Empire

Poor Taraji P Henson.

Since being nominated for an Academy Award in 2008, Henson’s career has seemed to be a rollercoaster of ups and downs. Nothing significant has taken off for her. But this can be said for the majority of Oscar-nominated/winning Black women actresses. Unlike their white female counterparts, they tend to struggle. There’s been hope for Viola Davis (nominated for Academy Awards for her performances in “Doubt” and “The Help) and Lupita Nyong’o (Academy Award winner for her role as Patsey in “12 Years a Slave”). Davis is currently starring on the hit show “How To Get Away With Murder” and Nyong’o is slated to star in an adaption of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie‘s “Americanah,” “Star Wars: Episode 7,” and “The Jungle Book.”

Henson’s acting is definitely on caliber with these women, so it’s surprising she hasn’t had her own big breakout opportunity. She may have found it in “Empire.” “A unique family drama set in the world of a hip hop empire.”http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3228904/

I watched “Empire” on Hulu this past weekend. I thought it was okay. Also, I’m a bit turned off with Terrance Howard these days. I used to think he was a great actor, but he comes across as one-note these days. And it doesn’t help that he seems to have misogynistic feelings about women/allegations of abuse. But Henson did bring the heat with her “Cookie” character. She really is the star of the show.

There’s been criticism that “Empire” feeds into stereotypes about black folks. Well, of course it does, it’s on the FOX Network. But I also think “Empire” is just trying to capitalize on the current adult drama craze that mixes thriller/sex/murder/power/vengeance that can be found in shows like “How to Get Away with Murder,” “Scandal,” “Revenge,” “Deception,”  etc.

Besides side-eyeing Howard, I’ve also been side-eyeing some of the comments made by one of the creators of the show…Lee Daniels.  One of his goals  with the  show is to address homophobia in the hip hop community. Okay, cool. But his rhetoric has basically been  that the black community is more homophobic than other communities, which is not true. If that were the case, white LGBTQI folks would have wonderful coming out stories, which they don’t. The issue of homophobia is a problem in all communities.

It will be interesting to see where the “Empire” storyline goes. If it will even survive a season. It’s all over the map, right now. Henson deserves so much more, so hopefully it works out for her.

When People Show You Who They Are…

“I think they are prejudiced upon even from the African Americans too. I think that the reason we have AIDS…I did a movie called ‘Previous’ and when I was doing the research for ‘Precious,’ I walked into the gay mens health crisis center in New York City and I expected to see studying [of] AIDS and HIV, I expected to see a room full of gay men, but there are nothing but women that are there – black women with kids, I thought I had walked into the welfare office – but they service black women with AIDS, why? “Because black men can’t come out. Why? Because you simply can’t do it. Your family says it, your church says it, your teachers say it, your parents say it, your friends say it, your work says it. And so you’re living on this DL thing and you’re infecting black women.”–Lee Daniels

Umm,  so many things wrong with this statement. (1) the stereotype the black community is more homophobic than other communities (2) associating a welfare office with black women.

I used to defend the movie “Precious.” Unlike other folks who only saw the movie, I had read the book.  Many black moviegoers were upset at what they perceived to be a stereotypical black characters. The book is a complex journey of a young black woman who struggles to overcome her invisibility at home/society. Maybe,  that’s why the book resonated with me.  As a black woman living in a system of whitesupremacist capitalist patriarchy, there is always the challenge of getting people to “see me.” While I have never been abused like Precious,  I understand this can be reality for SOME black folks.  I was not offended by the book or  the movie.

But, after reading Daniels’s comments, I ‘m now unsure.   It’s obvious Daniels has hatred/low opinion of black women (I mean, why would a welfare office be the first thing to pop in your mind?) It’s hard not to believe  that his misplaced anger hasn’t creeped into his films.  Maybe  that’s why Mo’Nique’s character was so extreme.  Maybe that’s why Daniels casted Paula Patton as Ms. Rain, when she is clearly described in the book as a dark-skinned/natural haired black woman. The point was that Precious sees this confident/intelligent black woman (her reflection) and decides she wants more out of life. Maybe this concept was hard for Daniels to grasp. Two (dark) black women loving/bonding in sisterhood/rejecting their oppression.

But, why am I surprised? I mean, this is the same man who made “Monster’s Ball.” A film about an abusive black mother, who sleeps with the white executioner of her black husband. Blah…

 “The Butler” won’t be getting my money. oh well, it’s been getting poor reviews anyway.