’t. The answer is no.

So again, I ask, does the perception of BET completely cloud our ability to even notice if BET is giving Black America some of what we have been clamoring for? Hell, even Nick Cannon in the promo for RHOH was like, “this show is on BET? F*ck that”. A joke and a funny one, but the point wasn’t lost.

Talk to me.

For the record, I do feel like we can get almost all of what we’re looking for on other stations nowadays. But that does beg the age-old question, what exactly are we looking for? Do we even know?

Mmm mmm mmm mmm.

-VSB P aka THE ARSONIST aka MR. WHAT CHANNEL BET ON aka SHERANE GOT A BIG OLE FAT ASS aka GIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIRL HE A 3