Is The New Hit Show “Empire” Just Another Form Of Black Exploitation?

empireReported by Liku Zelleke

Fox’s “Empire” has been a hit since day 1. The show, which stars Terrance Howard and Taraji P. Henson, has high ratings and the second season has already received the go-ahead. But, if you’re thinking everyone loves the new drama, then you haven’t read the opinion piece that was posted on the Chicago Sun-Times’ website.

Writer Mary Mitchell says she’s no TV snob, and is quite the opposite. “I was one of those people who felt like I had suffered a loss when the ‘Sopranos,’ a series about a fictional mob family, ended in 2007,” she writes.

But she’s finding “Empire” a hard pill to swallow. Every character depicted in the show has glaring shortcomings. “Lucious’ ‘three scheming sons’ along with ‘homophobia, murder, gutter language and explicit sex’,” she says, “amounts to another reality TV show depicting black people behaving shamefully.”

Comparing the show to a cheaper version of the 2005 movie, Hustle & Flow, she says that as hard as she tries to like Lucious (played by Howard), she finds him to be “disgustingly homophobic”. She wants to like his wife, Cookie (played by Henson), because of what she had to go through, but finds her to be “your classic back-stabber.”

“These are hard-core, conniving, up-in-your-face, ballers and shot-callers, and that apparently has helped make the show a huge hit,” Mitchell says. “When it comes to roles, a black actor’s choices shouldn’t boil down to acting a fool or acting like a psychopath.”

The almost fanatic following the show has garnered reflects “how desperate black viewers are for TV programming starring blacks,” she added.

But, although network producers should look towards filling that gap, she says she still “can’t ignore that “Empire” is a modern ‘blaxploitation’ movie, or that it portrays the African-American family at its worst.”