Why “Being Mary Jane” leaves me feeling less than Merry

I usually don’t keep up with t.v sitcoms/series, but because I’m an avid Gabrielle Union fan, I’ve been keeping up with her relatively new series, Being Mary Jane. And although I enjoy the plot, characters,etc, at the end of every episode, I am left feeling disheartened and disappointed at the realities that Mary Jane faces. I’m left feeling saddened at the fact that I know so many Mary Janes. Don’t get me wrong, Mary Jane is strong, beautiful, self-sufficient, and has a great career, but so many of the themes touched on in the series reflect problems I see daily in the lives of woman I know and love.

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I’m pleased to see a depiction of a black woman that is not over-sexualized and somewhat steps outside the narrow depiction of African-American women on television. I love that she has successful women of color in her inner circle. I love that her parents are still married and seem to have a healthy relationship. I like that she has a successful career and seems to be doing well financially. She’s strong, yet vulnerable, and as a woman of color, its nice to have that difficult juxtapose included in the show, especially since many women of color struggle with that balance, myself included.

Even with all of things I like about the show, there is a reoccurring theme that spoils it all for me. As harsh as it may sound, I am extremely bothered by how desperate Mary Jane appears to be. Its hard for me to watch  Mary Jane struggle with her yearnings for love and attention. It would be so powerful for the writers to allow Mary Jane to discover and acknowledge that it is her own love and affection she is so desperately seeking. She is willing to settle for less when it comes to love, rather than being alone.So often, I have seen this theme played out in the lives of women I love dearly.  I once wrote, “I’ve watched the strongest of women be broken down by the weakest of men.”

I can’t help but question the messages shows like this send our young girls of color.

This show teaches that as black women, we must do whatever it takes to obtain the love we think we deserve from a man, even if that man is already in a relationship or married and/or not capable of giving us the love we deserve. But even on a deeper level, is it implying that we are so undesirable and unlovable that we must do whatever it takes to attain even the slightest inkling of love? Does it teach us that we must settle for mediocre love, because mediocre love is better than the no “love” at all? This show dedicates so much time to Mary Jane maintaining the love of a man, but neglects to put any emphasis on her finding some much needed  self-love.

As I watch this show,  this particular theme continues to  re-surface in my thoughts and haunt me after the show is over. Why is this such a common theme in the African- American female community? How does this mindset reflect relationships in the African-American community? Rates of Marriages?  Teenage pregnancy, etc? I’m not making the bold assumption that a lack of self love is directly correlated to these topics and/or statistics. I am simply wondering how this theme reflects the stark realities women of color face on a daily basis.

Check out this Similiar Article on For Harriet

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5 thoughts on “Why “Being Mary Jane” leaves me feeling less than Merry

  1. I’ll preface this comment by saying that I’ve never watched the show (and, honestly, don’t have any interest in doing so). It seems to me that a common theme of many shows and characters on TV is this idea of the need for love to complete a person; that finding love makes someone whole. The reality of real love is far different (as my fiance has taught me)—love is firstly a choice, not a feeling, that we have to consciously make to put the other person first. It seems like almost everywhere I look I see these examples of what this overly romantic (and often unrealistic) “falling in love” idea is and I kinda mourn for people who think that that’s what healthy relationships are like.

    That being said, how I believe this relates to Black women (especially young Black women) is this—Black women are, from day one (if not earlier) taught by society that they are never good enough by themselves. They always need something (an education, a good job, a family) or someone (a good husband) to validate their worth. In other words, we, as a society, place little or no value on Black women’s individuality, personality, or agency; in fact, the moment that those things are seen, they’re often as threats.

    I can obviously only speak from secondhand experiences and conversations that I’ve had—because I’m not a Black woman. But I’m attempted to learn as much as I can in order to, one day, be a good father to my little Black daughters. To that end, I appreciate your perspectives and those from people like you who are consciously engaging others to question and challenge long-held beliefs. Thank you!

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    1. Stuart, why are you such an awesome human being?

      Thank-you for this insightful comment. You’ve inspired me to write a blog post about the worth of a black woman.

      Thanks for checking my blog out!!

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  2. Great article!

    I completely agree with you. While I watched the pilot last year, I have not watched the show (partly because I do not have time to but mostly because I do not want to). As a woman of color, all around me, I am plague with these realities that the show now exposes. You pinpointed it exactly: a lack of self love in women AND an underlying theme that we are letting our own ambition cripple us. So although I enjoyed the pilot, I refuse to watch and constantly be reminded of the struggles that black women face relationship-wise because I rebuke that as MY reality.

    Somewhere in my mind is the fervent belief that black women, like women of other races, CAN have it all: marriage, motherhood and career and I refuse to let popular culture taint that for me.

    But this article is exactly right, and I do hope Mara Akil takes a cue from you and reflects that positive notion of self-love on the show sometime soon!

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    1. I completely agree with you Shaina!

      We can have it all, but unfortunately, society wants us to think we can’t, and worst yet, our beautiful black girls are being told that they can’t either. The really sad part is that few young girls have adults in their lives telling them otherwise.

      Although we have limited control over the media, you and I, as strong, beautiful, successful young black women, can go back to our communities, volunteer etc, so that young black girls can see that they CAN have it all and they DESERVE to have it all!

      Like

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