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.

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