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Sunday, December 27, 2015

COUNTING THE WAYS I LOVE "BEING MARY JANE" ON B.E.T.




1. Mary Jane is human. That is...

-she's kind, 

-she's gentle, 
-she's a ride or die chick loyal but sometimes fails
-she's bossy, 
-she loves hard but not stupid (for very long)
-she's judgmental, 
-she's right, 
-she's wrong, 
-she vacillates and equivocates,  
-and she walks softly and carries a big stick 
     to answer the front door at night (her baseball bat)
-AND when she's horny she's horny and she scratches that itch.

I know "being human" shouldn't be "a thing" But being black and female on three dimensional is so rare on television that it absolutely is "a thing."


2. Because of her character's job position as a television news personality, real life black current events can be introduced into the show via Mary Jane interviewing someone real like 'The Guerrilla Gardner.' He was actually a guest star and spoke on real issues.

3. Mary Jane, herself, is not always the most interesting character on the screen.  Her friends and family are going through some stuff . And sometimes when they are handling things badly or when they are handling things well -  divorce, depression, loss of custody of children- she, as the main character, has no answers. Sometimes Mary Jane is just there to listen. And when she does Mary Jane symbolically listens to black women (all women) everywhere.

4. When Mary Jane's niece talked about not being the right size or color to be attractive to black men, there was no neat Brady Bunch wrap up or conclusion-- just like real life. There was the niece coming to an ugly conclusion, bitter tears, hollow reassurances, and the scene ended on a down note-- just like real life. That made me unhappy at first. But it was so completely real, I couldn't really criticize it. I just couldn't.

5. Strong black woman doesn't live here, not in this series. Mary Jane hesitates when she should be moving. And sometimes she jumps ahead with her mouth when she should stop and think with her mouth in the closed position. And when people don't wind up being who she thinks they are, she cries and loses control. 


6. She does nerd things that are dear to my heart like having inspirational quotes all pinned up all over the place.

7. Her female friend and work partner Kara argue a lot but they always have one another's back in the end.  I swear, only feminists like Mara Brock Akil create female characters that have real fights over real stuff having nothing to do with silly misunderstandings and/or men.

8. Motherhood is examined from a variety of angles. Her relationship with her mother has turned out to be a lot more interesting than I thought it would. And one of the most powerful scenes I've ever seen about a woman and how she feels about being failing to be what society expects her to be as the female parent comes from Kara. And that's not tied up with a pretty bow either.

9. Race, class, and poverty and how these things impact one another is an undercurrent in this series. Mary Jane's family isn't quite a mixture of the Huxtables (The Cosby Show) and the Evans' (Good Times) But there's a mixture of earning potentials  and therefore questions about what success looks like in its various forms and also what one should or shouldn't be willing to do for money.   

10. The light-skinned black female characters look unmistakably black just like all the other characters. That is, most of the light-skinned women do not look like chocolate dipped white girls and/or puerto-rican or deliberately chosen for their racial ambiguity - like most of the paper bag test passing female characters in the movie "Dope" and half of the people in Lee Daniels' productions. 


I don't agree with all the conclusions and decisions the characters come to, but most everything in "Being Mary Jane" feels true to black female-hood to me. This series feels as ground breaking to me as the Mary Tyler Moore show was back in the 1970s.



CONCLUSION:  

Shonda Rhimes  and Kerry Washington have the political murders and melodrama thing going on

AND

Shonda Rhimes and Viola Davis have the ruthless murder mystery thing going on

BUT IT IS

Mara Brock Akil and Gabrielle Union that have created the most three dimensional black woman that television has ever seen. I feel like "Being Mary Jane" is televisoin history in the making. I'm hoping more people will see how special this series really is.

-----------


By the way, Gabrielle Union is wearing some kick@$$ dresses.

And there is such an eclectic selection of music being used in the series. It's not all black and female. But it is heavily female, quite a bit black, and some of the songs are from other countries.

I can't believed I passed on "Being Mary Jane" for so long.  I know why I did though.

A) I skipped it because I'd heard about Mary Jane's first boyfriend and the whole thing sounded a little too Olivia Pope to me (And I was still mad at myself for getting hooked on Scandal in the first place.) 

B) The first half of the pilot, "Being Mary Jane," the movie, seemed like it was going down stereotype lane with an ex-drug addict brother and a baby daddy chasing niece.  But these two characters, only two among many supporting characters, jumped up, turned around and did a split into 3 dimensional characters that I actually value more than I thought I would.  

So here I am
in the here and now.

I adore Mary Jane, her family, and her friends. And I can't wait to see what Mara Brock Akil, also the creator of "Girlfriends" does next.

Black Feminists Rocking In This Post


Mara Brock Akil

Shonda Rhimes

Kerry Washington
Viola Davis
Gabrielle Union