Cinematheque Extra Credit Screening: Being Mary Jane

I attended Emory’s Cinematheque screening of “Being Mary Jane” last week. I got the opportunity to listen to and participate in a discussion with Erica Shelton Kodish, the showrunner, and Dr. Nsenga K. Burton, the Chair of the Department of Mass Media Arts. This series was part of Emory’s “Black Lives on the Small Screen” initiative. I had never heard of this show before the screening, and I found it interesting to watch it with certain ideas in my head from the discussion before and after it was shown. The show is about a black woman who’s a broadcast journalist and tries to find her way in her field and in life while also dealing with issues that black people face in society. Before we watched, the discussants told us to observe how Mary Jane connects with her viewers within the TV show. This idea sparked me to analyze the show in a different way than I would if I was watching it in my own free time. After it was played, we discussed the tone in the show, in terms of feeling like specific conversations that occur on it happen in African American communities. We analyzed not just what was said, but how it was said as well. On another note, I thought it was interesting how in episode 19, there was a sex scene between two unmarried people and also a same sex kiss. I wondered if there was negative feedback because of this. Erica Shelton Kodish mentioned that every sex scene on every show always gets scrutinized based on how much they can show. They worry about fines if a viewer was going to complain, but viewers always want more of this scandalous action that makes them keep watching.