A Grown Up Truth Look at Empire

For this month’s Project Power, we’re going to do something a little different and discuss television! Gosh, I love cable! Trust me, I can watch anything from Gossip Girl to every sub division of CSI, if my schedule would allow me.  I want to focus on the new television phenomenon, “Empire”. Empire is about the fictitious Hip Hop Mogul Lucious Lyon, played by Terrence Howard (swoon!) and his rise from drug dealer to hip-hop star to the boss of his own music label, fashion line and champagne brand! But the show isn’t just about Lucious’ success, it’s also about his family’s internal battles and the potential legacy that he will leave his children. Masked by glamour, sex, money, drugs, and alcohol, “Empire” does a great job of discussing real life issues. Whether that’s battling with one’s sexuality to talking about taboo topics such as mental illness. Yes, over the top scenarios happen and there is no way Taraji P. Henson could look that good after 17 years in jail, but that’s entertainment.

For starters, “Empire” discusses sexuality. Lucious Lyon’s son, Jamal, is gay and he constantly battles with his father about his sexuality as Lucious does not approve! Jamal never struggles with his sexuality but he does struggle with how his sexuality has strained the relationship between him and his father.

Secondly, “Empire” does a great job displaying the reality of mental illness. Lucious’ eldest son, Andre, has a severe case of bipolar disorder.  Never have I ever seen mental illness displayed in such a raw and truthful manner on TV. (And trust me, I watch a lot of television.) It’s absolutely amazing how they show the internal struggles of a person affected by bipolar disorder. You are taken on this journey of Andre’s life from trying to gain respect from his father for his own talents and how that affects his mind. Mental illness has not been properly integrated in prime time television and observing it on “Empire” brings the reality of bipolar disorder to life to many people.

Last but certainly not the least, the ever so controversial topic of race. Almost every episode points out how Lucious thinks of his company as a powerful symbol of the Black community and the importance of having a Black owned company as s publicly traded company. The show’s writers are never afraid to address how interracial marriages still cause controversy within families, as Andre is madly in love with his white wife, Rhonda, whom his parents do not approve of. But over time, Andre’s mother begins to warm up to Rhonda as she constantly proves her loyalty to her husband through his battle with mental illness.

The next time you click your remote, I want you to take a hard look at the images portrayed on screen with a “Project Power” filter.  While television is not real life, it mimics real life situations.  Many of these situations, Millennials struggle with everyday. Interracial marriage, sexuality, mental illness are only a handful of controversies that we deal with. Maybe “Empire” is greater than just a liberal #1 television show on an ultra conservative network. Maybe it is what Millennials experience  in their professional and private lives.  The only difference being that not all Millennials can sing and create music the way the Lyon’s family can!

Let me know your thoughts. Lots of love!

PS- If you don’t learn anything from “Empire”, just learn how to break someone down at the office with the most classic and sexy line ever “Bye, Boo Boo Kitty”

 

Author: Sena Absar

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