Why FOX’s Hit Show Empire Makes Me Cringe

empire fox


OK. I’ve been silent long enough. But I think it’s fair to say that last night was the last straw for me. I literally yelled at my unsuspecting boyfriend, “I CAN’T TAKE IT ANYMORE!”…as if he were responsible for what I was watching on my TV screen.

Here’s my disclaimer:

I love Black folk. I want them to succeed. I want us to be recognized. I want us to be heard. I want us to be seen. And I want us to make money…ESPECIALLY in Hollywood, where there’s so much money to be made. Period.

BUT. This must be said:

Empire is horrible.

When the show first aired, I admit, I was excited. I love Taraji P. Henson, and I love Terrence Howard. I couldn’t WAIT for Empire to drop. I even went to an Empire Premiere Party. THAT is how much I wanted this show to succeed.

But baaaayBE! I can’t fake the funk one second longer.

Let’s start with a quote from one of the writers, Mr. Lee Daniels. He told The Hollywood Reporter:

We’re making statements about sexuality, the African-American experience, what happens when you come from extreme poverty and hit it big and you’re a billionaire? What is jail really like?

Excuse me? The African-American experience? Maybe I’m just naive…but this isn’t my experience. Like…at all. Actually, it’s nobody’s I know experience. And yes, I agree, many Black people DO come from extreme poverty, but WHY is that all we ever have to portray? I’m soooo over it. I’m over Black women being angry, uneducated and hard to deal with, Black men being pimpish, violent, and hard to control, and forgive me for pointing this out, but the only son with his head on straight…and who also happens to BE straight, has a white girlfriend who sucks his penis while wearing a bib, and f*cks Asian women in his spare time? Gag me.

And before I go any further, let me say, I’m a fan of reality TV. (Some of it) But I think it’s imperative that we show some BALANCE. I was hoping Empire would finally be our saving grace. Not!

The ratings for Empire are high. I’m talking through the roof high. Its premiere episode brought in 9.9 million total viewers and a 3.8 rating. A 4.0 rating is the Holy grail. What these ratings show me is that people WANT to see Black people on TV. They want to see Black people they like on TV…and they will watch pretty much anything to get their weekly dose of Blackness on prime time television. So why not create something of more substance?

Not too long ago, Black people came together to boycott VH1’s “Sorrority Sisters” and successfully got the show booted from the network. I wonder, why those same people aren’t as bothered by the images they are seeing on Fox’s Empire? Is it because you know and love Taraji and Terrence? Are you afraid to be the one to speak out against them? Would you feel like a sellout? You see, I’m just a little confused as to what people deem acceptable…and why.

Here is something that can’t be denied: The show is absolutely ridiculous. It makes no sense. It’s unrealistic and hard to watch at times. I wonder if the show would be so well liked… and if it would have even been picked up by FOX if the characters had a little more…COUTH. Would it be a hit if this family had actually earned the money to build their Empire the legal way…if Cookie wasn’t a jailbird, if Lucious didn’t hate his gay son, or Hakeem didn’t take a piss in the middle of an upscale restaurant?

Pardon me (or not) for saying so, but with the state of race relations in our country right now, the last thing we need is a weekly show to remind us how thuggish, immoral, and unruly Black folk are.

Look, I wasn’t born yesterday. I know damn well there are some people in the world who act exactly like the characters on Empire…people of ALL races. But I also know plenty people of all races who don’t act a plum fool every damn day. TV lacks diversity. For Fox alone, 6.5 percent of characters in lead or supporting roles were Black in 1999 to 21 percent Black this past fall, a number that took a huge leap with January’s premiere of “Empire.” So THIS is the diversity that we choose to represent? I think it’s unacceptable. I KNOW it’s unacceptable.

Shows like Family Matters, The Cosby Show, The Jefferson’s, 227, Hanging With Mr. Cooper, A Different World, Steve Harvey, Fresh Prince, Martin, etc. were all HITS. Shows like THESE are virtually non-existent now. Why? Are people not writing the stories, or are big time networks not willing to take them on? What’s broken, and how do we fix it?


3 thoughts on “Why FOX’s Hit Show Empire Makes Me Cringe

  1. I agree with you wholeheartedly on your view of every aspect of this show. I would just have to add, that it comes off as a poorly performed broadway musical adapted for the TV screen. I was watching this week’s show w/the hopes that it would have won me over. Not. I am glad that next week I can get back to my regularly scheduled date night routine….Scandal and HTGAWM!!! Hypocritical….maybe, but everything about these 2 shows is so much better than Empire. Maybe Mr. Daniels can take a few notes from Ms. Rhimes.

    Great Blog Karma!!

  2. Now as much as I hate television and movies for the demoralizing of the black character for some reason my usual perspective (which is yours stated above) hadn’t crossed my mind. That’s probably because it is a very one sided television show like most but does feature my favorite actors and actresses so I know that it’s not real. What’s even more interesting is after reading this article I completely feel some type of way because you’re right, stories like ours NEVER get told! I hate Hollywood for that. Very very much. This definitely needs to change.

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