by Dr Boyce Watkins
When the Fox Network released the new show, “Empire,” I was concerned about what I might see on screen. Fox is not known for producing the most favorable images of black people, so I figured this show wouldn’t be any different. For some reason, black dysfunction makes for great television, and there is a long line of white guys getting rich off of our willingness to celebrate all that makes us miserable.
If you do some research, you might notice some of the same things I’ve seen in this ghetto-fied hood drama: Pimps, hoes, thugs, gangsters, emasculated black men, and all kinds of other kinds of stereotypical coonery that many of us have grown tired of seeing portrayed on-screen. Lee Daniels is apparently the man responsible for this televised monstrosity, and I wonder if a day will ever come that the majority of us will refuse to support directors who pimp their people to help bigots like Rupert Murdoch get rich from modern day minstrel shows.
Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson are two of my favorite actors. They are incredibly talented and deserve every opportunity to make their money. But this is a show that I cannot support, because I have a secret dream of seeing the black community prosper, educate itself, build strong families, and become something more fitting of Dr. King’s grand vision. I can’t tell you everything that Dr. King and our ancestors wanted for our people, but I can certainly say that it had nothing to do with the crap we’re seeing in modern American media.
I also have a few things to say about Lee Daniels and his admitting that he’d like to use the show to “blow the lid off of homophobia in the black community.” I’m not sure why black people are always the target of this kind of propaganda, especially when there are millions of white conservatives who have their own issues with homosexuality as well. Not to say that any of us should be forced into a position on gay rights or that we can even agree on what it means to be homophobic, but black people do not have a monopoly on homophobia, however it is defined.
Daniels’ efforts to use media as a tool to pathologize his own people might be an even greater reflection of the mental illness he is confronting as he works to cradle a deeply abused inner child. The same way that abuse victims often become abusers themselves, Daniels has decided to abuse all of us with media messages that are stomach-churning for nearly any conscious black person to absorb. Similar to how Michael Jordan spent 20 years pissing on the world because he was the dark-skinned kid who was cut from his 8th grade basketball team, Lee Daniels (along with Don Lemon) is using his newfound power to destroy society’s perception of black people rather than build something more distinguished, thoughtful and meaningful.
Don, according to a recent appearance on the Tom Joyner Morning Show, seemed disappointed in mine and Chris Rock’s assertion about emasculated black men being preferred in Hollywood. But I stand by the fact that weak, feminine black men with no respect for their own culture will always be preferred by white society to intelligent, conscientious, masculine black males who are proud of their heritage. In other words, Daniels clearly benefits from being (in his own words), “a little Euro, a little homo and a little ghetto.” His decision to define his black heritage as being “ghetto” may not be disconnected from his remark to Larry King that he saw so many black women in the AIDS clinic that “he thought it was a welfare office.”
In other words, this man has almost no connection to his black heritage and is willing to do whatever is necessary to make himself rich, even if it’s at the expense of the entire African American Community. In the words of the comedy legend Eddie Murphy, I hope others will join me in saying, “F*ck that.”
Basically, “Empire” wasn’t created to entertain black people (although I’m sure it has black viewers). It is instead selling an image of blackness to a predominantly white audience that has been long fed stereotypical messages about what blackness represents. These thug-gangster-hoodrat images are the ones that are deeply embedded in the minds of police officers who shoot black men and potential employers who refuse to give black people jobs. Just like animals in the zoo, the world loves to observe black people at our most ratchet, because ignorant negroes are simply fun to watch.
The video below goes deeper into what I think about this show. I also reiterate that I won’t be watching, but I don’t condemn others who enjoy the show. I just want to say that we must all remember that media is one of the most powerful mind control mechanisms in existence, so remember that even though the puppets of this show are black, the puppet masters are more directly linked to your oppressor. In fact, I dare say that if the family on Empire were normal, law-abiding, intelligent, conscientious and mutually-supportive people from a stable family, the Fox Network would have gotten WHITE actors instead of black ones. Certain roles on TV are reserved for black folks. That’s why I typically support black filmmakers/production companies and have little interest in mainstream media.
Related: Lee Daniels tells Don Lemon that he doesn’t mind being a sell-out, as long as his films are being shown in theaters.
Dr Boyce Watkins is a Finance PhD and author of the book, “Black American Money: How black power can thrive in a capitalist society.” To have Dr Watkins’ commentary delivered to your email, please click here.