On Being Mary Jane And Making The Leap Towards Greatness

BET screenshot
BET screenshot

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 arm-chair quarterbacking on Twitter. 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 of 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 requested for women to tweet that they were Mary Jane. I thought it to be an absurd request because Mary Jane seemed to be written to be 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 livetweet 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 advertisment for the season 3 premier in a few days. I had nothing better to do at 9pm on that particular Tuesday so I turned to BET for the 2-hour premier. No need to rehash all of the shenangians, but a run through of Facebook, Twitter, and IG 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 hHow unh! They sure are terrible!"; and 2) they wanted it go viral. I'm sure it did both.

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 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 back up watching the show.

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 couldn't remember if anything interesting came on. I lightbulbed at, "Oh, wait…Tuesday night is Being Mary Jane…right? Does it come on at 9 or 10pm? 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 was 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 killed themselves, 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 MJ on the eulogy by exposing a dark truth that no doubt contributed to Lisa's demise, amongst 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 its not without struggle), 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 that many can see themselves in. She's also one who 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 Senior Editor of Very Smart Brothas. He's pretty fly for a light guy. You can find him at your mama's mama's house drinking all her brown liquors.



I think you're serving the compliments a little heavy-handed, PJ. It's an ok show but not really good though, at least not to me. And really, NO OFFENSE, but with your Netflix recommendation problems can we really take YOUR word for it… I vote hail nawl. You're talking to a woman who just went through like 4 and a half seasons of Walter White's character development and storyline manipulation… Black tv has a way to go and I don't get why. Maybe we try TOO hard. Which is exactly what I felt watching this episode: the writers are trying way too hard to make the show compelling so that it becomes unbelievable. Even the little things- straight up unbelievable. I could breakdown every singe turn that went wrong and why. Most I'll tell you will come down to timing because most of these network's black writers -of course Shonda is NOT included, she got that magic- seem to rush every single damn plot twist while also adding TOO MANY plot twists into one episode/storyline… I mean really, at her funeral you tell EVERYONE she was molested??? And that's ok?? Like what? At a black funeral?? True or not yo @ss would be yanked off the stage with the quickness. Just too many things. Now I do like that Gabby is allowed to be herself within the role and not really ACT per se, it makes Mary Jane feel a little tangible. I can tell there are times that what's used is not an actual line that was written but a little free styling - which unfortunately doesn't happen a lot on the show outside of the group scenes but the little that does happen is cool. I don't know. All that to say, the show has a long way to go in my book but it does have great potential.