Being Mary Jane: Negative Depictions of the Black Power Woman?

Negative Depictions of Black Power Women: Enough is Enough

(Image: File)
(Image: File)

Last night, BET officially brought back the much-anticipated show (at least among myself and my circle of mostly power women) “Being Mary Jane.”

The show featured the single newscaster and family-focused woman many of us fell in love with in the show’s 2-hour mini-movie preview, played by Gabrielle Union, who is known for her roles as that confident, comedic and well-put-together sistergirlfriend and romantic lead.

In the mini-movie, Mary Jane was like many of us: professional, hard-working and super supportive in helping family, but she had major fails and flops in love. She was vulnerable, real, relatable and triumphant in that she went through the mess and came out on top, choosing to love herself and remain single versus dealing with nonsense from a man.

But the regression twists that came with this first official episode had me screaming and grimacing on behalf of all power women of color.

At the very least I can say, I was highly disappointed.

I can get past the show’s opening suicide.

I can also get past the fact that Mary Jane is still involved with an emotionally unavailable ex and a married man.

I can even get past the scene where the wife confronts Mary Jane, in her place of employment, asking lewd questions about Mary Jane’s rendezvous with her husband. (Or how Mary Jane actually sat there and entertained the degrading exchange.)

What I am a little more than tiffed about is this:

  • The consistent, seemingly on-trend, saturation of negative TV depictions of power women of color, who are so weak and irresponsible with matters of the heart and self-respect
  • How these depictions just, yet again, add to that age-old stereotype that black women in general are objects not of a man’s highest devotion and respect, but only worthy of lust and love’s table scraps

I’ve had enough.

Stop it with the same ol’ woe-is-me, I’m-about-my-business-but-I’m-a-hot-self-loathing-ball-breaking-mess-in-love depictions of black power women.

True, there are women in real life who carry on affairs with married men—no matter status, education or lifestyle. There are women who confront mistresses. All of us make mistakes when it comes to love.

I’m not afraid to admit I’m an avid fan of TV—from documentaries to news to reality TV to animation— and a good Real Housewives or Love & Hip-Hop episode or two has been my guilty pleasure for many years. Many of us watched and reveled at “Scandal,” as powerhouse “fixer” Olivia Pope spent her nights sneaking away to her presidential — and married—lover, all while heading one of the most influential and resourceful political and public relations teams in the country.

Some love it. Some hate it. I still have mixed feelings about it, just like I have mixed feelings about power women all over the world who can’t seem to apply the same tenacity, confidence and discipline in love as they do in their business lives.

I miss the days of Living Single‘s Kadijah (played by Queen Latifah), a single, yet confident magazine publisher, along with her friends, Regine (who knew her job title?); Synclaire (actress/comedian/wife); Max (lawyer); Kyle Barker (debonaire stock broker); and Overton (husband/handyman).

Let’s add characters like Girlfriend‘s Joan (lawyer); Maya (author/office assistant); Lynn (again, who knew her job title?); and Toni (real estate entrepreneur).

Let’s add more mothers like Claire from “The Cosby Show,Moesha‘s Dee, or Jay from “My Wife and Kids.”

All of these characters, families and friends had their hot-mess-real-life-not-so-glamorous moments, but they provided more options to choose from in the depiction of black power women in America.

In life, it’s the same. Not all power women of color are abrasive, save-the-world, chip-on-the-shoulder, can’t-find-a-good-man, train wrecks. But lately, popular TV will have one believing that. (Tasha Mack, anyone?)

I still have love for the creators and backers of “Being Mary Jane,” and I’d like to give the show a chance to evolve in characters and plot lines, but while doing that I am in dire deep-down-in-the-gut need for more mainstream diversity in the depictions of black power women that have nothing to do with toxic habits in love.

Did you watch BET’s Being Mary Jane? What were your thoughts? #Soundoff and follow me on Twitter @JPHazelwood.