Empire is a hiphop engorged network drama that follows the lives of the Lyon family, the black embodiment of the American dream. Luscious Lyon, the CEO of a multimillion dollar music label called Empire Entertainment, learns he has ALS and decides to leave his company to one of his three sons. Meanwhile, his ex-wife, Cookie Lyon, is released from prison after taking the fall for a drug deal they committed together. Cookie is on the hunt for her share of Empire, but is devoted to her three sons and firmly intends to keep her family from crumbling over greed.
Not only does Empire feature an all black cast, but queerness is a heavy underlying theme throughout the series. Jamal Lyon, one of the three sons, is gay, proud, and fully representative of self-love. Jamal’s identity as a gay hip hop artist and son of a black man are inseparable, and his outspoken stance on black queerness both in the show and outside of it are powerful to watch.
The show has unquestionable issues. The Lyons family is, after all, extraordinarily wealthy and their struggles are always shown against a backdrop of privilege. Despite their meager beginnings, the show focuses on the present time and thus raises questions as to what storyline requirements are necessary for a black network drama to gain such high viewership. Nevertheless, it is refreshing to see folk of color struggling and thriving together. Plus, the music is damn good.
Read The Root’s interview with the director, Wendy Calhoun here.