Wednesday has a winner in Fox’s new show Empire. The show is the brainchild of Lee Daniels, the man behind such movies as “The Butler” and “Precious,”. I must admit when the show first aired I was not interested, I saw how others responded to the show and declared that it wasn’t for me, I was wrong. One day I found myself binge watching because the show was able to pull me in with great storylines and great acting. Defying the usual rules of television, Empire’s ratings have risen each week, it aired on Jan. 7th, with 9.9 million viewers and recently attracted over 11 million. And yet, most viewers are unaware of what they are actually seeing. They are not simply watching a hip hop mogul, Lucious Lyon, fight to grow his empire, they are receiving cultural and religious suggestions.
The show’s characters display a larger than life persona in keeping with some popular reality shows such as Real Housewives of (insert city of your choice) and Love and Hip Hop. The love for power and money is encouraged so much so that three brothers are purposely pitted against each other. The show paints a picture of success as one that involves tailored suits and multiple personal assistants. The desire for power and position is not new, we saw it in the Bible with the disciples arguing over which of them would be the greatest. In an effort to help them understand God’s kingdom Jesus teaches them that the whoever is least is the greatest (Luke 9). Success for Christians has less to do with what we have and more to do with how we serve. As Christians we have to be careful that we do not receive a subtle message that success is equal to money and power. We can watch the show but we must take care to guard our minds.
A major suggestion is seen in the fact that Lyon’s has tension with his gay son, Jamal. The show highlights the harmful actions of homophobia. In one painful scene the son at about age seven is physically picked up by his father and thrown into the trash can for “being a fag”. Clearly this would have a damaging effect on any person gay or straight. When the son becomes an adult, he confronts his father and crawls from under the fathers influence. In this scene I saw the power of subliminal messaging and it bothered me. It bothered me because most of the show is filled with music and hip hop culture until the gay son confronts the father. During this scene there is a glowing cross behind the oppressive fathers head as the son declares no more. Most viewers may have missed the subtle suggestion. The son was not only confronting the father he was confronting the Christian institution that informed the father. The shows creator Daniel’s said he wants to “blow the lid off homophobia” in the African-American community. For Daniel the theme is close to home because he was the gay son and his father was an oppressive homophobic.
We may like the show and the characters in the show but as Christians we should be careful to protect our minds against subliminal suggestions. We are to guard our minds the Bible encourages us to contend for, “The faith which was once and for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3 NKJ).