4 Reasons Why Empire Is Brillaint

RnB/Hip Hop | Thursday 17th December 2015 | Aisha

In just one season Empire became the second most watched television show. As the second season comes to an end, there is certainly no shortage of eye-popping drama, celebrity appearances and head-bopping songs.  However, Empire has been criticised for its problematic depiction of black people, often accused for reinforcing negative stereotypes. Black wealth is a result of drug dealing, Cookie shows attitude in most scenes and the black community is painted as uniquely homophobic.

Although the show can be problematic and it’s not 100% realistic, here are 4 reasons why Empire is a great show: 


1) #BlackLivesMatter

Rupert Murdoch may have previously owned Fox, but Empire has given the channel a new depth. Empire demonstrates an awareness of contemporary racial politics. The Free Luscious rally doubled Black Lives Matter rallies as Cookie emerged in a gorilla suit and shouted, “how much longer are they gonna treat us like animals? The American correctional system is built on the backs of our brothers, our father, our sons. How much longer? Not justice for some, but justice for all.”

Hakeem points out “we should be performing for our brothers and sisters who are innocent” rather than for Luscious who is in fact guilty. Nevertheless, rather than serving as a mockery of the movement, it sheds light on the incarceration that thousands suffer in America. Regardless of Luscious immorally using everything to his advantage, how many other TV programmes draw attention to the Black Lives Matter movement?


2) Lucious

“I started to sell drugs when I was 9 years old in Philadelphia. I did it to feed myself. But it was the music that played in my head that kept me alive when I thought I was going to get shot, and it was the melodies that kept me warm when I was sleeping on the street. You see, music saved my life”.

In comparison to Hakeem whose modern style of rap resembles Tyga and Kid Ink, Lucious represents the early struggle in hip-hop.  Although he is the epitome of evil, Lucious’s company Empire emphasises the significance of hip-hop culturally and globally whether it be in music, language, clothing or entertainment. When Lucious collaborates with Freda Gatz, his pain is strongly expressed through music. Therefore, rather than Empire depicting black people negatively, Lucious’s history reminds us of the social significance of hip-hop as a form of resistance and/or survival for black communities.  


3) LGBT Activism

As a gay filmmaker, Lee Daniels wanted to make a difference. He decided against airing Empire on HBO as he felt many people whom he wanted to reach may not be able to afford this. Daniels doesn’t exclusively associate blackness with homophobia as it is an issue in many, many cultures. Nevertheless it is an issue that black communities too need to tackle and accept. Daniels states that his greatest challenge of addressing homophobia was “shielding myself from the pain of people that are still angry at me for discussing it”. Jamal is therefore a character that breaks many barriers and depicts the bleak reality of growing up with a homophobic father. The LGBT community thus applauds Empire for showcasing gay rights issues.


4) Cookie

Contrary to the ‘angry black woman’ label, Cookie is a character with many layers and is mainly viewed as a pop-culture phenomenon and empowering female figure. She is without a doubt the most entertaining, sassy and hilarious character on the show. She knows everything there is to know about song-writing and managing a business which enables the creation of ‘Lyon Dynasty’.  It’s rare to see a woman taking on a role with this much responsibility, let alone a black woman. So, it’s great to see Empire showcasing this fresh, positive narrative.