Empire is the #1 television show in America. There has been a lot of criticism about the show and a lot of praise. This show is the first to have an African-American in the lead since the Cosby Show in the 80’s. The show is being praised for it’s casting of African-Americans and the multidimensional writing of the characters. The criticism is that this show does not show a real depiction of African-American culture. It does show a real depiction of African-Americans although it is not something that should be watched by a 12-year old.
Unlike the Cosby Show in the 80’s Empire is not family entertainment. Parents who are looking for something to watch with their children will need to look elsewhere for a show that brings the family around the television. The sex scenes alone in the first hour of the season finale would warrant a parental advisory. There is no cursing because the show is on network television but the murder and violence does not make for a fun family hour of television.
Recently the show’s lead Terrence Howard was reported as wanting to be able to say the N* word on television. He believes that a real depiction of African-Americans involves the friendly use of the word that one hears so often in rap music. That word doesn’t belong anywhere on television. Many African-American leaders consider it a curse word and cursing is not allowed on network television.
The show has come under fire because of the use of lighter skinned African-Americans in leadership roles and the darker actors have been left to subservient rolls in the cast and are treated badly by the lighter skinned characters. There is no support for that claim because there are lighter skinned characters in subservient rolls as well on Empire and it does not reflect the stereotyping that some say is rampant in the show.
Black mothers are portrayed as loud and garish and though Cookie gains some power she does come from the ghetto and responds to her situation the way someone from the impoverished neighborhoods of America would respond having spent 12-years in jail for a crime she was protecting her husband from. The violence portrayed by Lucious Lyon in the show reflects the type of abuse a man who grew up on the streets and was an orphan since the age of 8 would respond to having children, money and power. Lucious punched his youngest son in the mouth when his youngest son embarrassed him at a business party.
Empire shows how people who grew up with nothing and survived by their street smarts would respond in a Fortune 500 world. The names Cookie and Lucious are contributing to a stereotype of ghetto names but fit the dramatic soap opera show that it is. Who’s to say that the entertainment industry is not as cutthroat and violent as the show portrays that world.
There is a play called The Lion in Winter by James Goldman about King Henry II and his wife and three sons. King Henry II is believed to be sick though he is still energetic and very much in power. The King must choose one of his sons to take over the kingdom when he dies and the backstabbing and manipulation that takes place is a lot like Empire. It is possible that viewers have to remember that this is entertainment and the use of stereotypes and violence is par for the course. There is no difference between Empire and Dynasty or Falcon Crest in the 80’s. I
Opinion By Deneishia Jacobpito
Photo by Sean Davis Flickr License