With the return of Fox’s hit show Empire on it’s way, I keep trying to figure out why the show is such a hit. It always came up in conversations with my peers before it even aired, but the concept never excited me. Unwillingly, I fell into the category of black people who watched just because the cast was primarily African American. This was a mistake.
I gave the show a chance and it only gave me confirmation that it wasn’t a show I’d be tuning into watch every Wednesday at 9 p.m. Aside from the actors we have grown to love in Taraji P. Henson and Terrence Howard, the acting didn’t sit well with me. Surprisingly, that still wasn’t my main issue. My issue was more so with the depiction of African American men in each character; especially since the show caters to none other than African Americans.
According to Umar Johnson, “How in the hell can you all have a mini series with four black men, all successful, and not one of them has a positive relationship with a black woman on the show?”
It is extremely difficult to watch this show knowing that young African American boys are watching and not seeing one example of a powerful, beautiful black couple. With that being said, let’s take a look at the depiction of the African American men in the Lyon empire.
Former drug dealer Lucious Lyon is where it all starts. Lucious is the father of three sons who has kept this “empire” running. But in the midst of it all, he continuously treats women horribly as he battles between the mother of his kids, Cookie, and his new woman, Anika. He has sex with both of them while he tries to keep both far away from one another; representing a black man who doesn’t respect women enough to choose and love one of them.
Andre Lyon is the oldest son who suffers from Bipolar disease, but still finds a way to walk around as if he is better than everyone else. He is a college graduate who married a white woman and craves power. Andre represents a black man who would rather be with someone of another race than his own.
And then we have Jamal Lyon, the middle son and arguably the most talented. Jamal is a gay male who is struggling with his identity and his estranged relationship with his father. In one episode, he thought he had feelings for a woman but quickly realized that he was “strictly” gay, so instead of trying to embrace his interest in a woman, he hid them.
The youngest son on the other hand, Hakeem Lyon is exclusively into black women when it’s convenient for him. Not only is he extremely disrespectful to the women he sleeps with for money and fame, he also does not show respect to his one and only mother. He gives the impression that it is okay to disrespect the woman who carried him for nine months.
Although I do not have a problem with African American men who are in interracial relationships or gay, I must say that it is devastating that with such heavy support from black actors, actresses and writers, we don’t see at least one strong black relationship. If there is a show that strives to cater to African Americans like this one proclaims to do, it is imperative that there is a positive depiction of a black man, that young black boys and girls can look up to.
Because Empire has somehow seemed to gain a large following, the viewers are also of other races. Therefore, the people who actively have a hand in making this show a success need to think about the image they are airing on national television from week to week of what a “black man,” embodies. Four men, four different scenarios and not one all around positive character; I’m sure adding another Lyon man to the storyline that happens to be successful while he loves a beautiful black woman would not be a crime shown on television nor would it hurt the ratings.