90s nostalgia is in full effect with the advent of reboots. “Full House”, “Roseanne”, and “Sister, Sister” are getting shipped to different networks. The possibility of some of these shows returning is great. But, some shows need to stay exactly where they are.
Martin is lauded as one of the best and most beloved shows of the ‘90s and introduced Black popular culture to a larger audience on FOX. When Tisha Campbell-Martin and Tichina Arnold hinted that a “Martin” reboot might be in the works, my heart dropped. Is this a great idea? My answer is a firm, “Leave it alone. We didn’t ask for this.”
When I was younger I thought Martin was hilarious, but now watching the show through the eyes of a 23-year-old woman, I view Martin Payne in a different light. Don’t get me wrong, Martin was and still is funny in some aspects, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t acknowledge that the show wouldn’t translate well to the current society we live in.
Whenever I hear someone say, “I want a Martin and Gina relationship.” My initial reaction is a mean side-eye. Why may you ask? Martin Payne was misogynistic and immature. He belittled and allowed his mother to disrespect Gina on multiple occasions, as well as, slandered Pam often because she was a darker skinned woman.
If we’re being honest, Gina could’ve done way better than Martin. I’m not saying this just because of her background and education, I’m saying this because the way he treated her. Martin was loud, childish and problematic in every sense of the word. His misogyny rooted in hyper-masculinity showed its head in multiple occasions. There were numerous times when Gina would try to help Martin grow from his immature ways and he turned it into an argument on her either trying to change him or that she didn’t know what she was talking about. Mind you, Gina wasn’t the one to go join a cult, even though Martin always insinuated that she lacked common sense. Rather than accept that she wanted to help him grow, he treated her like she was disposable on multiple occasions.
Martin’s immaturity and lack of respect for Gina was always heightened whenever Mama Payne came to town because she justified his foolishness instead of telling him he was wrong. Mama Payne would lay into Gina with insults from, “apple head, muscle butt, heffa,” to accusing her of not loving her son (when clearly she did). Mama Payne epitomized an overbearing mother who coddled her son and made all of their relationship problems Gina’s fault. As a Black woman, Mama Payne should’ve uplifted Gina, as well as, been happy she continued her relationship with him in spite of his disrespect. If we learned anything from Martin’s and Mama Payne’s relationship it is that coddling a guy when he is wrong, will only produce an immature man-child.
Many may not agree, but I ALWAYS thought Gina should’ve ditched her relationship with Martin a long time ago. Aside from the fact that he talked to her in the most disrespectful ways, Martin didn’t accept Gina for who she was. In the first season alone, he made womanizing remarks on the radio and was extremely insecure about the fact that she made more money than him. His extreme insecurity led him to prove to everyone that he was the “man” in the relationship. Martin always quipped that Gina wanted to “change him” (which is a man’s way of saying they don’t want to grow up or mature), but in actuality he wanted to change her so she would be placating to him- similar to the way Mama Payne treated him. When they broke up in the first season, it was due to Martin not appreciating Gina’s Valentines Day gift to him. Though this may seem small, it represented a bigger problem of Martin not understanding Gina for who she was. After the first season Gina should’ve been out the door for good, but they reconciled.
The icing on the cake with Martin Payne, is that he never reciprocated the compassion she showed him. Gina’s parents weren’t fans of Martin at all, but she stood by him and made sure they respected him. They even ended up accepting him once they were married. Martin, on the other hand, made Gina feel like it was her fault his mother didn’t like her. Aside from his overbearing mother, the fact that Martin treated Gina as if she were disposable was a big problem. When she received a job offer in New York, he really didn’t waste time telling her to take it. Though Martin was hesitant and received advice from Stan to tell her to take it, he should’ve been honest with Gina. She wanted to cement their place in each other’s lives, but Martin wasn’t mature enough to understand the importance of that. Though they did get engaged and eventually married, can we really say that Martin and Gina are goals? Their relationship was rocky from the start because of Martin’s lack of growth, unchecked sexism, and more. If we’re being honest, this wouldn’t translate to a positive representation of Black Love in today’s society. In the climate we live in, we aren’t going to relate to the way Martin talked to/neglected Gina, the way she lowered her standards to be with him, and we definitely aren’t going to be here for the “Buckwheat, Clint Beastwood, Nappy Longstocking, Nappily Cole, the little Fur-Maid” or any other of the insults rooted in colorism that Martin flung at Pam.
Another critique that has surfaced in conversation on the possible Martin reboot, is the sexual harassment allegations from Tisha Campbell-Martin against Martin Lawrence. Campbell-Martin quit the show in 1996 but in early 1997, she filed a sexual harassment lawsuit detailing: sexual battery, verbal abuse, yelling and threatening her on set, groping her when they filmed scenes in bed and attempting to kiss her with tongue.
Lawrence came forward after the lawsuit was made public and denied her claims, saying he was being used as a pawn in Campbell’s negotiations with HBO. Campbell-Martin won the lawsuit and as a result, refused to be on the same set as Lawrence when she returned to appear in the last two episodes of the series. In today’s climate of #TimesUp, #MeToo and basic principles of right and wrong, the question lingers if the show should come back under these circumstances. Though Lawrence and Campbell-Martin have reportedly buried the hatchet many still don’t know what the truth is.
Taking everything into account, including Tommy Ford’s death, I still feel the show shouldn’t receive a reboot. It should be remembered as the 90’s Black culture gem that it was. Though it wasn’t perfect, it fit in the 90’s world and bringing it into 2018 will cause it to lose its aura. Though we may be nostalgic, it is best to remember Martin the way it was, not the way we would want it to be now.
Header Image: TV Guide