One scholar believes that “Empire” has done nothing more than promote racially stereotypical casting in Hollywood.
Not everyone was living for all of the delicious drama on “Empire” every week. Dr. Boyce Watkins told CNN during a panel discussion that he doesn’t think Fox’s hit show has done anything to expand the black narrative on TV thus limiting the kinds of roles that black actors can land.
“A lot of black actors and actresses are just tired of being put in the ‘entertainment ghetto,’” Boyce stated. “The entertainment ghetto is basically the place where you have roles that are shows that are specifically designed for black people, where black actors are kind of locked into.”
In his opinion, although “Empire” is popular, it is nothing more than modern coonery. Anchor Don Lemon pointed out that other mainstream prime time soap operas like “Dynasty” and “Falcon Crest” also succeeded on featuring high-powered, dramatic characters.
“This is not ‘Dynasty.’ This not ‘Falcon Crest.’ This is ‘I am gonna slap yo bitch ass because I am from the hood,’” Boyce argued. “It is very different.”
He added that shows like “Empire” ultimately stays within the narrow confines of ghetto characters no matter how successful they are portrayed to be.
“Remember, if you are black and you want to play roles that involve being a thug, a hoodrat, a gangsta, a killer, or a criminal, there are plenty of roles for you in Hollywood,” said Boyce. “You can’t compare it say to a show like ‘Black-ish,’ where Black people actually get to be human.”
Michelle Turner countered his position by pointing out that “Empire” contained some very diverse roles for the actors on the show that went beyond the stereotypical parts that other shows might cast for.
“Yes, you have Lucious, who came from the hood, and Cookie who came from the hood, but they have a son who is Ivy League-educated,” she said, conceding that there are some hood characters on “Empire.”
She pointed to Lyons’ sons as examples of how the series wasn’t just about a loud family from the hood.
“They have a son who is gay and who is coming out but he is the most talented one in that family. It is a very diverse family,” she explained. “If you are calling it ‘coonery,’ then you might be calling the Turner family coonery, because I have a lot of these folks in my family.”