Since its resurrection on BET last year, many people have expressed disappointment in The Game’s newfound direction. Although the writers, producers, and cast remained virtually intact following its return from cancellation, the obvious changes in the show have left some people wondering what went wrong. While watching Melanie attempt to assert her role as CEO of the Davis Family and Company, I found myself wondering “What ever happened to “Med School?” Of course, viewers know that Melanie ultimately decided not to practice medicine in order to help Derwin further his career, but my question did not relate as much to her choice in occupation, as much as it reflected a longing for the girl who had her own dreams, the girl who prided herself so much on having her own life and values outside of the football world that Tasha Mack felt the need to christen her with a nickname that was representative of her ambitions.
Med School would not have spent her time trying to prove her toughness, or even worse, her “blackness” to Tasha Mack or sports executives. More importantly than that, Med School was a friend to Kelly Pitts and was like a younger sister or daughter to Tasha Mack. Kelly, Tasha, and Med School partied, exchanged advice, laughed with, cried with, and supported one another through the ups-and-downs of life as the women behind the men in the NFL. Malik, Jason—minus his latest overly stereotypical exploration into his “blackness” and aversion towards black women–and Derwin are hilarious and nice to look at, but I believe that the disintegration of the female identity and the bond between the female characters on the show is contributing to a decline in the quality of its stories.
While I’ve always had a problem with the way that Melanie’s life seemingly unraveled after her initial break up with Derwin, her reaction was relatable, believable, and it served as a cautionary tale for women and young girls not to simply follow a man anywhere without a ring or a plan to provide for herself so that she did not have to be entirely dependent on him, financially and emotionally. Yet, Mrs. Dr. Melanie Barnett-Davis seems even less secure than “Girl Melanie” gone wild after Derwin cheated. Always plagued by the fact that she was not the mother of his child, she now finds that she cannot have a child of her own because she had an abortion—a link that is not medically solid–so that Derwin might still entertain the possibility of taking her back, all so that she could ultimately watch him raise his child with another woman? She’s making pregnancy decisions based on reconciliation hopes? Seriously? With no baby (Tre Wiggs or Derwin), no career, no financial independence or security, no input in the life of his child or his business, and undoubtedly a rapidly eroding self-esteem as the butt of endless non-doctor jokes and a reputation as the bougie drama queen, exactly how many sacrifices is one woman supposed to make before she becomes nothing more than a fake, fragile shell of a Sunbeam President?
Unfortunately, Melanie cannot even seek the advice of the former Sunbeam President who knows what it is like to sacrifice herself because the character of Kelly Pitts has been MIA—and I’m not even counting her stint as an “ex-baller’s wife” because I don’t know who that was, do you? Even when Kelly was an unappreciated cheerleader during her marriage to Jason, she was never as needy and desperately in search of attention as she was in those few episodes in Season 4. As Melanie moves into the role that Kelly Pitts previously inhabited, the show is missing out on a golden opportunity to show women helping each other through the changing of the guards. Even if Kelly Pitts wanted to wallow in her divorced misery, she could have done so a little more realistically, and perhaps, with the help of Melanie, who again, knows what it is like to lose yourself after a break up. Instead, the show chose to depict an even more extreme example of a woman who comes undone after her relationship ends.
Of course, no one is a better expert on ending relationships than Tasha Mack. The rifts in her relationships with both Melanie and Kelly Pitts have taken her from the keeping-it-real motherly role to a childish, petty stereotype of an angry black woman who gets schooled by men decades younger than her. I actually enjoy when people force Tasha to think about her ways, but she also used to be more than a dispensary for cliché “ghetto girl” antics and wise cracks. She was a candid source of wisdom for both Melanie and Kelly, and they forced her to evaluate herself just as much as a twenty-something year old explaining her “emasculatory” tendencies.
Changes in these characters and in their relationships with one another were both inevitable and necessary if the show was to continue, but their essences needed to remain the same. Even if the female characters have to temporarily be at odds with one another or in periods of personal crisis, those moments should still be written in a way that acknowledges the importance of their dignity and friendship. As a show that has always been about families, not football, the portrayal of the females who serve as the backbones of those families is especially important. If I wanted to watch desperate females at one another’s throats, I would turn on Basketball Wives. The Game only goes as far as the Sunbeam sisterhood.