On Being Mary Jane

Warning! Spoilers Ahead!

Yes, I’m all kinds of late to this one, but I did manage to see Being Mary Jane a few weeks back. Considering this is an original show for BET, I had my reservations about it. However, I was a bit surprised to find that the show actually has a rather complex depiction of a black woman and her family.

Of course, it starts out with the romantic angle and sex. This is how you are drawn in. However, we soon see how Mary Jane lives in such a beautiful home: she’s the host of a popular talk show. In other words, she is a local celebrity.

One of the things I like about this aspect of the show is that we see Mary Jane fighting to have issues that matter to her put on the air. Not only is she dealing with an environment apathetic toward black women, but the politics of always wanting to get the new and hot issues of the day stand in her way of creating something substantial for black women, which includes issues that do not go away after the news cycle. Her relationship with her Latina assistant is a little more than professional courtesy as these two women of color find themselves as a very small minority among a sea of white. However, things are not always hunky dory between the two and that tension is allowed to play out.

What I loved even more than the depictions of work struggles is the family aspect of the show. Mary Jane comes from a family with a working class background. However, she appears to be the only one who has managed to move into the middle class. This means everyone else comes to her when they need anything, especially money. Does she have any obligation or responsibility toward her family since she has moved into a different social status? This is something rarely seen in dramas about black families. It’s always assumed that families achieve “upward mobility” together, but what happens when not everyone goes with you? She obviously loves her family, but no one is perfect (including Mary Jane) and the family does seem to take her for granted at times.

There is one aspect of this show that bothers me: Mary Jane’s obsession with wanting a baby. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to have children, but her desire to have a baby does not seem to go beyond this romantic notion of pregnancy and holding that baby in her hands after delivery. I may be jumping the gun on that one, but I guess drama has to be created in this show someone.

I also don’t want to jump too far ahead of the gay best friend, but apparently the only functional relationship Mary Jane has with a black man is her gay best friend. My fear is that black men and women will be set up in perpetually dysfunctional relationships with each other for the duration of this show.

Otherwise, I’m actually looking forward to this series. BET may be evolving in small ways and perhaps this show is one small step.