This weekend my eyes were opened to a lot. Three of the most popular shows out right now with black leading cast members are Empire, Scandal and Power. Although these shows are VERY entertaining they are damning to the fabric, culture and perception of the African-American community. Some of you will probably stop reading this right now but remember, ignorance isn’t bliss, it’s just ignorance. I’ve watched and enjoyed all these shows but let’s take a look at what these shows represent.
Empire. People see the Lyons family and they say “success”. Once again Hollywood is showing us the only way to get out of the hood (which is where Lucious and Cookie came from) is through drugs and music. I shouldn’t be surprised that this is the agenda that they push considering Fox is owned by Rupert Murdoch (who also runs the ridiculously racially biased Fox News). Empire comes on at the same time and same night as ABC’s black-ish and the new NBC show, The Carmichael Show which many people haven’t even heard of. Why? Well we like to be entertained. We like drama. Those latter shows show an African-American family who are successful and who don’t operate in dysfunction. Someone told me “but those shows aren’t realistic”. Excuse me? I grew up in one of those families. We ate together. We watched TV together. Both parents were in the home. We weren’t trying to steal from each other, sleep with each others significant others, kill each other and all of this other ridiculous drama that we see on Empire. What happened to showing successful positive black families? The Huxtables, The Banks, The Kings (Jamie Foxx Show), Flex and Brianna Washington (One on One)?
Scandal. So apparently (SPOILER ALERT) Olivia Pope revealed to the world that she’s the president’s mistress this past week. All on my timeline I read “she’s so brave” and “she has so much courage”. WHAT? She’s sleeping around town and interfering in someone’s marriage. Where’s the courage in that? I get it. Olivia Pope represents a strong black woman in the political world. Just like in Being Mary Jane Gabrielle Union is represented as a strong black woman in media. Where these portrayals go wrong is they have our women sleeping around and almost insinuating that they have to sleep around to get ahead. Clair Huxtable never represented this. Look at Living Single. Maxine was a lawyer. Khadijah owned her own newspaper. But now, it seems like the powers that be in Hollywood will show us “in places of power” but then have our women seem powerless when it comes to men.
Power. This right here is my favorite yet the one I have to let go the most. I can’t speak out against drugs, gang violence and telling our youth to get off the streets then turn around and promote this show. Ghost. We see him as a success right? But he’s built his fortune off of the backs, bodies and blood of others. You can be a black man and be in a position of power without all of these things. Dennis Haysbert did a phenomenal job on 24 playing President David Palmer. James Avery played Judge Phillip Banks. Chi McBride played a successful principal on Boston Public. None of these men were slinging drugs, putting down bodies or breaking the law.
So what’s the point? The point is they will give us what we support. I feel like we as a people accept anything. Someone said to me this weekend, “well at least we are on TV”. NO. That shouldn’t be the mentality. Unfortunately we live in an age where the media has a major impact on our youth whether we like it or not. Hollywood knows what they’re doing. They are conditioning our minds and showing us this is who we are and we embrace it. We need more people in Hollywood like DeVon Franklin who are committed to showing our people in a positive light.
I want to challenge you with something and it’s something I am going to do too.
Turn off Scandal. Turn off Empire. Turn off Power.
We have to demand more from our actors and actress but also demand more from our Hollywood writers. Give black-ish a chance. Give The Carmichael Show a chance. Support guys like Hill Harper who’s played a doctor on CSI:NY and is preparing to star as a special agent on Limitless. Support actresses like Nicole Beharie who plays as a detective on Sleepy Hollow. We don’t have to just accept anything and everything that the machine pushes out. Let’s stop being dumbed down family. Let’s stop acting like the only way to make it sleeping around, pushing weight, and making music. We as black people are so much more. We have so much more potential.