Michael Bae Jordan’s “Man of the Year” feature in GQ shares many similarities to his cover story in Vanity Fair last month. MBJ’s goals – to be an International Movie Star like Denzel, Leo, Tom, Will or Brad – are the focus of both. The biggest difference is that the GQ piece, which dropped yesterday, is written by one of our faves, Allison P Davis. My main question after reading MBJ in Vanity Fair was this:
If this Vanity Fair piece were given to a black writer, they may have delved deeper into the criticism MBJ has gotten from the black community about who he may or may not be dating…
Allison is a black writer and she does go a little deeper with MBJ about those criticisms. Allison asks Michael about dating in general and for the second time this year, I’ve been crippled by my jealousy of Allison’s job and her ability to get squeal-inducing quotes from my imaginary boyfriends. Before we get to the criticism, please let me quote, in full, the exchange between Michael Bae Jordan and Allison P Davis about why he’s hesitant to date (aside from that he’s obviously waiting for the love of his life AKA ME).
“But it's like, I could meet you, right now, boom, right here. Me and you sitting here chilling, whatever. Meal, whatever. Somebody could be over there, see this. And all of a sudden, you're my girl now.”
I wouldn't mind this, I say. My personal stock would rise.
“Let it rise, girl, let it rise,” he says generously, then is instantly serious again. “So then they're going to talk about you, they're going to find out who you are. They're gonna find out what your Instagram is, they're going to find us in that. And all the fan club and everybody else is going to find out who you are, and now you and I are forever associated with one another. So now, how do you go anywhere normal, chill, just getting to know somebody that you just met, that you may not—may or may not—hit it off at all? That part of dating is tough.”
Jordan quickly adds, “Now, I'm not saying options aren't there. I'm not saying that. But as far as, like, the nuance of dating, it's just not the same. I'm just going to keep trying to work on myself and build this empire.”
Sure, I want nothing more than to be given a work assignment where I get to sit across from MBJ but if he said the words “you're my girl now,” no matter what the context, I think I would stop breathing on the spot. Passing out from thirst isn’t very professional. What MBJ says here is true. If he’s flirting with a woman, in real life in da club or on IG, we’re going to talk about it. If you’re me, you’re going to do a three-part deep dive investigation into the identity of said woman (if it’s not Lupita Nyong’o.) He’s right that the woman he dates is going to have to deal with intense public scrutiny. I can imagine that would make it hard to find a date, not that I’m broken up his struggle. The woman MBJ decides to date is going to have to face the inspection of delusional stans but he’s also going to be judged for what that women looks like.
The constant romantic speculation frustrates him. As does the impression among some of his black fans that he spends an inordinate amount of time with white women. He's always a bit surprised when he seems to disappoint his core group of fans. “Like, damn,” he says. “Of all the places that I'm getting this, it's coming from here?”
I interpret this to mean that MBJ is hurt and surprised that the criticism he received for *maybe* dating white women is coming from some of the black community. I understand why he would be hurt but I also think it’s important not to entirely dismiss the concerns from his black fans. I think Michael B Jordan can date whomever he pleases – even if it’s not me— from whatever race he chooses but I get the apprehension from black women if it looks like MBJ doesn’t ride for us like we ride for him. I’ve written many times before about the complicated history of famous black men dating white women for status. I’ve written even more about the constant denigration black women face in the dating world and in pop culture that has consistently told us that we are less worthy of love and affection than white woman.
If MBJ is being crowned the new King of Hollywood, I understand the desire for his Queen to be a black woman. But is it unfair to put expectations on Michael B Jordan to be the model black superstar? Is it unfair to say that he has to find his Pauletta or his Jada or else he’s letting his community down? I do think it’s unfair. It’s an unfair expectation that is usually disproportionately placed on black women (see the public reaction to Serena William’s husband or any time Rihanna dates a non-black man) and never placed on white men. Has Leo’s affinity for his Pussy Posse had a negative impact on his career? Is anyone writing think-pieces about the race of Matt Damon’s wife? I know that there are differences that come with navigating Hollywood as a black man but there’s going to be so many setbacks during MBJ’s “Operation Worldwide” that I don’t like the idea that his personal life may also be one of them. Plus, all of this is coming up BEFORE Michael is even in a relationship. No wonder he’s just focusing on himself and his empire.
The idea that MBJ has to be a model celebrity extends into everything he says. In Vanity Fair, MBJ said he wanted his production company to make projects about black mythology and folklore because, aside from Black Panther, there wasn’t any. This is how he said it though:
“We don't have any mythology, black mythology, or folklore.” The backlash to that quote was swift. Of course, black mythology and folklore DOES exist, and more people should know about it. Again, if a black writer wrote the Vanity Fair piece, they may have gotten MBJ to give this thorough of an explanation in the first place:
“I meant we don't have black mythologies and folklore that's on the big screen and small screen, period… And I want to help bring those to the masses, the same stories, bedtime stories, that I was being told of Anansi the Spider and the story of Hannibal and Mansa Musa and all these historical figures!”
My sexual orientation is Michael Bae Jordan talking about Anansi the spider, the most important fictional creature of my childhood. Excuse me while my ovaries explode. When I read MBJ’s quote in Vanity Fair, I felt like I knew what he meant. I wasn’t offended. I know what he means here. He wasn’t trying to say that black mythology doesn’t exist but that we don’t see it in mainstream pop culture, and when we do see it, we’re seeing it through the lens of the white characters or storylines that heavily borrow from African mythology. But words matter. And the quote, taken out of context was not a good look.
From now on, MBJ is going to have to consider how things will look and sound to the masses. Can he still be King if he says dumb sh-t sometimes or dates someone the public doesn’t approve of? The answer should be yes, in my VERY biased opinion, because other actors have been given the same latitude during their reigns as Kings of Hollywood. Let Michael Bae Jordan live. Plus, what other actor has given us THIS PHOTO SHOOT? Yes, this is my King. *Killmonger voice*
For more stupidly attractive photos of MBJ in GQ, and a video of him in a turtleneck, click here.