Misplaced Elitism and Criticisms on "Empire"

Fox's runway show "Empire" features the acting talents of two Academy Award nominated actors and a slew of guest appearances by celebrated actors and musicians. With a highly dramatic story line reminiscent of the great shows from the 80's like "Dallas", "Falcon's Crest" and "Dynasty", each week those seeking pure entertainment are well served.

I was pleasantly surprised when a White female colleague told me that she loved "Empire" and particularly liked Cookie's character. She said that Cookie was a "strong woman who would do anything to protect her family." It got me to thinking that my colleague saw a positive character while social media tends to see the show as "buffoonish" or "coonish." While Cookie may not be presented in Claire Huxtable fashion, she is a strong mother character. We often see what we open our minds to accept.

Black communities are the only communities who collectively get in an uproar over television shows with less than ideal characters, story lines, and plots. With the release of each new Black produced show or heavily Black cast such as "Scandal", "Power"  "How to get away with murder", "Being Mary Jane", "Empire", etc., we seem to be seeking saviors and role models in televisions while ignoring that the impetus for these shows often are born in real life.

Successful shows like "Prison Break", "Breaking Bad" and "The Blacklist" don't have the White community in an uproar over the portrayal of White criminals so why do we point fingers and yell stereotyping at every Black drama that comes out? Why do we look down at the stories being told through Urban narratives or imperfect character narratives?

The problem is in the denial of such characters and the refusal to honor the stories of people who live like these fictional characters. We degrade television shows for their portrayals of "ghetto" types and drug dealers yet we do nothing in our own lives to address these social ills. We put down our friends for indulging in entertainment that may not be entertaining to us setting a false premise that their choices are less than.

Initially, even I rolled my eyes at the premise of "Empire" but when I gave the show a chance, I found the dramatic story line fun and entertaining and if you truly look at the lead characters, you can find their strengths outweigh their perceived weaknesses.

Television is entertainment. Televisions still have channels that are most often controlled with a remote. If you want to exercise your freedom of speech, you might want to warm up with respecting the freedom of choices of others. I promise you that there are more important things to be concerned with than what your friends are watching on television.


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