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