Leslie, Lupita, and the Ongoing Banter About Black Beauty

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*checks watch to see she’s at 14:55*  Yeah, I have enough time to chime in on this.  Sooooooo about this whole SNL “slave joke gone wrong” debacle.  I will admit, it took me longer than it probably should have to formulate in my mind about how I really feel about the now-infamous joke made by newly hired Black female SNL writer, Leslie Jones.  But the reason is pretty solid (in my opinion).  For one, I actually didn’t watch the show.  The only reason that I even knew about this mess was because of the fuss my Facebook newsfeed and Instagram timeline was making about a “highly disrespectful” joke that was made on SNL.  Of course that sparked my interest and I clicked on the link to see what was all the noise about.  For starters, I was surprised to see the person that was making the joke was a familiar face.  I knew of Leslie Jones back in the days of sneaking late on a school night to watch Comicview as a kid (Still remember how she said a White girl knew how to suck the paint off of a Cadillac.  Had no idea what she was talking about as a middle schooler, but hell it was funny to me).  So in already being familiar with Ms. Jones and her kind of comedy, I really wasn’t all that shocked.

I think what got people more was the venue in which she said it.  Instead of saying it on the Chapelle Show, In Living Color, or on Comicview back in the 90s within the comfort of an audience of Black people, she said this on Saturday Night Live in front of White people.  And said White people laughed about it.  The reaction kind of reminded me of a joke that another one of my favorite female comics, Wanda Sykes, said on her HBO Special Imma Be Me.  In one segment, she talked about how her mother would scold her if she did or said something “Black” in front of White people.  Be it singing in public or getting watermelon for a snack, she remembered when her mother would hit her and say, “Stop, White people are looking at you.”  The Black outrage and backlash against Jones could be perceived in the same way.  The joke itself may have not been the issue, but the fact that it was another opportunity for White people to laugh at the expense of Black people was the problem.  And let’s not abandoned the fact that Lorne and the folks at 30 Rock (mostly White people) gave the okay for this.  Nobody said, “Hey, Les.  I know your brand of comedy is a little out there and edgy hence why we brought you here.  But er um, nobody has really made any slave jokes since this movie.  Be that as it may, we may not want to rock with this at 30 Rock.”    Yeah, it seems like this joke was out of place and didn’t have any business being told on SNL.  Or did it?

Let’s look at the anatomy of this “joke” and decipher the messages it was conveying that evening.  To me, it was a raw, hard-hitting, “Don’t Get This Fucked Up (DGTFU)” moment.  Leslie’s commentary begins with the praises of the sudden mainstream embracing of Lupita N’Yongo (Sidebar:  Please note that the following analysis show no shade towards our new, fearless, Blerd girl leader, Miss Lupita.  It’s shade against the structure and standard which her beauty is being recognized).  That was the peak of her position.  And then it took a dive into DGTFU.  When Jones jokes how back in slavery she would be the prime choice for forced breeding and her offspring would have been the likes of LeBron and Blake, she essentially was reminding America, specifically Black America, how we shouldn’t be too jaded by the mainstream attention being given to Miss N’Yongo right now.  An outpouring of love for Lupita does not constitute as an outpouring of love for all Black women.  Aside from the continuing of the bad habit of the Academy only seeming to recognize Black Americans in stereotypical roles, we must also consider the look of Lupita seeming “safe” to mainstream as well.  As seen in pictures, Lupita’s shape and frame falls in line towards the White, Eurocentric standard of beauty (being tall and slim).  While this is cool for her (I, too, share in the skinny Black girl struggle), I’m willing to bet that had she been any taller, any wider, and/or any thicker, mainstream society would not be checking for her.  We sure as hell didn’t do it for Gabourey Sidibe when the Academy nominated her for Precious.  Hence why Leslie had to remind us, DGTFU.  Basing our Black beauty standard according to the mainstream standard of beauty still doesn’t work.  And when it does, we fall into the issue of being a commodity of the standard instead of comparable within it.  Long story short, they ain’t totally checking for sistas.

While I cringe at how this conversation happened, I can’t totally argue that it needed to happen.  It was a much needed reality check that the more things change, the more they stay the same.  So the real joke was that none of this was a joke at all, I guess.  Ain’t that funny?

Why Cassandra Joi Doesn’t See It For Mary Jane

I’ll speak my truth.  When I first saw the promotional advertisements for a new show called Being Mary Jane, I was excited.  My soul rejoiced like the ratchets when Booise came home with a “Yaaaaassssss, here is a show where a Black woman has a career AND a nice house.  She a bad broad.”  *insert a twerk to I-N-D-E-P-E-N-D-E-N-T*

I counted down the days when the show that I knew I was going to LOVE was going to appear.  While I didn’t catch the premiere, I still caught the show through the blessings of DVR.  The first few minutes of the show were pretty good.  I appreciated the disclaimer in the beginning stating that this was only one story of one Black woman; not the entire story of all black women.  When we got to the big reveal of the main chick being the side chick, that’s kind of when I emotionally and mentally checked out of the story.  By the time we got to the end with her plan of creating a child with freezer burned sperm, I was pretty much done.  I didn’t give up too much on hope, though.  I rationalized with fanciful fallacies that maybe the first showing had to be intense.  The series would be better, I explained to myself.  So there I was, watching the second, third, and fourth shows.  What I learned from the experience, lying is wrong.  Lying to yourself is wronger (yes, well aware that’s not a word but I’m telling the story here).  What bothered me the most was the constant storyline of dick chasing Mary Jane was doing.  Your know how they say first impressions are lasting impressions?  That quote can apply to television as well.  When we first met Mary Jane, in the very first scene we saw her in, there was dick involved.  We didn’t know she was a successful television journalist.  We didn’t know she was the glue trying to hold her trifling family together.  But we knew she had an affinity for fuckboys.  One being married and the other into the committed non-commitment relationship.  Two of the worst kind.  So with that being my first impression, it’s no wonder why my hope for Mary Jane wasn’t lasting.

I know that those who know me (be it on social media or in actual living and breathing life), may be thinking, “But, you love Scandal, though.  It has the same premise.  What’s the difference?”  I get it, there is a similar mistress storyline for both shows that I love to loathe.  But there is a fundamental difference in the sidechick sagas between Mary Jane and Olivia.

We didn’t know about Olivia’s dick chasing until towards the end of the premiere episode.  When we first met Liv, we knew she was a fixer.  It was her job to make the imperfect appear as perfect.  But in order to keep Olivia palatable to audiences, I guess, there had to be a downside to her.  In literature, it’s called a heroic flaw. But again, not being introduced to that off the break makes all the difference in how you receive and perceive her character.  Furthermore, in Olivia’s case, she knows she’s wrong for doing what she’s doing with Fitz.  She’s tried to make it right, she’s tried to make him right.  Not saying that what she’s doing is excusable.  I just have a thing for people who can admit that they’re wrong, stand in their wrongness, and will at least try to attempt to make it right.  I appreciate that so I thusly appreciate Olivia.  Additionally, Olivia does what few mistresses (real or fiction) do when it comes to recognizing who shares in their trash: She puts the blame on the mister.  She’s not offering up any Clean-Up Woman clichés of “Well if you was doing what you were supposed to I wouldn’t be doing your man” or any of that shit.  She doesn’t justify her wrongness.  She’s trash and she owns her trashiness.

And now, for Mary Jane.

In fairness of this critique, I will make these points early.  Yes, Olivia did knowingly getting with a married man as opposed to Mary Jane unknowingly getting with a married man.  Yes, Mary Jane did have a hint of remorse in the beginning as seen in her first encounter with Avery.  But that’s where it stops for me.  The grill upon which I lay my beef with MJ is in Episode 4 titled Mixed Messages was her speech about being “No. 2.”  If you haven’t seen it, check it out here.  *DEEEEEPPPP EFFFINNGGGG SIIIIIGHHHHH*  What gets my soul sizzling about this mess is that she’s giving this fluke ass number 2 speech in front of a bunch of impressionable little girls.  We already have a huge issue with girls struggling to reach their full potential, battling the red tape of sexism (throw in racism, too, if you’re Black) on a daily basis.  Don’t justify your skanky shenanigans in a disguise of motivational speaking.  Don’t make that okay for them with that Mokenstef Mentality.

I guess what pisses me off the most about Mary Jane more than Olivia is that her story is sooooo close to sooooo many other stories I’ve heard/seen before.  Want to know why?  Because this is nothing but art imitating life.  And in said life, shit like this keeps happening because nobody ever places the blame where it really needs to be: WITH THE DUDE.  We’ve been through this wayyyyyy too long, ladies.  There is no sense in getting mad at the other woman (depending on your situation, but even then).  She didn’t choose to cheat on you.  That fuckboy of husband/fiance/boyfriend did.  But I guess until we as women get that clear, we’re just going to keep giving these writers more materials for these shows to give me more reasons to be pissed.

 

And that is why I don’t see it for Mary Jane.