No Problems with Mary Jane

I don't blog daily because I strive to be relevant. In between social media posts, I do live a real life. This week, my facebook newsfeed has been inundated with bloggers and writers upset about current media portrayals of Black women on television; specifically the fictional characters of Olivia Pope on "Scandal" and "Being Mary Jane" on BET.

First let me state the obvious: These are fictional characters. Dramatic television is simply that. In order to engage an audience, you must have conflict and character flaws. Few people would tune in to watch a show where perfect people go to their perfect jobs and return home to their perfect families in their perfect communities with absolutely no conflict, turmoil or drama.

Television serves as an escape. We invest our time and emotions into characters which we can relate to at some level. My biggest concern with everyone upset with these portrayals is that they don't know what the resolution will be. These characters haven't run off into the sunset with their married men (yet). The story is still being told.

I don't know when the perfect Black woman paradigm was adopted but let me inform you that SHE DOES NOT EXIST. Yes, a woman can be intelligent and successful and have a career yet her personal life and self esteem is a mess. This should be of no surprise to anyone reading this.

For those who are attempting to analyze these characters, you consistently overlook that these women come from broken homes and/or dysfunction. The desire to be loved can manifest in poor judgment in interpersonal relationships.

I also can't help but notice that the male characters are NEVER addressed or have fingers pointed at them in these critical essays. It takes TWO people to have an affair folks. The other woman is often villainized while the two people in the marriage are never held accountable for the crumbling of it.

There are dozens of network shows with dramatic female leads involved in non-traditional relationships (Homeland where the lead is in love with a terrorist, True Blood where Sookie has been passed around like a jumbo pot of gumbo, Addison on Private Practice slept with her best friend's husband, Orange is the New Black features a trans-sexual female narrative and even the ABC Family show Pretty Little Liars has female leads who are lesbians and having teacher-student/affairs). It's TELEVISION.

The writers of these shows have not been charged with creating role models for you. They have not been mandated by Rev. Al Sharpton to craft strong Black women who are asexual, boring, righteous or married. They are charged with cranking out good story lines and engaging drama. PERIOD.

If you are seeking positive, near perfect female characters who are making a difference in the world, may I suggest a history book or a documentary?  I have made my share of mistakes and definitely have demonstrated poor judgment and shortcomings in my life. While my drama has not played out on the television or motion picture screen, I do relate to female characters who not only mimic my indiscretions but have the dramatic license to embrace the human female experience. Don't like Being Mary Jane? Try being yourself and grabbing the remote if it bothers you that much.


  1. AWESOME POST!!! This is so on point. It amazes me that folks aren't intelligent enough to accept that. I'm sure they are...but really??

  2. These are probably the same people who want to hold most television personalities as positive role models. I would rather watch a dramatic series rather than a reality series any day.

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  5. I agree! This post is awesome and so on point! I think part of it is that people have a problem seeing black females embrace sexuality. This has to do with beauty standards that are constantly shown in the media. Black woman have never been seen as sexy to the extent they are now. Those who dared to be sexy were often called names like tramp, bitch etc. White women have been allowed to explore their sexuality in a variety of ways. Since the beauty standards are based on them, sexuality is a natural manifestation of that.

    Another factor is the limited roles for black actresses. Because of this, there is a concern about the images black actresses put out there. There is constant pressure on film makers etc to portray only positive characters for fear of feedng stereotypes. I'm glad that people like Shonda Rhimes are changing that. It has to be noted that no group of people have one dimension and it's OK to show all sides.

    I love that we can see stories with black women embracing their sexuality. We are sexual beings and there is nothing wrong with showing that side of us.


  6. Just saw Shonda retweet this and I absolutely agree! There is an article in the Cosmo magazine on shelves now written by Issa Rae that highlighting there is more to black women than what you see on tv. I agree with her disgust of many of the "reality" shows that try to portray that behavior as a true indicator of black female behavior. VH1 is a disgusting network to me for making other cultures think that is "reality" tv. The only decent show they had was the TI and Tiny one where they tried to instill family values. Also, whoever has a problem with Scandal cannot be from be this planet. I haven't gotten the chance to watch Mary Jane yet, but Gabrielle Union and Kerry Washington are two actresses who are well spoken, intelligent, stylish, and comfortable in their own skin. I would much rather support them than any of the other "reality housewives/exes" on VH1

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  8. Great blog, great insight, worthy of the retweets! Very well stated, Crystal.

  9. It's ENTERTAINMENT. For GROWN FOLKS. Who KNOW THE DIFFERENCE. Between BOREDOM and FANTASY. Love the actors and the story lines but wouldn't wanna be 'em!

  10. My question to you is why do we blacks embrace and glorify the worst part of ourselves through media and masquerade it as "entertainment", all the while rejecting anything that shows the opposite?


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