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Being Mary Jane Vs. The Haves and the Haves Not: A view on Black Women

Updated on April 15, 2015

Cast pics for the two series & the top images when I googled black woman


This is a hard article to write I will admit. I wonder what will people think of me when I say this. But in my heart of hearts I really know it's a truth that should be spoken. It might not be a popular truth but it is what it is at this point. There are two very popular shows one is a BET movie turned series called, "Being Mary Jane." Then there is OWN's breakout drama series, "The Haves and the Have not's." I have a bit of a bone to pick with television and its portrayal of black women. Let me delve into a quick overview of the tumulus relationship between the big screen and the black woman.

For a time or two, way before I was a thought in my Mommy's mind, there were two roles that existed for the black woman. She was either the no nonsense, direct, hold it all together Maid or she was the tragic mulatto. The tragic mulatto was in search of her identity, too light to be an acceptable negro and too dark to be white. Films depicted these characters in the well known and some of my personal favorites, "Gone with the Wind and Imitation of Life." There were an array of many other examples, but I wanted to focus in on the characters of Mamie and Sarah Jane.

Mamie was the glue that secretly held together the O'Hara family. She was there for Scarlett's parents and upon their death she watched over their children. She was the voice of reason for Scarlett their spitfire child. Mamie was nurturing and cared very much for that family. She was loyal to the end and some would say Scarlett respected Mamie's opinion most of all.

Then, there was Sarah Jane from, Imitation of Life. She was the daughter of a maid and a her white husband. Her father dies and she and her mother are left to fend for themselves. They move in with an up and coming struggling actress. Annie, the mother and maid is very humble sweet and becomes the backbone of the family. Her daughter in direct contrast Sarah Jane, who so desperately wants to be white.

From childhood on she tries to pretend to be white and almost succeed until seemingly her mother unknowingly of her deception of her identity, always reveals her daughters true identity. Eventually Sarah Jane runs away and passes for white. Her mother finds her and tries to bring her back and eventually they come to tragic blows with words.

Annie, the mother of Sarah Jane leaves broken hearted and dies of a broken heart it is only at her funeral Sarah Jane finally professed her love for her mother. Only it is too late, because her mother is dead. Poor Sarah Jane, the tragic mulatto.

Now we're going to bypass, Julia, Goodtimes, The Jefferson's, What's Happening, The Cosby Show, and Gimme a Break and delve into video vixen era. I will just simply say the maid and tragic mulatto has been replaced by the tragic Precious characters and the vixen characters such as Candace.

Now in present the shows, Being Mary Jane and The Haves and the Have Not's. I have his heard so many critiques and praises for Tyler Perry's works. I prefer to watch for myself and let his work speak for its self. And I have viewed the show for the past two seasons and I must say that while the show is entertaining his portrayal of the black woman leaves a lot to be desired.

Maybe he truly has known these characters in one point or another in his lifetime. However, those characters are not real to me. I am speaking specifically of the characters of Veronica and Hannah. They are very contrasting characters in social economic status, but from a psychological standpoint they are twin souls. The speeches that these two black women made to and in regards to their children were at best horrendous. (The episode of Hannah's speech is available at located in Season 1.)

I as a viewer, was literally shell shocked, eyes bulging, tongue on floor, head dropping moments. It made me reflect to the mother daughter relationship I had with my own mother. And in my thirty years on this earth she had never come close to the level of vile these mothers spewed to their children. They seem to be the stereotypical variations of the angry black woman in full effect. I have provided a video below that will show these speeches, so you can be your own judge. I felt like I had lost so much respect for the antics of these two characters that it was hard to find empathy for them.

Then, as it pertains to finding Mary Jane I feel that the character is a lot more like able, she is a much more humanistic character. I can relate to her character. She is not perfect, but she is a true character. She may not do everything perfect and there are times when my mouth was wide open, but I understood her moments of craziness. I saw where she was coming from even if I didn't agree with her actions. She is not a stereotypical character, but a dynamic character.

Could it be that women are best at telling our own stories. I have heard it argued that Tyler Perry needs to tell his own story. I didn't necessarily agree with it until I saw Scandal, Grey's Anatomy, and Being Mary Jane. In this comedy dramas, we get a variety of the African American female. Each series has this in common we see the humanness of the characters. They are developed so fully that we cry with them, we laugh with them, we get mad at them and with them. We are vested in their well being and happiness.

In some ways, they are no different from us, they want that American Dream. They want that husband, children, and career. They want to be truly happy as we all do, it may vary the road or journey they take, but we buckle up each week and enjoy the ride. Somewhere inside of all of us we want to see ourselves in the character a little.

We look to see where is our story or where is the me in you. Am I being represented in someway so I can chuckle with my own inside joke? We do not want to be known as being one dimensional women. There are so many variations and beauty in all of us. And our stories should all be told there is enough talent to do so. We have not all grown up in the same manner, but we all have these wonderful dreams that connect us all.

We all have this bond that ties all of our stories known as humanity. We are more than our full lips, our curvy bodies, etc. These features do not only exist in black women, but all women. We are one in that respect. Now Celine the maid that's another conversation altogether. Hope you enjoyed my little old two cents.

Being Mary Jane

Veronica from the Haves and the Have Nots Speech

Sarah Jane with her Mom Annie from Imitation of Life

Mammy from Gone with the Wind

Can you hear me!

Are their enough voices for Black women on Television?

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    • brittvan22 profile image

      brittvan22 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      I totally agree with you Ms. Dora empty laughter serves no one. Thanks so much for your comment. We are all connected.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 4 years ago from The Caribbean

      Brittvan, here's what I think of you. You are very brave to air your feelings on a matter that troubles you. I commend you for your honest expressions. I have heard black writers say some of the same things you say about Perry. It is time to rise above empty laughter and produce something real and uplifting. Thanks for your opinion on values in the media.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 4 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Interesting hub.