I have been reading media and magazine articles on the stereotypes that are evident in three hot African-American shows…Empire, Scandal, and Power. I was excited like everyone else when Fox channel 11 announced they were hiring Lee Daniels to create an African-American series which included Taraji P. Henson and Terrence Howard. The show was described as this African-American family who would fight to keep their record company alive, relevant, and to groom their children to run the company. The show description sound exciting and very interesting; nothing like this has been done before on TV. Sure we had the Cosby show, Different World, and a few other comedy shows but they were not drama or romance. Yet it wasn’t what I expected at all! An African-American family that back stabs each other every chance they get, using sex to get what they want, African-American community painted as homophobic, light-skin women as the beauties and dark skin women as loud, and killing love ones to keep quiet!
I was happy to see ABC channel 7 come out with Scandal starring Kerry Washington. The show creator Shonda Rhimes who is an African-American woman and is a well-known writer and creator of Grey’s Anatomy. I just knew that this show would catch my attention especially after hearing about the plot which is based on Kerry Washington character “Olivia Pope” who owns a crisis management firm that cleans up the messes of the elite. The twist is that she is having an affair with the President of the United States. I was disappointed in seeing Kerry play a side piece and not having a man of her own!
Power which is Starz’s breakout show created by rapper 50 Cent which stars Omari Hardwick and Naturi Naughton from the girl group 3LW. Omari’s character “Ghost” plays a bigtime drug dealer that wants to go straight and focus on his club plus be with his first love who happens to be a district attorney. I forgot to mention that Ghost is married with three kids and cheating on his wife. Sure the character is a drug dealer but he is one of the top dogs and he is trying to get out of the hustling business and go legit. My problem with this show is that “Ghost” who is African-American and is married to an African-American woman but can’t stay committed to her because he wants his non-Black first love. Again, another stereotype that an African-American man looks at African-American women as second best and is willing to ruin his family to be with his non-Black woman.
The African-American characters in Scandal and Power are smart, sexy, attractive, well dressed, and well spoken. However, the African-Americans in Empire are loud, rude, offensive at times, and more aligned with stereotypes that I am annoyed with on a daily basis. Scandal shows a strong educated African-American woman who calls the shots and the elite come to her for help which has never been shown on TV! However, I just hate seeing the stereotype of an African-American woman having to be the side piece and not having her own partner. This is a typical stereotype in the African-American community that doesn’t need to be glorified anymore!
Yes, there are shows with non-Black characters that cheat on each other, lie, and kill each other. However, the non-Black shows tend to offer great friends, great family, positive viewpoints, and the men and women characters doing whatever it takes to hold the family together. Plus, non-Black shows have been around forever! I am tired of the first African-American dramas being about deceit, crime, killing, cheating, backstabbing each other, and talking like a sailor to win over non-Black audiences and Emmy’s! We deserve to see us as dedicated family men and women, successful business owners without backstabbing our family, and not being the educated side piece. I think this is why shows like the Cosby show, A Different World, Good Times, Jefferson’s, Sanford & Son, and the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air were successful because they should us family, love, business owners, professionals, husbands dedicated to their families, and the importance of education. We need to stop taking half-ass hand-outs from mainstream networks. We need to invest in African-American channels that are willing to tell our stories in a respectful manner.
I am tired of seeing rap, fur coats, obnoxious attitudes, disrespectful language, using sex as a toy, no real partner, the African-American characters (male or female) not desiring each other, not respecting the family, rude to each other, no class, characters in jail, and competing with each other. I think we need better writers and characters. Morris Chestnut new show “Rosewood” has potential but its like Fox channel 11 doesn’t want to invest in a positive character. Morris Chestnut plays a high-level pathologist who solves murder cases in Miami, Florida and is single without kids. The story series is weak due to no talented writing for the show. Why create a show and not fully invest in it? This is just another way of saying we tried to do positive shows but stereotypes works better!
I will give an honorable mention to Viola Davis who stars in Shonda Rhimes series called “How to get away with murder” which she plays a law professor along with her five students get caught up in a murder plot which is about her students killing her cheating husband and her trying to help them hide the murder…again, another broken marriage when it comes to African-American shows. I love Viola Davis and felt she deserve to win so many other nominations including her recent Emmy win especially since it was between Taraji P. Henson character “Cookie” and Viola Davis character “Annalise”. If I had to pick between the two, my vote went to Viola. Cookie is a character that is a stereotype and I am tired of seeing that specific character on TV!
I do feel that these shows keep the stereotype alive! The public would be so upset if we kept portraying gay men as wimps, dressing in outrageous outfits, flirting with every man they see, sleeping around, love make-up, and always a hairdresser on a show! This rule applies to African-Americans too! Stop portraying us in half-ass roles and give us something different! Please give Morris Chestnut show a real chance with decent writers. Shonda Rhimes is probably the best writer out there with Scandal and How to get away with murder! Lee Daniels in my book is marketing off the so-called Black stereotypes which is worse when it’s your people making money by building wealth on stereotypes that hurt and offend the community. I don’t think Dr. Martin L. King or Malcolm X was hoping that we pride ourselves as stereotypes on TV!
We can’t ask for respect if we keep supporting shows that portray us in a negative light! I am one of those people who want to see our talented actors get on shows that will last a long time. I love seeing more people of color on TV but I just hate seeing the same thing all the time! I have tried to support these shows because I was hoping that someone would see that “Black Star Power” is real and can succeed across mainstream! I was hoping that maybe someone will see us as blockbuster talent and put us in romances, positive drama series, and family drama series. By the way…there are many African-Americans that embrace their gay and lesbian family members and there are many white conservatives that hate the homosexual lifestyle so let’s stop painting only the African-American community as homophobic people in shows like Empire!
In the end I am realizing that you are damned if you don’t support these shows and damned if you support them because you are contributing to the so-called stereotypes! However, one thing that I am learning is to speak up and email the channels that refuse to show positive characters! I will try to keep supporting these actors because they need to work and hopefully these actors will speak up and demand better characters and story lines in the near future!