Mara Brock Akil. Shonda Rhimes. Tyler Perry.
What do these three writers have in common?
And they differ in many ways.
Brock-Akil’s Being Mary Jane, starring Gabrielle Union, focuses on a strong willed, powerful sistah named Mary Jane Paul who appears to have everything she needs to be successful. She’s beautiful, rich and respected in her field. But underneath it all she’s lonely, sad and lovelorn as she chases and sleeps with men who don’t deserve her. And as an added bonus she’s bound to a family with some unsavory characters.
Rhimes’ Scandal is a certified hit which centers around the mysterious Olivia Pope, played by Kerry Washington. Olivia is a beautiful, smart, powerful sistah who is a major player in Behind-The-Scenes Washington politics. But underneath it all she’s a part-time drunk who’s in love with a married man she can never have and bound to a family with some unsavory characters.
Finally, Perry’s The Haves and the Have Nots is replete with scandalous characters, yet all of them pale in comparison to the show’s resident vixen Candace Young, played by Tika Sumpter. Candace is a beautiful, street smart sistah who’s powerful in her own right. However, she’s a broken mess with a past that’s so turbulent her mother hates her, she’s sleeping with a married man, sharing an apartment with the married man’s daughter (who has no clue Candace is fucking her dad) and is surrounded by people who, though aren’t her family, are all unsavory characters.
Here’s my question; What writer’s workshop did these mu’fucka’s take together? Because I want in.
Hell, I can write some shit like that. Peep it:
Meet Allegra Fontaine. She’s a beautiful sistah with money to burn and lots of men to fuck. However, deep inside, she’s lonely. And a coke whore. And an alcoholic. And after a heated argument with her married, drug dealing, CEO boyfriend, her car ran off of an embankment and flipped over one hundred times.
She awoke three months later in a convent. Believing she was safe from harm she blended in with the nuns, until her eyes met with the hot young shepherd tending flock in the barn yard.
He was just two weeks away from joining the adjacent monastery and preparing for a life of chaste holiness.
Will Allegra dare come between him and Jesus? (Yes)
Will the nuns cast her out after they learn of her evil ways? (Hell yes)
What will happen when her boyfriend finally tracks her down at the convent? (I’m guessing Seasons 2-4 will happen)
Watch Nun’Ya Bizness. Wednesday’s on Bravo.
Listen, I’m not mad at these sistah’s for securing their place on our television screens. It’s been a long time coming for the three of them and I’m glad they’re working. But honestly, aren’t they all the same black woman with different weaves on different networks?
And I have to admit I do enjoy watching all three shows. Two of them are way better than the last one, but my overall observation of all three is this:
Why does the new black super heroine have to be either Bougie, Flawed or Immoral?
Or a combination of Bougie and Flawed, or Flawed and Immoral, or Bougie and Immoral?
When you think of shows like The Walking Dead and Boardwalk Empire then take into account the depth of characters like Michonne and Daughter Maitland why would it be so difficult to create a different kind of sistah for television?
Granted, the three of them do share some slight differences. But that’s largely due in part to their creators.
Brock Akil’s Mary Jane is driven. A lot of that drive comes from the fact that the majority of her family members are lazy moochers with no motivation to move beyond where they are in life. Mary Jane herself chastises them in the premiere episode and tells them that she’s not giving anyone any more of her damn money. Away from her family she enjoys spending quality time with men who have status, good looks, financial freedom (and wives) because she won’t settle for anything less. She’s been on the other side and she ain’t goin’ back.
Because Mary Jane is bougie.
Rhimes’ Pope is a layered individual who suffers from a multitude of issues. She wears the pain on her face in private but is razor sharp in her execution of solving her clients’ problems. She genuinely cares about her fellow ‘Gladiators’ and even feels a twinge of remorse in regards to her relationship with Fitz. She knows it’s wrong but she doesn’t care. And then she does care. And then she doesn’t. And then she does. People gravitate towards her human nature.
Because Olivia is flawed.
Perry’s Candace is so one dimensional she comes off like a caricature. She begins the series as a call girl/law student, then blackmails and continues to sleep with her john on a few occasions, manipulates his daughter Amanda into turning against her parents, threatens to slap her own mother Hanna, blah blah blah. We get it Tyler. She’s a bad ass. Other than her brother Benny, Candace is void of caring and depth. The few times that she has tried to emote have been quickly shut down by the rest of the one dimensional characters in her world. Her explanation for all of this evil? She learned her ways from a cross dressing, gay cousin who referred to her as his ‘bad bitch’. And that plays right into the hands of Tyler’s principal audience.
Because Candace is immoral.
I know what’s going on here. And this is not a knock against any of these writers because as I sit here critiquing them they’re cashing big checks for substandard re-workings of the same woman.
Whatever, I’m still saying it.
Audiences are no longer interested in being treated to a diverse experience. Think of all the reality TV shows where they fix houses, flip houses, flip tables, flip off cameramen, show men dressed in women’s clothes talking about celebrities from Reality TV shows and the list goes on, and on, and on.
The formula that works for one show will work for another show if you simply change the location (one show might be based in Atlanta while the other is based in Chicago with the same type of characters). And if it’s Reality TV, huge fake asses and petty fights bring ratings. And just so you all know, none of that shit is real.
The best Reality TV show on the air right now is Sports. Always has been. Always will be.
As we dive deeper into the new year you can best believe that the quality of television will continue to mirror what ‘s already on. And though these three shows offer something different it’s not in the execution where those differences come across. It’s in the viewers. But little do they know they’re all watching the same damn show.