Let me go on record by saying that I absolutely love Lee Daniels’ new show, Empire. On Wednesday nights, I refuse all phone calls while this show is on. That is because I MUST hear what Cookie is going to say to make me laugh or who she’s going to give a verbal lashing to. The story line keeps my interest and each episode ends with a cliff hanger, making me want to see more. It’s is an hour long but because there’s so much happening on each episode, it feels as if the show is on for only ten minutes.
For those of you that don’t know what Empire is about, I’ll give you a lil’ description: The show is based around Lucious Lyon (played by Terrence Howard) and Cookie (played by Taraji P. Henson). Cookie is Lucious’ ex-wife and the mother of his three grown sons. Back in the day, Lucious was a drug dealer and Cookie participated in his hustle. Well needless to say, Cookie spent seventeen years in prison while Lucious went on to become a superstar and a highly successful businessman with his record label, Empire. Now that Lucious has been diagnosed with ALS and doesn’t have too long to live, he has to find out which of his sons will be the responsible one to take over his record label. Furthermore, once the prison gates open and Cookie was released, that’s when all hell breaks loose. Not only is she always giving Lucious’ new wife some choice words but she becomes a part of Lucious record label while trying to be a mother to her sons.
Of course, with ANY show that consists of an all-Black cast, there’s going to be some backlash from the Black community in one way or another. The reason for that is because no matter what Black show airs on television, you’re going to have that handful of Blacks that are NEVER going to be satisfied with any Black show on TV. They are going to critique it to find a reason to say that a show is full of racism, stereotypes, and/or has an unrealistic storyline. So of course when Empire aired and negative comments started swirling thru the air, I wasn’t the least bit surprised.
Let me be clear: Everyone has the right to their own opinion. Everyone has the right to like or dislike something and no one has the right to take that choice away. However, when people tried to explain these particular stereotypes on this show, I found that all that they were disgusted about was the fact that Cookie is an angry Black woman and Lucious has a past as a drug dealer. In my book, this is not a valid reason to not support the show.
First of all, I do agree that Cookie is an angry Black woman but wouldn’t YOU be angry if you had to give up your freedom for seventeen years due to the fact that you were helping your husband with his hustle? Wouldn’t YOU be angry if while you were in prison, your husband divorces you? Wouldn’t YOU be angry if your ex-husband moved on with his life with another woman and became a successful superstar and businessman while you’re serving time? So before you go and say that Cookie is a stereotype character because she’s an angry Black woman, at least understand the reasons behind her anger.
Secondly, the character Lucious is not a stereotype; the character represents a reality. Yes, he was a drug dealer before he made it to stardom in the music business but if memory serves me correctly, rappers such as Nas, Jay Z, Biggy Smalls, 50 Cent and many more were drug dealers before they became the business moguls that they are today. So how can we hate a character that represents the lives of many?
As a Black woman, I can’t help but to scratch my head as to why we as Black people have to take offense to EVERYTHING? Why can’t we simply watch a show and be entertained and relieved by the fact that more and more Black actors are being blessed with the opportunity to showcase their talent? Are we as Black people so sensitive and uptight that they only thing that we find entertaining is movies like Selma and 12 Years a Slave? Please know that I saw the movies Selma and 12 Years a Slave and I enjoyed them both, however, that doesn’t mean that I want to see those depictions of Blacks all the time.
Now that I think about it, the negative feedback that this show has received from some in the Black community, reminds me of the way a lot of Black people reacted when The Cosby Show aired. For whatever reason, Black people lost their cool and claimed that the show was unrealistic for six reasons:
1. There were two Black parents that were married and lived TOGETHER, raising their kids.
2. There were two Black parents that were highly educated.
3. There were two Black parents that lived in upscale neighborhoods.
4. The mother was a lawyer.
5. The father was a doctor.
6. None of their kids were on drugs and/or pregnant.
It was absolutely ridiculous as to how many Black people turned their nose up at the sitcom because they didn’t think that it fit their definition of reality. In other words, they believed that Blacks were supposed to be poor and uneducated, with an absentee father and a mother that’s on crack. They didn’t believe that a show could have two Black characters that were educated, raising a family, and were successful in their professions. So therefore, many people in the Black community felt that The Cosby Show was a joke. It is because they didn’t believe that Blacks were supposed to have self worth and strive to have a better life.
It’s a shame that there are Black people who will not support the show Empire because of the so-called stereotypes that they CHOOSE to believe are there. Unfortunately, they’re not realizing the fact that here you have a Terrence Howard portraying a Black male character who’s very wealthy and is the head of his own company. That’s a good thing and it shows just how much Black actors have progressed over the years. Not only that, you have Lee Daniels who is a very successful Black film maker who is the writer, producer and director of this show. Trust me, there’s not many men of color like him. Shouldn’t we be happy that he’s being noticed? Do we not realize that his talent can and will open doors for many more Black filmmakers?
When Empire premiered for this reason: No longer are Black actors stuck with only playing the roles of slaves and housekeepers. This also means that if we continue to have hit shows like Empire, there will be opportunities to have even more shows with an all-Black cast. For the record, the portrayal of a Black person being a drug dealer is just as real as the portrayal of a Black person being a slave or a doctor. Each portrayal is a reality whether we want to realize it or not and apparently, more than ten million viewers feel the same way because thanks to the viewers (including myself), Empire is a hit.
Copyright © 2015 by Sonica Jackson
***The views and opinions expressed here on my website are solely those of myself and do not in any way represent the views and opinions of WordPress or anyone else.