I remember when Being Mary Jane first hit the BET lineup. I didn't love the show, but I also didn't dislike it. I largely watched the show because of black Twitter and the tremendous shade tossed the way of Pauletta Patterson, aka Mary Jane Paul.
Mary Jane was one of those women who never saw a bad decision regarding a man that she didn't like, and that makes for great armchair quarterbacking. This culminated in my creating a drinking game to coincide with the first season's finale that was guaranteed to ensure that you were drunk by show's end. The game? You had to take a shot at every questionable decision by Mary Jane Paul. I couldn't see straight when the show was over.
But the thing is, many, many women could relate to her. At one point, BET asked women to tweet that they were Mary Jane. I thought it to be an absurd request because Mary Jane seemed to be written as the most insufferable, hapless woman ever. Yet and still, many women felt a kinship with her; turns out I know nothing about women.
When the second season rolled around, I watched it with less enthusiasm—mostly because I lost the mojo to live-tweet the show, the same way I've done with Scandal, which without Twitter apparently doesn't tickle my fancy at all. But I still paid attention. I kept up with the various storylines at arm's length, but I couldn't really sit down with a bunch of Being Mary Jane fans and debate the finer points of season 2.
To that end, I didn't even realize season 3 was on the horizon. I happened to be watching some other wizard ratchetry and saw an advertisement for the season 3 premiere a few days hence. I had nothing better to do at 9 p.m. on that particular Tuesday, so I turned to BET for the two-hour premiere.
No need to rehash all of the shenanigans, but a run-through of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram will let you know that everybody and their mama was watching and saw the speech her brother gave her about brothas who grow up with a silver spoon and what they expect from women (those men suck, effectively). I feel like the writers were looking to achieve two things: 1) They wanted to hear a collective high-five of "Black Women Across America," along with some, "Uh, huh! They sure are terrible!" and 2) They wanted it go viral. I'm sure both happened.
Also, Loretta Devine came through, and Loretta Devine'd by stealing all of her scenes and dropping some much needed truth about taking what's yours and not getting taken advantage of just for being the little guy. It was basically "Message!" all up and through those two episodes. Which was great because I enjoyed them. I said to myself that I'd take watching the show back up.
And then I promptly forgot about it. This past Tuesday, I happened to be getting ready for bed when I realized it was Tuesday and I couldn't remember if anything interesting came on. I light-bulbed at, "Oh, wait … Tuesday night is Being Mary Jane … right? Does it come on at 9 or 10 p.m.? Yo no se." I turned to BET and it was about to start. It was kismetically serendipitous, which would be the next "complex simplicity" if public education in this country were better.
Maaaaaaaaaaaan, listen. That episode was so real from start to finish. The opening scene featuring Mary Jane's best friend, Lisa, as she effectively winds down to her suicide with dinner, bath and getting comfortable as she downs pills and wine was so scarily powerful that I felt actual pain and dread watching it. It hurt. I think most of us think of suicide in the abstract. We know somebody who's killed himself, but something about watching her tick down her own last moments was difficult.
The fact that they didn't include music made it that much more dramatic. I was truly saddened, especially in light of why she did it. It was the culmination of the loneliness, isolation and pain that she'd endured through her life and more recently between her and Mary Jane because of David. She'd gotten to the point where she couldn't go back and couldn't move forward. She was a woman with everything and nothing at all. That hurt.
The rest of the episode was masterfully written, as Mary Jane had to deal with her own issues: Her best friend killed herself, but she was also angry at her, so the conflict of emotions was on display. Watching Mary Jane scroll through the missed calls from Lisa—presumably as she grasped for hope for life, before she stopped calling Mary Jane and eventually called herself home—and visibly sift through the emotions of watching the timeline of a person's demise was compelling.
Mary Jane's dressing down of David and then going full M.J. on the eulogy by exposing a dark truth that no doubt contributed to Lisa's demise, amid the isolation she lived in from people she cared for most, including Mary Jane, all played perfectly. Even the Sam Cooke song playing during the service fit almost too well. I can’t lie, I was moved to tears.
The point I'm making here is this: The folks who write, produce and direct Mary Jane have hit a new gear and are taking no prisoners. The last episode could stand on its own as an exercise in how to handle a show with that many emotions packed into it. It was flawless. It was moving. It was compelling television. It was the moment, to me, where I feel like Being Mary Jane decided to go for it. They decided to take their show to a new level. It's not just a show that's good for BET. It's a good show, period. These folks want to be taken seriously. They made an already good show one that looks like they're hoping for some recognition.
Being Mary Jane is mostly a show for women. Of course, men watch it, too, but it's a show about a woman's struggle through life and love and the pitfalls that come with having all of the professional success (though it's not without struggle), and a financially upwardly mobile, but low-relationship-success life. She's the representative of so many women out here today who have it all except the family they want so badly—sometimes their fault, other times through no fault of their own.
Mary Jane is living a truth that represents so many conversations had via Facebook and blogs. She's not every woman, obviously; nor does the show purport her to be. But she's a woman in whom many can see themselves. She's also one whom I now want to win. Life is hard for everybody, but man, she's had a tragic run so far this season.
But more importantly, the powers that be behind the show are coming for necks. I want her to win, and they want my eyes. If they keep it up like that, well, they got them.
I'm not Mary Jane or nothing, but I'm definitely on board for the ride.
Panama Jackson is the co-founder and senior editor of VerySmartBrothas.com. He lives in Washington, D.C., and believes the children are our future.