Tuesday, April 7, 2015

E is For Empire


While I've been... 'enjoying' my forced time off with pinched nerves and bulging disks, over the course of several days I've managed to stream Empire from +Hulu .

Fantastic show.

It has many elements of a Shakespeare tragedy tied into neatly into the modern era and hits subject matter that the bard would have been unaware of.

At its heart, Empire is about family and legacy. About drive and ambition. About pride and making 'hard choices'.

It is the characters that allow Empire to be a fantastic resource for anyone looking to do a character study.

Fist, it's designed to appeal to a wide range of audience.

The cast members are modern royalty. They are members of an upper elite. The children are gifted. They are young. They are driven. They are loved. They have wealth. They are in great shape. They have status. They have power. This gives them an appeal beyond what a standard member of say, "All in the Family" may have. The stories are on a higher plateau, one that has bigger consequences.

For a Fox show, the amount of diversity at least acknowledged, is tremendous. Not all of it plays out well, and some of it may be harmful. But to its credit, it opens a door. Few traditional subjects are not put under a spotlight.

For the patriarch of the family, Lucious Lyons, played by actor Terrance Howard, his is in many ways a vile person. This is in part explained by his upbringings, growing up an orphan on the streets at the tender age of nine. Part of it is his ambition and drive, to leave something behind.

Part of it is his fear. Much like a true tragedy of the darkest era, Lucious is initially given a medical diagnosis that is a death sentence. That in and of itself drives him to push him family against itself in an effort to allow the most worthy heir to step forward.

Competition is one theory in terms of bringing the best goods and services to market. Having more water in the pool to lift all boats is another.

But in terms of how vile Lucious is, we have to look at how his 'standard' sins are. For example, he is a womanizer. This includes cheating on his soon to be wife, as well as his ex-wife.

He is a child beater.

He is a manipulator.

He is a murderer.

He is a drug dealer.

All of these things though, are put into his own perspective.

He is a child beater because his child does not confirm to what he thinks a child should be.

He is a manipulator for other people's benefit. He does it to make them better, according to what he thinks they should be.

He is a murderer because those who he has dealt with, according to him, needed to be dealt with. They were not some random shootings unneeded violence.

He is a drug dealer out of necessity.

Every action, ever step, ever move, one that is countered by his own belief, his own confidence, his own inability in his abilities.

And because he has so much of his own confidence, he manages to maintain a somewhat sympathetic nature.

First, above and beyond anything, he is under a medical no cure death sentence. People with that amount of pressure on them can be driven far beyond what normal people are.

Second, he is old school. He did come up from the streets. Unlike his children, some of who grew up in wealth unlike anything a young Lucious could even hope for, he has a hard edge. His street creed is beyond reproach or question. He has earned his respect.

Third, he does love his family. This may be a horrible love that pushes him to push them, but beyond his own ego, beyond his own ambition, he wants them to have exceeded what he has done. But not too soon.

Fourth is his talent. This is not some con artist. This is not some petty hustler. He carriers himself with earned talent that not only comes from his survival on the streets, but his ability with music, with his talent, with his gift, to rise above those streets. His survival is earned with gun and drug, his ability to leave it behind, with music and talent.

The soundtrack has a lot of variety to it. There are numerous genres represented here allowing people whose music taste vary tremendously, to enjoy it. For example, my 71 year old mother greatly enjoys the R&B styling while I enjoy the cover of Money For Nothing.

Empire deserves several more mentions just to hit on how it deals with homosexuality, mental disease, drug use, and other bits, but for the A to Z Challenge, E is for Empire and you should be watching.