Wednesday, July 3, 2013

From Being Mary Jane to Scandal and Olivia Pope: Cheers to the Flawed Black Woman


Like many of you, I watched the premiere of BET's "Being Mary Jane" starring Gabrielle Union, and I really liked it! The writing, acting, plot and direction were all compelling to the point where I limited my Twitter checks to the commercials (and boy were there a LOT of commercials). Did BET actually do something right? Who knew? I kid, sort of.

"Being Mary Jane" (BMJ) is another positive example of the evolving image of Black women on television, and I don't think it's a stretch to thank Kerry Washington's "Scandal" for all this. If women of all shades couldn't relate to Olivia Pope's fabulous messiness in her love life, in addition to aspiring to be an 'Olivia Pope' in their own lives, I don't know if we would be seeing the complex and wonderfully flawed characters that we saw in the premiere.

If I can steal from the Good Book for a second, it seems as if Scandal begat Meagan Good's "Deception" (RIP), Kimberly Elise's "Hit the Floor," Tika Sumpter's "The Have and Have Nots" (she deserves so much better, but I digress) and BET's "Being Mary Jane."

Yes, I know that there have been positive Black female role models before, but something happened after Claire Huxtable and her ilk left the scene. With the rise of reality TV, we got a whole lot of ratchet that you know, didn't cast us in the most flattering light.

Unfortunately, Ratchet will be around for the foreseeable future, but now that there seems to a resurgence of balance in our portrayals, I'm definitely breathing a sigh of relief.  I mean I can only sign so many petitions to keep the spawn of "All My Babies' Mommas" off the air.

What I liked the most about BMJ were the surprises and how I could relate to so many of Mary Jane Paul's issues, quirks and struggles. In the first scene alone we got sexy sex with Omari Hardwick (Lawd!), vomit by Omari Hardwick (ewwwwwww!), and Gabby, uh Mary Jane, giving Omari a good  hosing for not telling her he was married. Yeah, I was not expecting all of THAT. I will also never look at a box of baking soda the same way again, but the I-want-a-family struggle is real for so many of us

Beyond the "Whoa!" moments there were also the moments that had me and Black Twitter co-signing in agreement. Whether it's taking a "ho" bath, Facebook chatting with the ex, enabling trifling family members, taking care of a sick parent, hooking up with dudes who don't recognize our worth, or fighting for what's for right at work, I think a lot women could see themselves in Union's Mary Jane.

Heck, even little things like the quick clean up before the boo comes over and reading on the toilet (because as Union noted on Twitter, "everybody poos") were a breath of fresh air because they're real and honest moments. That's all we ever wanted, authentic representations of Black women in all our complexity. We're smart, fabulous, successful, but we're also a mess in other aspects of our lives, and that's OK because it's REAL.

I hope "Being Mary Jane" stays true to what I saw last night. If it does, and we continue to support, it will be successful.  We wanted more realistic portrayals of Black womanhood and we're finally getting them. "Scandal," BMJ, and the works of Issa Rae and Ava Duvernay are blazing trails, but hopefully this renaissance won't stop with them.

P.S. Kerry Washington got married! You betta go head girl and keep your life private! Celebs, take copious notes. You ain't got to have your business all out in the street, unless you want it that way.

Stay random,


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