A Guide for White People to Enjoy “Empire” on Fox
I am in love with Fox’s new show, Empire. It gives me life every Wednesday evening. I love Cookie (played by Taraji P. Henson) and smile every time she comes on screen. Terrence Howard plays Lucious, a former drug dealer turned record company mogul. He started the company with $400,000 of Cookie’s drug money and is now a multi-millionaire. Cookie gets released from prison early (previously taking the fall for Lucious’s drug business) and wants half of the Empire Records company, but Lucious isn’t parting with it.
What I love most about the show is ALL THOSE BLACK PEOPLE IN ONE PLACE ON A PRIME-TIME SHOW THAT HAS ALREADY BEEN RENEWED FOR A SECOND SEASON! It’s truly glorious! (And Mariah Carey and Denzel Washington are booked to appear!) All in all, Empire is a good weekly night soap opera and I can’t wait until I see more. (And there’s original music to boot!)
All that is said as a black person.
I’ve heard twice in two days from white friends that they like the show but have a problem with it that they can’t reconcile with liking the show. The problem is racial stereotypes toward which they’re taught not to react. See, Lucious and Cookie are former drug dealers who are every bit as ghetto as you’d expect that Jay Z (also a former drug dealer) might really be behind closed doors. (I’m even scared writing that sentence. IT’S JUST A JOKE, JAY Z.)
Lucious is portayed as a businessman struggling between “white people” (his words) world and his former life and shows that former life with some violence toward other people. (He killed a longtime friend in cold blood of his because of an extortion threat and violently beat someone’s manager because they threatened him.) Cookie, on the other hand, is just gloriously “real” and ghetto and makes no qualms about it. But she’s also loving of her sons and Lucious. Lucious, on the other hand, seems to love power more than anything.
These aren’t nice people and they show traits that are normally associated with “ghetto” black people and sometimes fit the worst of the stereotypes. Some white people have a problem enjoying this show because of it. To that I say, white people, get over it and just embrace Empire. If you like it, you like it. The show has a full staff of black writers, so this will likely be handled in the way it should be handled and not like the offensive white girl from Whoopi Goldberg’s show, Whoopi.
Additionally, white people who have a problem liking all of Empire, that “ghetto” and “stereotypical” behavior from Cookie and Lucious (and Cookie’s assistant Porsha, who I also love – she’s sooooo ratchet) shouldn’t be hard to accept. You already embrace the many layers of Alicia Florrick on The Good Wife and you embraced the layers of Walter White on Breaking Bad. Embrace Empire‘s characters too, okay?
Get out of the mindset that white people are the only people allowed to be layered and complicated (in live and entertainment) while they also embrace some stereotypes of white people, but ethnic minorities in the U.S. have to fit into a box and be respectable at all times. We’re human too, just like you, and just as complex and layered. And yes, many of us wholly embrace those stereotypes that you’ve been taught to avoid reacting to and don’t care if you react or not, because we’re living out our lives for ourselves and God’s glory just like you with your beer pong and ultimate Frisbee.
If you like Empire, all the best to you. We welcome those ratings and Twitter live tweets as much as Fox does. If it’s nagging you that the show portrays stereotypes shamelessly, look deeper than that to fully see these awesome characters for who they are, which is much more than a ghetto person taking up an hour of your time Wednesday nights. It’s a story of human beings. Try watching it with that in mind and enjoy yourselves.
Shout-out to my friend Birgitta for this blog post idea. I enjoyed writing it!