Confronting The Mirror That Is ‘Being Mary Jane’
Feeling stuck is a frustrating thing. The winds of people with set purposes breezing past while you feel anchored in unsureness, an unknown tack holding shoe soles to right where they stand. Unable to move beyond immediate eyesight, if even that. It can also be a more cunning sort of immobility. You know that there is motion happening. You are, in fact, moving. It can be slow, steady or a quick sprint akin to Usain Bolt, but regardless of the aches in your heels, tight thighs and the sting in your calves, you haven’t moved an inch, let alone a mile. Racing towards something—love, wealth, success, fulfillment, clarity, something—but getting nowhere. Treadmill potential. Certain individuals have the ability to guestimate exactly where they should wind up in life, while for others, the only clear thing is that first crumbly step to figuring it out. The “how” remains the source of stress and anxiety.
I saw this when looking into the pixelated eyes of Being Mary Jane’s leading lady all last season, as she struggled to assess her value, both in the eyes of her network, SNC, her dependent family and of the men she was chasing love with. Whatever solutions and resolutions Mary Jane Paul was sure she had a firm grasp on seemed to slip through her fingers at the buzzer like a fumbled baton. It proved difficult to navigate thorough her wins, losses and the perceived versions of both. It’s that very trepidation that keeps me drawn to her on BET’s hit show in its fourth season, even through the plentiful moments of what some former viewers will call f**k sh**.
It scares me how much I relate to Gabrielle Union’s character. Whether the flick is Brown Sugar, Top Five, Queen Sugar or even that one episode of Moesha, there’s a warmth that comes from looking at the screen and seeing journalism go hand-in-hand with a woman of color. So for that reason alone, when Being Mary Jane first came onto the scene, my heart fluttered a little and I committed myself to follow the show from start to finish. The opportunity to scratch my political itch with Scandal came and went (there’s no catching up if you’re umpteen seasons behind). Empire’s industry theatrics didn’t do it for me. I lacked the energy to finagle a pro bono way to watch Ghost’s shady Power shenanigans on Starz, so I skipped it altogether. BMJ was just my speed.
Here was this media maven who was successful and driven and cared about her job on a level that held morals in higher regard than money, who was killing it on a professional level. She cares deeply about the stories she’s tasked to share, and makes sure the stories of her community find their way to the forefront. But in her mind, the thing that undermines all her successes—because on the work front, she’s had plenty—she’s unnerved by the inability to love and be loved. Hopefully, Season 4 will prove to be a remedy.
After a creative fallout with SNC and a tattered heart from failed flings, Mary Jane left Georgia behind for a new gig in the top media market with executive producer-bestie, Kara, in tow. As Great Day USA’s new morning show correspondent and with New York City as her playground, she’s been granted a fresh start. Now, more than ever, she’s hoping that love sticks and her career soars. Of course, as Mary Jane has a solid track record, messy mistakes will come first. With Lee from London (Chike Okonkwo) we see a cheap thrill turn into a glimmer of promise, and her idol Ronda Sales (Valerie Pettiford) shows that even though Mary Jane is gunning for that top spot in the anchor chair, she’s must learn to tread lightly on new territory.
I love the mess that is Ms. Paul, and I’m living vicariously through her in hopes that a vibrant (and very familiar) new locale will heal old problems. Or bandage them, at least. I, too, wish that newness—a change of scenery, change of crowd, a reset on intentions—will fix things. I really, honestly, truly want Mary Jane to win in all the ways she wants to. Fingers crossed that she will.