Empire and public opinion

William T. Robinson, Jr.

William T. Robinson, Jr.

Unless you are living under a rock you have been exposed to the juicy captivating new weekly series Empire. It is one of the most watched new series on television and has everyone’s tongues wagging. It highlights the operations of a music empire mogul and his family maintaining and growing this multimillion-dollar business empire. The characters are as colorful as they come, showcasing a myriad of profound acting. Each week leaves you on the edge of your seat wanting more. The mogul and his family are African Americans, and their unethical antics are being seriously analyzed by some critics as making Blacks look bad.

The truth of the matter is that this is totally entertainment to be enjoyed only for what it is worth. Perhaps that is why it is so well received, because excites its audience. It is Hollywood fluff, not a documentary to be studied and analyzed. It is pure unadulterated entertainment. The mere fact that it’s cast is basically African American may be the reason it comes under fire by some Blacks who feel it may be degrading and belittling, manifesting negative stereotypes we as a race are trying to overcome. We are alluding to unethical cold blooded manipulations, a high strung and loud talking leading woman, and the big role hip hop plays in the series. This show, like many others on TV, portrays some unsavory characters not to be emulated. You would think that would be a no brainer. But unfortunately you have some basically adult viewers who literally take the actors on TV as real people to be emulated. They try to relate to characters feeding negative stereotypes, especially relating to the Black community.

You can say that many highly watched shows should be scrutinized as they feed gullible people who are unable to separate reality from fiction. Maybe such shows should display a disclaimer before they are viewed, stating that they are not to be taken seriously and are for entertainment purposes only. There are some shows purposely trying to depict what they feel are reality in the law, medical, or firefighting professions. It is good that some shows can be educating and informative, but some shows are strictly for entertainment. It is understandable that some African Americans are concerned how we are portrayed on TV, because negative stereotypes of Blacks inundated the screen and media for years. The only realistic compromise would be an equal distribution of shows showing the serious intellectual and positive achievements side of Black males and females.

Some African Americans feel TV and moviemakers should cut down on the buffoonery and sensationalism that are sometimes used as ammunition to trivialize and degrade Blacks. Those who find it hard to relax and view a movie or TV show without judgment may have a legitimate reason. However they must understand that the main purpose of these shows is to gain an audience and make as much money as possible. The main denominator that seems to work is sensationalism and high drama.

I personally tend to gravitate toward shows and movies that have a message and give me something to think about. But sometimes I throw caution to the wind and just want to be entertained. Empire is a show that entertains me and nothing more. The characters are larger than life, and the music and song are what young people may say is the truth. Whether you like the overall message the show may send to the public, the soundtracks from the show are a must have.

We as African Americans must evaluate our values because shows cannot be successful unless they have a large audience. We must be careful to monitor what our children watch on TV and teach them to understand that they can’t interpret everything they see on TV as being acceptable or even true. It comes down to freedom of choice. One has the option of turning the channel or rallying for more shows portraying Blacks in a more positive and productive light.