Ask Demetria: Do Scandal & Being Mary Jane Condone Adultery? (Sigh…)

photo“Do you think shows like Scandal and Being Mary Jane are condoning adultery or man-sharing to black women? It’s strange that the only two noticeable scripted shows about black women show them as ‘the other woman.’ I see so many women rooting for them. Is adultery ‘in style’ now?” —Anonymous

There have always been, and always will be, adulterous relationships—on TV and in real life. Adultery has also always been a staple of any dramatic series because of the messiness that is a natural byproduct of toying with emotions and betraying bonds. There is no recent study that points to a rise in adultery in the real world, especially not as attributed to these two TV shows.

That said, I’ve never understood the long-standing “Scandal condones adultery” argument, and I don’t understand the more recent assertion that Being Mary Jane does, too. I watch (and live-tweet) both shows, and I’ve never seen more miserable women. If anything, Being Mary Janeand Scandal show the downside of being the other woman.

Scandal’s Olivia Pope is emotionally tortured by her involvement with a powerful and married man. She gets stolen moments with him and some backroom romps. She’s constantly having to keep up appearances by downplaying or hiding her relationship, and as much as her lover insists that she’s his No. 1, Olivia “plays her position” as second fiddle whenever his wife is around.

Olivia is a powerful presence in every other occasion, but she is ashamed and embarrassed in the presence of her lover’s wife. She also operates almost entirely on her lover’s schedule and whims. Sometimes he’s into her; sometimes he’s discarding her. At the start of the third season, the affair was made public, and she nearly lost her business when all of her clients bailed and most of her money was spent. Nothing about her adultery seems glamorous.

In the case of Mary Jane, the ramifications of adultery look even worse. She’s confronted by her lover’s wife at her job and asked humiliating questions about her sexual practices with the wife’s husband. While she experiences emotional highs when she’s with him, when she’s without him—which is most of the time—she’s self-loathing.

In the most recent episodes of the show, her brother, who knows of her affair, goads their long-married mother into discussing adultery. Mary Jane squirms as her mother unknowingly describes her daughter as vile and incapable of “cultivating a man.” As the episode closes, Mary Jane is home alone and manically texting her lover, who doesn’t answer because he’s having sex with his wife. The next morning, he still hasn’t bothered to respond.

What’s so glamorous about that?


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This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. Royalgirl22 says:

    I feel that the majority of women love these shows because they depict strong, beautiful successful black women. I am one of these women. But in reality it depicts black women who are incapable of having strong relationships or marriages with black men. For example, in regards to Scandal, Edison the senator was on Olivia’s level and was available and wanted to marry her but she didn’t want him. Another example that is depicted is that black women by far are more successful than black men whom are not on their women’s level so black women are lonely and we have to share or take other men that are already in a relationship. These shows depicts Black women as men stealing women which is not true.

  2. Rosilen says:

    I think that if you are going to cheat then you are going to cheat. As an adult I blessed to have a mind of my own not easily influenced by a TV show. And if anyone says” I did it because Mary Jane did it” clearly, in my opinion, do not have the mental capacity to be an adult. “Black” TV is so bombarded lately with by women behaving badly but it’s as much fun to watch as eating potato chips. Unfortunately women like this kind of TV and it sells so if Kerry Washington is making a killing being a character, I’ll keep watching.

  3. BassaBeauty says:

    Wow. I’ve never considered this perspective before, but you are 100% right. The life of a side chick as represented by Mary Jane and Olivia is not all its cracked up to be.

  4. Cutiepie2010 says:

    I love Scandal and Being Mary Jane. I find these shows irresisble. But, I will say that I dislike a portion of Olivia and Mary Janes’ characters. I dislike the fact that these successful women are portrayed as emotional weak and/or desperate. Olivia seems to be emotional tormented by her relationships with the President. Mary Jane is addicted and desperately looking for love because her clock is ticking. Overall, Mary Jane and Olivia have been unable to overcome their love for theses married men. In my opinion, a strong woman is in control her emotions and stands firm to her beliefs. Yes, I know that love can cause people to ignore their right mind. However, a strong woman is capable of coming to her senses pretty quickly and makes the best decisions for herself. Yes, a woman can be President. But, Olivia and Mary Jane can’t.

    Also, I do not think these 2 shows glorify adultery or make it look attractive. However, these shows make people more sensitive to the other women. Contrary to the saying, “everyone hates the side chick”. Most people love Joseline, Olivia, and Mary Jane. Think about it. If the writers allow Olivia and Mary Jane to get their man, its possible that some desperate women may think that being the side chick is a better alternative to being alone and a possible way to get a man. People are impressionable and easily influenced by the things they see on TV.

  5. I really like the wording in this post, Belle! I completely agree that these 2 women are miserable! Somehow, they still embody a great deal of power and presence in all other aspects of their lives…minus the love and relationship parts! Definitely not a Win-Win Situation for Mary Jane OR Olivia…but a GREAT storyline for TV dramas none-the-less. :)

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