On Tuesday night, the latest episode of "Being Mary Jane" aired on BET and earned high praise from viewers. Well, let’s be real, every episode does.
But this week’s show in particular drew special recognition for tackling important and complex themes, many of which truly resonated with viewers and fans. The show’s creator, Mara Brock Akil, and her talented team crafted a powerful episode that explored race and, more specifically, how it relates to beauty, body image and black women.
To briefly recap, the show debuted in 2013 with Mary Jane at the helm, a talented and Emmy-nominated journalist who is the host of a daily news show, “Talk Back” -- or as MJ has dubbed it, “Talk Black.” Mary Jane, powerfully played by actress Gabrielle Union, is a single, black, middle-aged woman who juggles the demands of her career with the daily challenges of love, relationships and progress. She is flawed, human and perfectly imperfect -- all of which are qualities that should be admired among both women in fiction and in reality.
Each week, developments are revealed in both Mary Jane’s personal and professional lives, and each week, millions of viewers tune in to see how she’ll handle them. This week’s episode turned things up a notch and not only touched on the complex lives of black women -- as every episode does -- but dug deep into issues that often go overlooked, neglected and, ultimately, disregarded by mainstream media and Hollywood. In doing so, it introduced the voices of real-life activists Michaela Angela Davis, India.Arie and Mark Anthony Neal, who joined the episode and engaged in an empowering panel discussion for the fictional news show led by Mary Jane herself.
Mary Jane, who is in pursuit of discussing more relevant and untold stories that revolve around race -- hence the name "Talk Black" -- invited the all-black panel to dissect an outrageous real-life study by evolutionary psychologist Satoshi Kanazawa that claims black women are less attractive. The report, which was published in 2011, sparked heavy criticism and was slammed for its scientifically skewed data perpetuating racism and bigotry, and insulting black women.
What resulted from the TV discussion was an honest and in-depth exploration on the acceptance and appreciation of black beauty. It also included poignant remarks from Neal, who emphasized the need for black men to stand in solidarity with black women, and how their silence “is complicit in these attacks.”
Talented singer India.Arie, who is heralded for her Grammy-nominated and inspirational songs, chimed in with powerful declarations of her identity, beauty and self-worth. Meanwhile, image activist Michaela Angela Davis delivered a sharp remark that begged no further debate: “Black girls are magic.”
“We have to say that we're magic that our skin is beautiful and continue that conversation because the other is relentless,” Davis said.
The panelists offered commentary that powered a conversation not often explored in television news shows nor scripted series. It proved that shows like "Being Mary Jane," and others that celebrate diversity in TV, provide a crucial platform for these voices and issues to be heard.
Viewers applauded the effort and execution from Akil and her team as they tweeted along their reactions, praising the episode’s powerful performance. In doing so, they catapulted the hashtag #BeingMaryJane to one of the top two trending topics of the evening. Many of the show’s cast members and featured guests also participated in the online conversation and helped drive the discussion on social media, too:
So, Deadline, if you think THIS is too much of a good thing -- deal with it.