|Dark comes and goes on Empire. The rapper, GONE, Malik, GONE. Sidebe, hidden|
A loud sassy Black woman with a criminal record was the main attraction of the show. The beautiful and extremely talented Taraji P. Henson, starred as "Cookie," a mother of three who landed herself in prison for drug dealing, while trying to support her husbands dream of creating a music empire.
Not to mention, the show was headlined by nothing Blacks of a lighter hue, their dark skin cast mates almost faded into obscurity. Historical perceptions and the indoctrination of what the dark skin and light skin Negro is and capable of, prevailed; but we will get to that in just a minute.
Instantly, many scholars and critics noted that yet another Black television show purported stereotypical images of Blacks. As I watched Cookie Lyons beat her son with a broom, I wondered, is this stereotypical, or merely a cultural documentary?
From my vantage point, it was rewarding to see a Black father in the lives of his sons, raising them almost independently and becoming an Armani suit executive. Yet we couldn't have a Black father of the year, drama was necessary. Terrance Howard plays Lucious Lyons, a scary, adulterous thug turned executive. He of course is a homophobic stereotype of a Black father who despises his gay son. I will admit, it was redeeming to see a masculine self affirmed Black gay male on a major network show, but progress is a slow bumpy dirt road.
One day, gay will exist on a network show without it even being mentioned. It will not be the headline, it will not be a plotline, it will just be apart of the fabric of the screenplay without announcing itself. But right now, America, especially Black America, is not ready for a Black gay character to be themselves without a civil rights burden. So that Black gay son was thrown into a trash can and forbidden to be himself. His evil father deems homosexuality as a sin while NEVER entering a church himself.
I think it is important, for many of the homophobic Black men who do exist, to see a reflection of their bigotry. This show could help the issue of homosexuality reach normalcy in the Black community. These are the good attributes, but negatively, the issue was belabored and the gay character became just that, A GAY CHARACTER, devoid of any other motivations other than the need for his homophobic father to validate him.
On to colorism....
Who is exalted as beautiful or handsome, when it comes to the Black community? Colorism is something that has been around for centuries. There is no need to remind you of what colorism is and how it continues to permeate our media, our depictions, our culture.
Taraji cannot help that she is light skin, nor can Terrance Howard do anything about being born with light eyes. These actors and actresses are talented and very much deserving of high powered, high influence roles. I will not attempt to take Taraji's Academy Award nomination away from her, for she deserved it and for her great work, WE are proud.
But it is the play of hand by directors, producers and casting that raises my eyebrow. Sadly, certain Black directors who have risen to prominence, have done so by exploiting deep seeded stereotypes and passed them off as art imitating life.
Malik Yoba, a quite handsome celebrated dark brown skinned actor, was casted on Empire. Sadly, his role was reduced to being the light skin leads THUG, doing his dirty work and kissing his ass. His character was not developed, we didn't fully understand his role, yet we understood his extensive resume on television and film. I was disappointed when his role was cut short, as a White woman busted him upside of his head and he died. Now one of the light skin lead characters had to cover up the murder of yet another fallen dark skin actor. BUNKY, the cousin of Cookie, murdered by Lucious, was the previous victim to violence. There truly is a war on Empire, a war against the light and the dark.
Malik's character will soon be forgotten because it wasn't memorable. It seems that certain hues of actors are disposable. Derek Luke, dark as midnight, a sex symbol, was casted just to give the light skin woman some big Black mandingo dick. As he exited stage right, I wondered why such an accomplished Black actor could demean himself to such a fruitless role. It reminded me of the field niggas, dark and gifted, yet disposable, while the light brights do them in for the profit of the White man.
Naomi Campbell, not known for acting, more so known for her signature strut on international runways, appeared on the show to critical acclaim. Yet her huge debut was reduced to that of a child molester, yes Hakeem was legal, but the images spoke otherwise to our initial perception.
Once again, a dark skin character is run by light skin characters, big bad, MORAL superior Lucious sent her on that midnight train to somewhere, never to be heard from again.
Gabouray Sidebe allegedly complained about her minuscule role on the show. All we ever see her do is chase after light Lucious, screaming and begging to be heard. Her loud blonde hair is a testament to the stereotype of a self hating fat dark Black woman. Having starred in TWO major network television series, The Big C and American Horror Story, one would think someone with her credentials would get more than a backdrop to Terrance Howard's backside in a scene.
Do you even know what Cookie's assistants name is? Porsha. The gum popping, deer in headlights, social etiquette lacking dark skin stereotype parades behind Cookie without a glimpse of substance. She serves her light skin boss with loyalty, so much so that she retrieves a shoe that is thrown. She reminds me of "Sweetie" from Kim Zolciak's nigger closet. Only, Cookie is Black, but the field nigga is still working, paid with humiliation and disrespect.
Sidebe went from eating Monique's privates to chasing after Lucious Lyons with less than two lines an episode. It seems to me, that these light hues are getting more valuable roles when it comes to Daniels. Sure Monique won an Oscar, but she won for being a stereotype while all the light brights in that film were angels, there to save the poor pathetic uneducated dark people of the field.
Raven Symone's character had an abusive violent boyfriend who of course was dark and disposable. Another casualty in the war against the worthless dark Nubians.
Even Patti Labelle couldn't perform on her own, Jussie had to deliver his struggling Michael Jackson impersonating voice while all we were interested in was Aunt PATTI-PATTI!
Many will see this as reaching or an over simplification. I could be called a hypocrite because after all, I am buying into it, I am watching the show. I watch the show for the music and some of the story is interesting but most of the plots are not developed enough. I studied film in school and I see the writing as very amateur at best. I digress.
Does Lee Daniels celebrate light skin as something more worthy of the lime light? I cannot read his mind, all I can do is count his sheep, and they are putting me to sleep. One by one nothing but light damn near White sheep jump over his fence of propaganda.
Most will sit back, drink their libation and become entertained. But as a journalist, I ask questions.
The opportunities for Black talent in Hollywood is at an all time high, Shonda Rhimes alone has created many of them, but there is still a ceiling. With an all Black cast, much SHOULD be expected. Skin color does not make someone more or less Black or worthy of a role, but if you are going to showcase Black, make sure the image of Black isn't monolithic in representation. We should be able to all see ourselves in a multitude of depictions.
|I applaud How to get Away with Murder for the realistic depiction of a Black woman in a White world, (Rhimes)|
Anika is not what all Black men desire sexually....Cookie calls her a fake ass Halle Berry and Lena Horne because the mixed Black woman has always been exalted. Here again, this Carmen Jones struts around serving her pussy to the highest bidder because she is desired for her watered down features. And even though Cookie is relatively light, she's still darker than her, and jealous of this mixed floozy. Envious of her opportunities because she passed the paper bag test without hiding from the sun for a month. I do not wrestle with these concepts as much, because it does hit on some cultural truths, but flat characters do not tell a realistic story. An unrealistic story, illustrated with stereotypes hints of a production team Hell bent on perpetuating prejudice.
Certain things are expected, we will never see Sidebe fighting Henson over a man, no matter how you slice it, that would just not be realistic. However, the very image of two Black women fighting on prime time television in front of Cookie's children makes a mockery of the Black family. One that Bill Cosby worked so hard to uplift. (Disregarding his recent scandal)
What does Daniels think of light skin Blacks? Circumstantial evidence points to a man who exalts the lighter Negro as beautiful, mainstream, marketable and more worthy of a front row seat. He seems to give them longer lines, more direction and an environment of relevance. Exceptions can be made with films like The Butler but even then he couldn't resist White worship, (Check earlier blog). Or can we blame it on the casting directors and the established protocol of Hollywood? Are producers like Daniels just as guilty for signing their names on such propaganda? With limited opportunities and often less backing, I guess Blacks in Hollywood have to, "Play the Game." Isn't that what he told Monique?