Being Mary Jane / Screen

Desperate Measures: Being Mary Jane ‘Girls Night In’ Review

I wonder if one of my friends will one day steal sperm.  After Being Mary Jane’s second episode, “Girls Night In”, I want one of my friends to steal a guy’s sperm and set it on her kitchen island with the same nonchalance as Mary Jane Paul so I can take another drink and throw my head back and cackle at the ludicrous turns our lives have taken.  Mary Jane stealing David’s sperm was an eye-popping turn of events in the show’s pilot, closing out what was a fairly run-of-the-mill hour-and-a-half of romantic, professional and familial trials that suddenly took a turn for the soap-operatic with Mary Jane picking up a used condom and saving up the sperm of her ex.  It  was a move that undoubtedly left people questioning the direction of the show and its protagonist.   Being Mary Jane purports itself to be a more realistic albeit dramatized version of life, and just as creator and writer Mara Brock-Akil says, sperm theft is definitely a thing, but it’s not a flattering thing. Though there have been an influx of anti-heroes on television, main characters are meant to be liked on some level, and the desperate move of stealing a man’s sperm isn’t attractive in a heroine.  But part of Being Mary Jane‘s charm, and its focus, is that Mary Jane is neither hero nor anti-hero.  She’s just a person who, while being a reliable friend and successful news anchor, made the poor and desperate decision to steal a guy’s sperm because she’s terrified that she’ll never have a baby. 


When Mary Jane invited friends over for drinking and dancing with a stripper, it became a sharing session of various insecurities and secrets which culminated in Mary Jane’s reveal of the sperm.  Once everyone stopped being dismayed, they found the whole thing hilarious.  Perhaps part of the humor was in the sperm no longer being viable, having been insufficiently frozen, as it’s hard to imagine the reactions would have been as light if Mary Jane had announced she’d gotten pregnant by stolen sperm.   For the purposes of the show, Mary Jane didn’t have to use the sperm, and it  was enough that she’d taken it.  She made the impulsive decision to steal it, store it and possibly use it.   Even though it didn’t come to that, the decision to steal it is enough to look at Mary Jane with incredulity and laugh, but it’s also enough to look at her with pity and wonder how this woman can be so undeniably desperate.

Real women don’t always have it all together, and there are times when women are pathetic and desperate, and know it, but can’t make themselves stop doing what they’re doing.   Mary Jane’s desperation for marriage and a family was what opened the show, and it was what sent Mary Jane back into Andre’s arms even though she was disgusted with him and herself.   The marriage proposal that opened “Girls Night In” was ridiculous with Andre proving he has no awareness of himself or the situation he put Mary Jane in.  While she cried, he shoved a ring in her face and told her how much he loved her then closed the conversation urging Mary Jane to give him an answer so he can tell his wife something.

Andre’s proposal was a terrible one, but it was still a proposal.  Mary Jane admired the ring at her desk, contemplating  accepting a proposal from a still-married man.   Though the circumstances aren’t ideal, Andre offered Mary Jane exactly what she’s wanted: a husband.  The episode was full of rationalizations for Mary Jane not going any further with Andre, from her dad’s wish for a man to call him and ask for her daughter’s hand to Mary Jane watching another woman move in on her father. 

Catherine (Sheila Frazier) turned up to flirt with Paul, much to Mary Jane’s chagrin. The hilarious scenes of Mary Jane trying to shoo Catherine away eventually led to a somber scene of Helen’s recollections of her earlier days with her husband and his beloved Porsche that he used to love to see her get out of.  When the story ended, Helen took off her perfectly styled wig and began to cough, shattering the disguise of health and vitality she donned to appear strong and vital in front of an old friend.  Helen’s tragedy lies in her knowledge of her impending death, the loss of her self-esteem and her realization that other women are enticing to her husband in ways that her illness no longer allows her to be. 

In what felt like another world, Andre and Avery confronted their deteriorating relationship.  While Mary Jane swapped dirty secrets with her friends (and pretended she’d never been involved with a married man), Andre and Avery screamed about the state of their marriage. Though their relationship certainly isn’t what I came to Being Mary Jane for, it’s important to see how Mary Jane is affecting another relationship with her actions.   First seeing Avery’s chilly demand that Andre sign a postnup that would give her the rights to loads of things (including full custody of their children) should he cheat again, then seeing Avery crying in her closet, and finally their fight, is vital to understand what our heroine is participating in.  To grasp the gravity of the situation, Avery has to be a real person with a real emotions so we understand that Mary Jane’s relationship with Andre is hurtful and damaging to an actual human being, a relationship and a family.

It’s a well-known belief that a married man is never going to leave his wife, and that’s exactly what happened with Andre.  Certainly there was no reason for anyone to be surprised since Andre thought cheating on his wife was more appealing than divorcing her in the first place and hinging his discussion with her on Mary Jane’s response to his proposal.   While Mary Jane sent texts to Andre telling him she was ready to talk, Andre and Avery reconciled and slept together.  Mary Jane woke up the next morning beside her phone and saw that her texts had never been responded to. 

With those many texts to Andre, Mary Jane’s decision became obvious.  She’s happy to accept the hand being dealt to her and throw herself into an engagement with Andre.  Just like stealing David’s sperm, it reeked of desperation. Even though Mary Jane’s not totally comfortable with her situation with Andre, and she’s even less comfortable telling people about it, she wants to get married so she’ll take what she can get.  But it doesn’t look like she’s going to have that if Andre and Avery are working on things. 

Despite all of Mary Jane’s bad – and painfully desperate – choices, there’s still an innate charisma and likability to her, and the audience wants her to figure her life out and get it together rather than see her punished for making bad calls. 

 Though there’s little we know about the women Mary Jane spent her night with (I hope they’ll all be back for more), they’re all successful in their own ways and overflowing with complications and flaws. Kara thinks her husband deserved to cheat because she was never at home, Tameka worries that she’s jeopardized her relationship by insisting on buying her own engagement ring, another whose name I didn’t catch is sleeping with a married man, and Lisa voted for Mitt Romney.  The women Mary Jane spent her night with are just like the women watching Mary Jane’s story unfold every week, women who can laugh at Mary Jane stealing David’s sperm while simultaneously telling her how ridiculous it is, with personal issues of their own to sort through.

Random observations:

  • This show has excellent music.
  • Mary Jane’s face when her dad said Catherine should get in the line to do nasty things to him was perfect.
  • “You smoke weed, saint.”
  • “Andre, who wants to put a penis in their mouth first thing in the morning? Who?”
  • Life goals: To invite a stripper to a party that’s not a special occasion and have him casually join me and my friends in our gossip, and when one of my friends pulls out the sperm she stole to have his response be, “You are one bold chick.”

Leave your thoughts in the comments.


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