Being Mary Jane, starring Gabrielle Union, aired on BET to mostly rave reviews. The television series airs in January 2014.
I had the pleasure of watching the first airing of the show Being Mary Jane, starring Gabrielle Union as newscaster Mary Jane Paul, on BET.
|Being Mary Jane / BET|
Let me just get right down to it -- overall, I was impressed. Kudos to Mara Brock Akil and crew.
I was impressed by the production quality. I was impressed by the acting and the sequencing of events. I was impressed by the honesty and vulnerability shown in Mary Jane's character. And I was also impressed by the way the show's writers and producers managed to fit so many issues into one hour-and-a half-long show without it seeming rushed and trite.
There were a few moments that stood out to me, some that I could relate to, some that I am glad I don't have to deal with (but definitely sympathize):
Grown People Without Jobs
I'm sure I wasn't alone in being shocked and disgusted at the scene where Mary Jane stood in a house full of grown people, some over 40, none of whom had a job. The brother, the brother's wife/girlfriend, the other brother, the father, the sister... not a one could raise their hands to say they had employment and didn't seem a bit ashamed about it. Yet the young girls of the family were continually popping out babies they couldn't support, leaving the brunt of the responsibility with Mary Jane. Sadly, this is a reality in too many black homes -- one person (usually a woman) providing care for many different adults and kids.
The Grown Brother Asking for Money
I also found myself shaking my head at the scene where Mary Jane's grown brother Patrick boldly asked her for $500. That fact that it was later revealed that the money was for buying his pregnant teen daughter a stroller did not move me one bit.
As a grown man, he should not be looking to anyone but himself to take care of his responsibilities, including his daughter. Instead of sitting on the couch watching television, he should have been working on a plan to bring additional income into the home now that another family member was on the way. His wife/girlfriend should be contributing as well if she's eating up the family's food and spending all her time at the family house.
The Elaborate Baby Shower
After watching this show, I can totally understand why some parents refuse to throw their pregnant teens big baby showers.
The baby shower that Mary Jane threw for her misguided niece looked almost like a wedding party. Is it any wonder that young girls romanticize the idea of having children out of wedlock when they have a big baby shower to look forward to? Add to that, the baby's father disrespected Mary Jane in her home instead of being thankful that someone was taking care of his problem. Mary Jane should not have given in. The cycle continues of rewarding bad behavior.
The Non-Reciprocal Support
The hardest part about watching Being Mary Jane was seeing Gabrielle Union's character come home to a beautiful yet very empty house.
After spending her day fighting everyone else's battles, helping her family out and doing her job (basically, what a smart responsible woman does) she goes home to NO ONE. No one (not even her needy, lazy family members) calling her to see if she's okay, no one checking in to see how she's doing, no one offering to come over and cook her a meal or help put icing on one of her cakes. This one hit home for me personally, but I have struggled with this reality for some time.
"What did being a 'good girl' do for me exactly?"
I have asked that question many times. I can definitely relate to the character on this one.
A few voices on Twitter expressed the opinion that the show is again perpetuating stereotypes -- Mary Jane as the overbearing, successful yet lonely black woman.
But I don't completely agree. I think the show it is telling a true story for the first time of what a lot of "invisible" hardworking black women go through daily. They care for family, make strange sacrifices in the name of love and put themselves second to just about everyone. I find it encouraging that the story of these "invisible" black women is finally being told, and in such a refreshing and somewhat humorous way.
I think the show is a positive step not because black women like Mary Jane want the sympathy of others, but because we can clearly see that we're not alone. So many successful black woman voices revealed that they can relate to what Gabrielle Union's character was going through. It opens a discussion about how we can finally put ourselves first instead of putting everything and everyone else before our own happiness.
The only thing I don't like about the show is how it seems to be completely focused on a black woman's ongoing search for a good black man. The main character is so obsessed with finding a man that she can't even enjoy her success. But maybe this will change as the series goes on.
Again, overall I am very pleased with the production and storyline of Being Mary Jane starring Gabrielle Union and am looking forward to tuning into the full series in January 2014. My only hope is that it will not only show Mary Jane's pain, but also offer some SOLUTIONS for black women who find themselves in these predicaments.