Is Mary Jane A True Reflection Of Today’s Single Black Woman?

by Yvonne Chase on July 22, 2013

Being Mary Jane

Black Women On TV
Over the weekend, I read an article titled Black Women Seize Center Stage at Last.  Allison Samuels, the writer, explored the roles of Black women on TV today and focused the piece around the new BET original movie Being Mary Jane that will spin-off into a weekly series.  She also mentioned Kerry Washington’s role in the hit TV drama Scandal.  In the piece, she spoke with Being Mary Jane’s creator Mara Brock Akil who was also behind the success of Girlfriends and The Game currently showing on BET.

Seizing Center Stage
The opening paragraph of the piece says, “Mara Brock Akil has been living with a woman named Mary Jane in her head for years.  As a successful TV writer, she longed to bring the story of a single, professional black woman into the homes of millions of Americans.  For almost three decades, the timing didn’t seem to be right.  That era is over; led by ABC’s tantalizing hit Scandal, black female characters are moving away from the neck-rolling, eye-shifting sidekicks of old and seizing center stage for the first time since Diahann Carroll and Teresa Graves starred in Julia and Get Christy Love in the 1960s and ’70s.”

Dialing Up Booty Calls
I’m all for seizing center stage however; I’d like us to do so in a way that shines us in a better light.  On Scandal, Kerry Washington’s character Olivia Pope is nothing more than a glorified side chick and Mary Jane played by Gabrielle Union is a desperate single black woman who feels so incomplete without a man that she’s intentionally dialing up booty calls in the middle of the night then stealing his sperm from a used condom and freezing it just in case she continues to be unlucky in love.  Oh, and she’s masturbating at her desk before leaving the office to go on a date.  Even with all of her professional accolades, she seems highly insecure and unsure of herself.

Drunken Male Suitor
In the opening sequence of Being Mary Jane, we see her getting ready for bed at 2 a.m. only to have her routine interrupted by one of her drunken male suitors.  Instead of respecting herself and telling him to go away, she removed her head scarf, cleaned up her place in a frenzy then let him in for a night of wild sex.  She later found out he’s married.

Black Women Remain Unmarried
Mara, a married black woman says, “For years there were all these new stories about single black women and how high the percentage was for black women to remain unmarried versus that of other women but no one dug deeper to tell that whole story that was just below the surface. Who are those women, and how do they operate in a world where there are high expectations of marriage and romance? What are their lives like? “I wanted to show all aspects of what being a single black woman is like, regular, everyday emotions that you haven’t seen through a black woman’s point of view on television.”

Desperately Seeking A Man
Uh…Being Mary Jane is not what being a single black woman is like for me or many of the single black women I know.  Just because we see the same story over and over and over again doesn’t mean its the norm.  How about we show a different kind of single black woman? We’re not all desperately seeking a man to make our lives complete and feel significant.  Many of us know we’re complete and revel in being significantly single. While we may want a relationship, we don’t want it at the expense of our dignity and self-respect.

Poor Mate Selection
I watched Being Mary Jane twice trying to find something, anything to like…I really wanted to like it especially after all of the rave reviews on Twitter.  After two viewings, I came up with nothing.  I couldn’t relate to any part of it.  Being Mary Jane reminded me of the late Whitney Houston’s character in Waiting to Exhale; desperate single black woman caught up in a cycle of poor mate selection all because she can’t seem to function without a man.  We’ve all made bad choices.  My question is when do we stop? When do we get to a place where we like ourselves enough to say no? When do we get to a place of really embracing and enjoying our single lives without constantly searching for a random dude to fill the space? When do we stop being controlled by our libido?

Tell A Different Story
Being Mary Jane also reminded me of Gabrielle Union’s character in Daddy’s Little Girls.  There’s nothing innovative about this role.  We’ve seen it all before.  The movie opened up with a quote that said, “This is one black woman’s story not meant to represent all black women.” While that may be true, the masses think Mary Jane is every black woman’s story because it’s the only story we tell.  Don’t you think it’s about time we tell a different story?

Something to think about…

What say you?  Did you watch Being Mary Jane? Is she a realistic representation of today’s single black woman? 

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