the state of the empire
Fox has a HIT new show out called "Empire". It's directed by Lee Daniels who also wrote "The Butler" and stars the likes of Tariji P. Henson, playing Cookie, Terrance Howard, playing Lucious, and Courtney Love, playing Elle, along with a slew of new actors. Now with almost the entire first season wrapped up, "Empire" is the new prime-time 'it' show on TV.
My initial opinion of the show was mixed. I have enjoyed some of the lead actors in films like "Think Like a Man Too" and "The Best Man Wedding", but this one was different. It is a predominantly black cast with roles that are not what many would call favorable. Lucious is a media and entertainment mogul of the 'Empire' record label that has been successful for years. He's a feared leader. Cookie was his girlfriend that helped him get to where he is presently, but she went to jail to cover him. Now that she is out she wants to get back what's hers. The three children Lucious and Cookie had before she went to jail are Andre, the educated son with a white woman (Tria Byers), Jamal, the gay son (Jussie Smollet) and Hakeem , the young aspiring, troubled rapper (Bryshere Gray). All of these roles make for some great TV, but what do they mean for the image of people of color? I've read it all from great to poor, but after some time I've come to respect the show.
Director Daniels says he wants to expose homophobia by this show. Daniels, gay himself, uses strong images of Luscious neglecting his son Jamal and even throwing him in the trash in one scene. I appreciate this narrative by Daniels to do this. It's brave and unique. Homophobia is a problem in the black community. The negative stereotypes that deal with the criminal justice system, drugs, betrayal and everything that marries with urban culture were a few of the images that troubled me initially. I came to understand that this does not have to be all negative. Instead, it's can relate to more people than the Cosby show once did. Most families of color may not have a dad who is a doctor and mother who is a lawyer, but can relate to incarceration and the same issues that this family deals with. What I had to further understand is that not every image on TV has to be positive in the way that I see it. If it's too positive in many ways it can be the same detriment as something that is too bad as it falsely depicts reality. And that's it. In many ways the show "Empire" depicts that reality for a lot of America whether they are black, white or brown. It's what they see and go through on a daily basis. They aren't perfect, but what family is. But in one way or another the family comes together in each episode in their own way and that's most important.
Overall, this show makes me wonder where are we as people of color today when it comes to life as people and how do we compare across the board in many ways. It's a complicated exchange to be honest, but while the world knows we are not equal in many ways we don't want to be the same. We want to be different, but have the same rights. That's what we have fought decades for in through voting rights and immigration laws. We just want a fair shot. It's not easy, but we are capable. We can take over there's no doubt in my mind, but we do have to be careful what we put out as represents us.
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