*With ever-increasing ratings and an instant green light for a second season, Fox’s “Empire” is clearly a hit.
But for Mary Mitchell, the show is more of a “modern ‘Blaxploitation’ movie” that “portrays the African-American family at its worst.”
In an opinion piece posted Monday (Jan. 26), the Chicago Sun-Times writer outlined her reasons for not being a fan of “Empire” as she mentioned the show’s family drama that involves Terrence Howard’s Lucious Lyon and his ex-wife Cookie Lyon, played by Taraji P. Henson.
Although the conflict between the two leads is “enough family drama,” Mitchell sees Lucious’ “three scheming sons” along with “homophobia, murder, gutter language and explicit sex” as something that “amounts to another reality TV show depicting black people behaving shamefully.
“In fact, “Empire” looks like a cheaper version of “Hustle & Flow,” the 2005 film about a pimp turned rapper, who also is played by Howard,” she wrote.
“I want to like Lucious, but then he’s disgustedly homophobic. I want to like Cookie because of what she’s been through, but she’s your classic back-stabber.
“These are hard-core, conniving, up-in-your-face, ballers and shot-callers, and that apparently has helped make the show a huge hit.”
Despite praising Lee Daniels for casting Howard and Henson on “Empire”, Mitchell continued her criticism by touching on a deeper issue.
“…it strikes me as odd that outside of ABC’s “Black-ish,” the comedy with Anthony Anderson and Tracee Ellis Ross; most of the shows that cast African-Americans in prominent roles have them playing lowbrow characters,” she noted.
“Kerry Washington started off portraying a powerful mover and shaker on ‘Scandal.’ Then the next thing you know, she’s having sex in a utility closet with the white, powerful, and married president of the United States.
Sorry, Shonda Rhimes.
“That’s just too much slave imagery for me.”
Mitchell concludes her op-ed by throwing out some food for thought as she asks “what is wrong with creating more shows on network TV that cast blacks as heroes and heroines?”
“When it comes to roles, a black actor’s choices shouldn’t boil down to acting a fool or acting like a psychopath,” she wrote.
“The support for “Empire” and shows like it reflect how desperate black viewers are for TV programming starring blacks,” continued Mitchell.
“Network producers certainly ought to take notice of that.
“Still, I can’t ignore that “Empire” is a modern “blaxploitation” movie, or that it portrays the African-American family at its worst.”
To read Mitchell’s opinion piece in its entirety, click here. In the meantime, scroll down and leave your thoughts on Mary Mitchell and “Empire.”