I love television dramas. I relish in the intrigue and the betrayal and glorious lives of fictional characters that live in sprawling luxurious homes or just covet them, and have twisted, dirty personal lives. As an entertainment blogger, there are never enough dramas. As a black woman, there are is a depressing scarcity of dramas starring women of color. We might be the overconfident, oversexed, sassy best friend whose only purpose to boost the self-esteem of the classically beautiful heroine or the medical examiner forever stuck in the lab doling out boring, impersonal medical facts, but rarely the muse.
Enter "Being Mary Jane"—BET’s addictive, sexy and provocative drama about a successful, complicated black woman who wants it all, starring the flawless and underrated Gabrielle Union. It's "Scandal" crossed with "The Good Wife." The new season starts on today! Here are four reasons you should watch.
1. Gabrielle Union. While we were rightfully and passionately celebrating the historic Emmy nominations ofViola Davis, Uzo Aduba, Regina King and Queen Latifah and other people of color, I was saddened by Gabrielle Union's snub. As Mary Jane Paul—a troubled but brilliant broadcaster—Union has given so much; she has turned in nuanced, candid, vulnerable performances that can be compared to Viola Davis' incendiary wig and make-up removal scene on “How To Get Away With Murder.” Her epic monologues rival any "Gladiator In A Suit" speech made on "Scandal" because they are not about lofty political ideas or the failings of society, but the everyday battle of being a (single) woman, being black and how hard it is to be one or both.
2. Her love life is worse than yours. Misery loves company, so anyone—single, married, recently dumped—can tune into “Being Mary Jane” and commiserate. Mary Jane has unknowingly slept with a married man and knowingly stalked the wife. She’s saved sperm her lover’s sperm in a desperate and misguided impregnate herself. She pushed away her niece who all but idolized her. Her relationships, platonic, familial and otherwise, are trainwrecks, and you can’t help but revel and weep at the carnage. After seeing the gorgeous men in her orbit, can we blame her?
3. She is a real person. Mary Jane Paul is not a "Strong Black Woman." Most of us are familiar with the stereotype disguised as a compliment. She's the widowed single black mother who works five jobs to pay for her twin sons college education while cooking meals for the elderly white lady next door. The SBW doesn't just walk with the burdens society heaves upon her, she runs. This trope is as clichéd as it is problematic. Mary Jane Paul is not that woman. The stress of her career takes strange tolls on her relationships and her body whether she’s wetting the bed or using liquor as a crutch. She is a hot mess in enviable heels and bangin' body, and I love her for it.
She also struggles with real and controversial issues. Some are simple like dealing with a friend you’ve outgrown or dealing with her natural hair. Some are intensely personal, like depression and Mary Jane’s struggle with fertility in the heartbreaking “No Eggspectations.”
4. Stay woke. Like many across the globe, I became increasingly woke after the murders Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and Tamir Rice in the last two years. With that widened, overwhelming perspective on the world, I became more isolated. Mary Jane went through a similar awakening during season 2, and the show became my therapy, voicing feelings I had yet to find a way to express.
Mary Jane had understandably striven for mainstream success by getting her own talk show on a cable news network similar to CNN. She wanted to use her platform to focus on issues more important to her. Amongst executive pushback and side-eyes from her producer, Mary Jane changed the format of her show from "Talk Back" to (unofficially) "Talk Black." Not only did it give her an outlet for her often misdirected anger, it made her a hero for fellow to her viewers, especially after the "Ugly Black Woman" rant in "Primetime."
The new season starts today, and we’ll finally learn what happens after Mary Jane’s car accident, and see the fallout from having learned that Lisa had slept with her long-time love, David.
If you still can't wait to the premiere tonight on BET at 9/8c, check out this sneak peek!
Small Screen Girl
I am an unabashed pop culture and TV-aholic with no plans to ever seek treatment. Explore this blog and see just how deep my obsession goes.