Why Martin and Gina Payne Represent a Black Love We Can Believe In

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by Carla Thomas of Style and Grace

Martin Payne and Gina Waters-Payne had the kind of love that made viewers tune in to the Fox sitcom Martin every week. The show aired for five seasons in the 90s and captured a whole generation of fans. And with re-runs airing nightly, a new generation gets to see the ins and outs of Martin and Gina’s relationship.

Their love was a true example of a young couple navigating through life as a unit. Martin and Gina, like  Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable and Clair, are positive images of Black love. While the Huxtables are a great example, it’s Martin and Gina that resonate then and now with young professionals. Their relationship shows young Black viewers that it is possible to be hip, fun, and professional while being undoubtedly devoted to your significant other.

Gina was a self-sufficient woman, she was a delightful mix of down-to-earth and boughetto. She was a college educated, career woman who came from a two parent home. While Martin, on the other hand, was the street savvy boyfriend with the gift of gab and a huge personality. But he lacked sophistication.

Despite their differences (Martin often called Gina bourgeois and Gina would criticize him for being crass and classless) their love prevailed through numerous life challenges. Gina was the ultimate ride or die chick. She held Martin down with her level head. No matter what the circumstance, no money or no job, Martin would do anything for his “baby.”

And even though Gina made more money than Martin, she never made him feel less than “the man.” When people in Detroit found out Gina was the breadwinner in the relationship, via Martin’s radio show, Martin’s ego led him to do outrageous antics to show he had money. It was his mission to prove that he was “the man” in the relationship. Crazy shenanigans aside, Gina always let “him do him” because she knew Martin needed to feed his ego.

When Martin’s elementary school teacher Ms. Trinidad put the moves on him, Gina showed up to the classroom with sneakers and vaseline in hand ready to throw down for her man. In the episode “Credit Card Blues,” Martin and his friend got locked up for credit card fraud. Gina organized their best friends Tommy, Pam, and Cole to quickly scramble up bail money.

In the “The Break Up (Part 1)” episode, Martin and Gina’s relationship was put to the test. Gina gave Martin an unusual ass statute as a Valentine’s Day gift. Gina and Pam deemed it “art” while Martin, Tommy, and Cole saw the statute as nothing but a dance partner for “Doing the Butt.” After an intense fight Martin and Gina broke up. They truly believed their opposite upbringings and lifestyles were just too different for a relationship. Two weeks and two episodes later, Martin woos Gina back and the gang was together again.

Martin and Gina did not have a perfect partnership but their love and respect for each other was prevalent. There was no infidelity in their relationship. After their break up Martin couldn’t even sleep with another woman; not even someone as gorgeous as his temporary girlfriend Nicole (Lark Voorhies). If jealously reared its ugly head, Martin or Gina would make it a point to showcase their love for each other.

The key to Martin and Gina’s relationship was mutual respect. They both played their roles in the relationship. And no matter how unreasonable he was or how irate his actions were, Gina always let Martin be the man in the relationship. Martin allowed Gina to be independent, feminine, and sexy. There were multiple times when they could have both ended the relationship but they pressed thru, showing that anything worth having is truly worth fighting for.

On television today you cannot find a healthy Black relationship (real or fictional).

And if you turn on the radio you hear Chris Brown sing that “these girls ain’t loyal.” And Rico Love sings about how his wifey knows about his side chick. The lack of positive examples of Black love can influence how one believes in love. If you do not have positive examples of healthy loving relationships in real life and you don’t see any positive examples on TV, how does one gauge what a thriving relationship looks like?

On “Black Twitter” I see RTs of 140 characters of young people who have no faith in love and no hope that a healthy relationship can exist. Some guys now think they need their girlfriend and her homegirl to satisfy his sexual desires. And some women think that “niggas ain’t sh*t.” With these kinds of beliefs relationships will not withstand hardships or strife; and ultimately will not last.

Many people do not respect the sanction of relationships and are so quick to step outside of them. The sad part is that some women now consider being the side chick as being in a relationship. Along with this is the notion that men aren’t stepping up to their role, and certain women are acting like hoes instead of a grown woman. With these attitudes, relationships within the young Black community rarely stand a chance.

What Martin and Gina had was a solid foundation of navigating through life as one cohesive unit. Sure, they may not have been financially stable and didn’t have similar upbringings. But when it came to their beliefs and core values, they were equally yoked and although they were fictional they showed a positive realistic example of real love.


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