‘Being Mary Jane’ premiered on BET on Jan. 7, bringing with it a fantastic performance by Gabrielle Union in her most raw, racy, brutally honest role yet.
Gabrielle Union has been in the news non-stop due to her new engagement to Dwyane Wade, and the “baby scandal” that followed it. It’s a shame, because her starring role in the BET drama Being Mary Jane is the 41-year-old actress’ best role yet. Let’s start talking about it.
‘Being Mary Jane’ Is Refreshingly Real
Mary Jane Paul is one hell of a woman. She’s a successful talk show host. She’s a breadwinner. She’s gorgeous. She’s newly single and a hot commodity in the eyes of multiple men. But most importantly, she’s far from perfect. Jan. 7’s episode alone found Mary Jane making out with a man she knew was married, and dealing with the same career uncertainties pretty much every single woman working in media deals with these days.
Gabrielle knocked all of these difficult scenes out of the park, yet still retained her inherent likability. In short, she was marvelous.
It’s not surprising to learn that Mary Jane was created by Mara Brock-Akil, the mastermind behind Girlfriends and The Game. Mara has been writing refreshingly, unapologetically real black women for years; long before Kerry Washington‘s already-iconic Olivia Pope made being a strong, successful, yet flawed black woman on TV an okay thing in the eyes of the masses.
“The show resonated with audiences because they could relate to the characters,” Mara said to Huffington Post. “I really feel as though we (women) are liars and we have become liars for our own survival. Now we’re at a tipping point where it is no longer serving us but it is hurting us and now I’m finding that a lot of us are lost. I don’t mean just single women. I mean women, married women, women across the board. We are lost, losing ourselves a little bit. I think men can relate too. They don’t have to lie in the same way or deal with life in the same way, but I think they will recognize themselves even in Mary Jane if not the other characters that are present in the piece.”
Mary Jane Paul: Not Olivia Pope
Of course, since Mary Jane is gorgeous and talented and successful and dating a married man and all of that, the Saint Olivia Pope comparisons will be plentiful. And you know what? That’s okay. It’s bound to happen. There isn’t exactly a great space for non-stereotypical black female characters (who aren’t cops) on television (we’re talking to you, Saturday Night Live), and the fact that Mara and Gabrielle have brought another one to life is just one big step forward in the right direction.
Are there a plethora of interesting, highly-celebrated Walter White, Don Draper, Sherlock, and Red Reddington types on pretty much every network big and small these days, and only a small number of interesting black females? Sure. And are their black (and female) costars on those same shows often hated (Anna Gunn) or overlooked (Danai Gurira) in the eyes of the masses? Absolutely. And it sucks. Those men are undoubtedly great to watch, yet it’s still a giant pain in the ass for women of all colors that we still have to break that glass television ceiling; and that it’s such a big freaking news story when someone does.
But I’m going to ignore that noise, grab a glass of red, and enjoy my time with the wonderful Mary Jane Paul. Small victories are still victories, and Gabrielle Union deserves to celebrate.
What do you think, HollywoodLifers? Did you like Being Mary Jane?
— Shaunna Murphy