Jussie Smollett rises; alter ego Jamal Lyon takes a dive (#Empire)

Well, first of all, here's the thing: I grew up in the business. I know about homophobia in the music industry — not just in hip-hop. Obviously, we're dealing with homophobia in hip-hop, we're dealing with homophobia in the black community. We're dealing with homophobia in the black community and in hip-hop because we're telling the story of a family that is a hip-hop family that is black. But that in no way is to let any other group of people off the hook, as if this is an isolated issue just simply in the black community. I have Jewish friends, I have Middle Eastern friends, I have Spanish and Italian and British and Scottish and German friends and Austrian friends, and guess what? They all deal with homophobia. It's an earthling epidemic, it's not isolated in the black community. So it's definitely a story that Lee wanted to get out there, and it's a story that I'm proud that we're telling. But this is a universal story of people that are not respected and understood, and we all can relate to that, whether we're gay, straight, bi, transgender.

~ Jussie Smollett (Source)
First of all, actor Jussie Smollett totally wins the internet with this quote because in America, we like to racialize, genderize, sexualize - in short, Otherize - problems in order to avoid actually having to deal with them.  Case in point: Misogyny and homophobia are a big problem in the American music industry?  That's okay.  Just blame hip hop and the black community, and business will comfortably continue as usual.

I'm bringing this up again because of last week's episode of Empire.  If you're a fan of the show, then you know Smollett's alter ego Jamal Lyon has spent years fighting with his father Lucious (Terrence Howard) about his sexuality.  Lucious doesn't believe Jamal can become a big star if he's openly gay.  Jamal disagrees.  He repeatedly proves he has more musical talent than his father; Jamal can make other artists sound hot as well as himself, and he can teach musicians while recording a new track at the same time.

Jamal is also the only one of Lucious's children to declare his "obedience is no longer for sale"; he spits on his father's (considerable) money and bounces off to live on his own with his boyfriend Michael.  And after living in ratchet holes and recording tracks in bullet-ridden studios, it looks like Jamal's efforts are starting to pay off.  His song "Keep Your Money" (dedicated to Daddy, of course) is gaining followers, he and his beau are living in a better place now, and he lands a Satellite Radio interview with none other than Sway.

Ahhhh...but there's the rub.  When Sway asks Jamal point-blank what his lady thinks about his newest song, Jamal the fighter, Jamal the rebel, the same Jamal who doesn't care what anyone thinks...fumbles and panics and dodges the question.  He even goes so far to say he's single.  It visibly devastates his boyfriend.

So on the one hand....

Dude, WTF???  You have an army of fans cheering you on every time you tell your Daddy to kiss your ass, or when you tell Cookie that you want to come out publicly.  So what happened, bruh?  You were a powerhouse, unstoppable.  The way you punched that misogynistic lyricist Hakeem with all his bullshit in the stomach and he dropped to the floor and didn't dare try to get back up...the way you didn't bat an eyelash when you had a gun to your head...the way you bellowed into the mic about doing and saying what you want with no apologies....how doth such a mighty man get felled by a mere question, bruh???

Which brings us to....

Do you guys realize just how loaded the boyfriend/girlfriend, are-you-married-or-single question is?  Like, I realize the character Jamal fumbled because, well, that's the script.  This is a nighttime soap and "twists" like these are meant to drag out storylines and create drama.  Okay.  Fine.  I can play the detached writer game...for now anyway.

But really, though...this episode got me thinking, because as an interviewer, I sometimes do it too.  In a psychosocial real-world situation, do people realize just how loaded a question is when they're inquiring about your romantic life?  It seems like there's no right answer.  If they don't flinch at/recoil from your sexual orientation, then they look down on you for being single after "a certain age".  If you're attached, then they start sizing you and your significant other up, and though they don't always admit it allow, one of you is always somehow too good for the other in some way.  And the ones who DO voice their verdict don't realize (or don't care) just how offensive and inappropriate their declaration is.

Something to think about when interacting with people.

Which brings us back to....

Hey, Jamal...for the record, the correct answer to Sway's question was something along the lines of this:

*clears throat*

"I don't actually have a lady, but I do want to give a shout-out to my main man Michael, love of my life, been with me through thick and thin...baby, I know you're watching right now, I love you, miss you, appreciate all of your support, can't wait to see you when I get home."

*drops mic*


  1. I am so freakin glad that Jussie brought this quote up.

    Just the other week, I was reading a review article about Black audience members seeing a test pilot of a scene where Jamal embrace with is on screen boyfriend. The audience reacted negatively to it and caused the test run to dip though the actual ratings remained high.

    Empire is one of the hottest shows on TV,but for some seemingly wishful reason..it was the reporter wanted a decline in ratings with this show. She assumed that just because most of the test audience reacted unfavorably to the kissing scene that somehow people would not watch the episode..WRONG! Another thing that annoyed me about the story was how she asked "Would the Black community be ready for gay scenes?"

    Here is my problem with this reporters insinuations and assumptions: She asked us if we were ready for homosexuality to be in films. When she asked this stupid question I was like OMFG! Honestly, nobody can predict who is/isn't homosexual /homophobic and just because someone watch picture with homosexual scenes in it doesn't make them tolerant of the gay community,but as a whole..they are not going to let it stop them from watching the show as a whole.

    Such assumptions are also contradictory. " Is the Black community ready for gay scenes..?" That keep ringing in my head like I want to ask her " Really?" The problem with her question is that there are two or more shows that Black people look at that contain homosexual love scenes in them. I guess that she forgot about Scandal and HTGAWM and the shows are doing quite well. I can't tell if the audience are against or for the scenes but they are watching ( Maybe "tolerant" would be a word to describe the audience),but if they weren't " ready" for homosexuality to be in pictures, why are more Black people watching these shows? Why are the watching Empire?

    Just like Jussie said, the Black community isn't the only community dealing with the issue of homosexuality. You hear and read about people from around the world who are in hiding, being killed, beaten or jailed for standing up for their right to be freely gay. Just like you just said..our country want to blame their won prejudicial sins on other people and they really trying to make Black people to seem more homophobic.

  2. "Just the other week, I was reading a review article about Black audience members seeing a test pilot of a scene where Jamal embrace with is on screen boyfriend. The audience reacted negatively to it and caused the test run to dip though the actual ratings remained high."

    Hmm...This is the same excuse they used why Aaliyah & Jet li's kiss wasn't shown because of those "Dreaded Black Test Audience Members". It's amazing how much power Black people have in Hollywood. "Sarcasm along with rolling eyes".

    But Jussie hit the nail on it.

  3. I've gotten to a point where I no longer believe these tales about black test audiences. The story always starts an ends the same - network/film studio presents something "controversial", the Negroes don't like it, it hits the airwaves, it's a hit, the Negroes get bashed for (allegedly) being naysayers.

    1. I'm also getting to that point myself. I just laugh when they think that they know Black interests when they really don't. Some people are not fans of Terrence Howard but they do not let it get in the way of watching Empire. If they're going to make predictions about Black audiences,they should make sure that they know us and make sure that there are not any other shows to contradict their assessments.

      Yep, it's definitely a case of being between a rock and a hardplace when it comes to our opinions of stuff. I was just looking at the title that TV the by the numbers-Zap2it had ---" Will Empire ratings rise even higher or will they drip drop?" For the last couple of weeks this question has been asked,it's like they want this series to go down. Why would they even want to have anxious feelings about Empire 's ratings to "drip-drop"? I bet if that would have been Glee or Nashville to have those consistent ratings, they would not be wondering if the shows would " drip-drop". It's eating them up that a majority Black show is doing beyond well.

  4. Soooooooo glad Jamal finally publicly came out! The look on Lucious's face....


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