This week we saw the debut of a highly anticipated show starring two Oscar nominated actors, Terrance Howard and Taraji P. Henson. Empire tells the story of ailing hip hop mogul, Lucious Lyon (Howard), and his running of a hip hop empire that he has to eventually pass on to one of his three sons all while dealing with his recently released from 17 years of prison ex-wife Cookie Lyon (Henson), who is coming for the business she helped fund (which is also the reason why she went to prison in the first place).
You would think that the growing number of black lead TV shows would get nothing but love, especially from the black community and especially from other black entertainers, but it seems instead of applauding the fact that a show like Empire even got a pilot to air, people are already calling it a copycat of the 50 Cent backed Starz original Power, starring Omari Hardwick. And by people I mean 50 Cent himself.
My question at the “end of the day” with all of the criticizing and accusing that seems to be going on, “Can’t we all just get along?”
I want to talk not about the premise of the show or the acting or the story line of the first episode (I’ll save that for another post) but about the controversy surrounding the show involving comments by 50 first. According to several media outlets, he took to his Instagram and other social media accounts throwing shade at the show from the plot to the promos, claiming that it is a pretty much a copy of Power. He even, according to sources, put a picture of Howard and Hardwick side by side and said, “Ladies you be the judge.” Furthermore he said “…I don’t like that they would copy the marketing.” Henson, not one to be punked, replied to Twitter comments posed to her by fans with “I pay attention to $’s NOT cents.”
Now, the newest reports are that it was all in fun and there are no hard feelings from either sides, but my issue is what seems to plague the black community and serves as one of the reason’s why we truly can’t get ahead – there are too many haters. Why can we all not just be happy for someone who has their own thing going on? Whether it is like ours or has elements of what we are doing should not be the focus but instead, we should support the endeavors because one person “making it” helps another to make it and so on.
Please don’t get me wrong here, we all know when someone is down right copying us. We can see it and feel it. After watching the show and being a follower of Power, though, I don’t believe that Empire is a copycat at all. There are a few elements that may seem to be similar, but it is truly a totally different show completely.
Black people have got to get off the whole, “I did it first” kick when it comes to business ventures. We are always so quick to try to keep from others in our community the ins and outs of how we “made it” for fear of …idk… competition? I mean why could 50 not take the influence he has and lend it to helping the show be a success in a good way? Why does it have to be, “oh they are just biting my style?”
What we have to realize and understand is something that Phylicia Rashad said this week when she broke her silence on the Bill Cosby debacle. She said point black that the attack on Cosby is an orchestrated tear down of his legacy. A legacy that he spent years building is being destroyed by whomever for whatever reason. But it is not just his, it is ours too. His work and his accomplishments belong to the black community just as much as it does to him personally and the fact that it is being tainted, taints us.
Building each other up is the key to all of our success, especially when it comes to television and the entertainment industry. Chris Rock said it so perfectly recently in his interview with The Hollywood Reporter, “Hollywood is a white industry.” So why, as a black person who has found a voice in this industry, would you down another black created show (Lee Daniels is behind it) with two of the top rated black actors in the business, 50 cent?
We have to seek to build a black Hollywood empire that truly makes the moves and waves that will affect the change needed for more talented black creators to create. There is such a strong power in doing so and if that understanding can be our go to notion each time a new show with black headliners gets picked up, it will make all the difference in our community and our world.