Empire: Premiere

Yesterday was the premiere of the musical drama series ‘Empire’ on FOX, created by Lee Daniels and Danny Strong.

The show revolves around the hectic lives of everyone in the Lyon family, headed by Lucious Lyon (Terrence Howard), a rap star turned mogul and CEO of Empire Entertainment. Lucious has decided to make the company publicly traded, an accomplishment worthy of celebration. However, Lucious’s time is limited seeing that he has been diagnosed with ALS. He needs to decide on an heir to the company, the choices being his three sons—Andre, Jamal, and Hakeem. To further complicate things, his ex-wife Cookie (Taraji P. Henson) is released from prison after 17 years and determined to make up for lost family time, as well as gain the control in the operations of Empire Entertainment that she believes she rightfully deserves.

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If ‘Empire’ is anything, it certainly is not subtle. From Lucious throwing a young Jamal into a trash can for wearing female clothing to Cookie asking Andre, “Is that what your white woman told you?”, ‘Empire’ is laying everything out from the jump.

Based on the pilot, it seems like the show will do a great job recreating the hip-hop industry with accuracy. From Bryshere Gray’s (Hakeem) convincing portrayal of a young, cocky rapper on the come-up to the songwriting and instrumentals throughout the show—huge courtesy of Timbaland—this show looks like it won’t have an issue with authenticity.

The show’s boldness, as mentioned earlier, is extremely refreshing. Cookie embodies this to the fullest, but I’ll refrain from going on about how great Taraji was, and will be, as Cookie. As far as the action goes, the show’s fearlessness is especially felt in the scenes concerning Lucious’s homophobia and reluctance to accept Jamal. Being this upfront about the acceptance of homosexuality on a show with a mainly Black cast is especially powerful considering the Black community’s serious conservatism regarding homosexuality, as well as the lack of portrayal of LGBT characters on television outside of the “dominant perceptions of gay characters” as described by Tyler James Williams in this interview with HuffPost Live (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/11/19/tyler-james-williams-dear-white-people-black-homophobia_n_6181898.html).

In regards to the Lyon brothers, the characterization is phenomenal. Jamal and Hakeem provide great foils for each other—reserved versus extroverted, humble versus hella cocky, etc.—and the brother who is least in-touch with the music and culture of the hip-hop industry, Andre, not only has his strength in business, but is married to an equally calculating White woman.

Remember what I said about this show not being subtle?

Not sure just how influential Andre and Rhonda, his wife, will be, but of the three brothers, it’s hard not to feel like Andre will pull the most conniving shit. Cookie’s suspicions of her might come off as stereotypical of a fierce, matriarchal Black woman, but not only does Taraji pull it off with flair, the scene of Andre and Rhonda schemin’ validate her doubts.

‘Empire’ gave us a wide variety of sociocultural subjects to touch on. Lots of potential for these subjects to develop more depth and complexity as the show goes along.

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