Jussie Smollett: My Thoughts

Anyone that’s rocked with my blog from the beginning knows how much I love Empire, considering that the very first blog post I published was about the show.  One of the things I loved about Empire is that it introduced me to Jussie Smollett aka Jamal Lyon.  Jamal instantly became my favorite character on the show, and I looked forward to seeing him each week (still do, to be honest).  So when I heard that Jussie was the victim of a hate crime in late Jan., I was horrified.  I was especially horrified when I saw the threatening note that Jussie received before his attack:

NOTE:  THE FOLLOWING IMAGE IS EXTREMELY OFFENSIVE.  IT IS NOT INTENDED FOR WORK OR TO BE VIEWED AROUND CHILDREN.

hate letter

We’ve all heard the story at this point:  first Jussie received the hate letter, and sometime later, he was accosted by two men after leaving a Subway restaurant at 2:00 AM in Chicago.  The men poured some type of chemical substance on Jussie that was believed to be bleach, wrapped a noose around his neck and before leaving they shouted, “This is MAGA country!” In all honesty, news of the attack brought me back to when Matthew Shepard was attacked by a gang of homophobic men back in 1998, and subsequently killed.   That same day, I rushed to my blog and started writing about how my heart went going out to Jussie, and how I no longer recognized the world I lived in.  However, in the midst of writing the article, something gave me pause, and it wasn’t just my aggravating ass sinuses.  I decided to fall back for a few days.

When I first saw that picture of Jussie in the hospital, I noted that although his face appeared to be swollen, he only had one scratch under his eye.  That was a minimal injury for a man that was attacked by two other men.  In spite of that, I still continued to give Jussie the benefit of the doubt, thinking that he may have had other injuries that weren’t caught on camera.  Then I saw other people—namely Trump supporters at this point—doubting the story, asking what the heck was Jussie doing out at 2:00 AM, and why would dudes wearing MAGA hats be waiting around in sub-zero temperatures with bleach and a noose?  Although some of the other commentary they provided—which I’ll gladly omit from this post—irritated me, I had to admit to myself that they brought up some very valid points.  Then, the police made it known that there was no video at all of the attack, despite the incident occurring in a well surveilled area.  That started to cause the African-American and LGBTQ community to have doubts as well.

Jussie Smollett in Hospital (Alt)

As the tide started to turn on Jussie, more and more inconsistencies began to come to light, such as Jussie initially refusing to turn over his phone records to the police, and then when he finally did, the information was redacted.   Then there was the fact that he returned to his hotel room with the noose still wrapped around his neck and that the bleach that was poured on Jussie didn’t freeze, despite it being under 0ºF outside (according to multiple websites on Google, bleach freezes anywhere from 27ºF to 15ºF).  I still tried to give Jussie the benefit of the doubt, remembering that he never did anything ratchet or had any real type of drama before all this, and there was no reason for him to create a lie about being assaulted.

Despite that fact, more and more people began to question Jussie’s word, and I was starting to have some doubts myself.   There were just too many aspects of this case that weren’t adding up.  On top of everything else, it was revealed that Jussie had a past brush with the law back in 2007.  He was arrested for a DUI and claimed to be his brother—he even signed his brother’s name on the arrest warrant (R. Kelly, anyone?)!   Then the ultimate happened.  The actual assailants were arrested.  It turns out they weren’t Caucasian racists that were all about making America great again.  They were big, buff Nigerian brothers that knew Jussie personally.  It turns out one of the brothers worked as an extra on Empire during the second season.   To add insult to injury, the men freely admitted that Jussie hired them to attack him, paying them $3,500.00 each.  When the cops raided their apartment, the evidence was damning, turning up ropes, bleach and ski masks.  If that’s not bad enough, a surveillance video from a store was later brought to light, showing the brothers purchasing MAGA hats, ski masks and rope (I guess they decided not to wear the hats at the last minute).

Jussie Smollett - Nigerian Brothers (Alt)

After this last bit of news came to light, Jussie was indicted by a grand jury and officially made a suspect in his own “attack.”  He surrendered himself to Chicago police and if found guilty, he could face up to 3 years in jail.  Naturally, the internet found his doggone mugshot and posted it at the speed of damn light.  He’s since posted his $10,000.00 bond.

Jussie Smollet - Mugshot 2 (Alt)

This case makes me angry for many reasons.  As I said previously, I wholeheartedly believed Jussie’s story at first.  I mean, who would lie about being attacked?  Even with the fact that the police weren’t contacted right away and his baffling story about a 2:00 AM Subway run, I still believed what he said could be true.  To be honest, weirder things have happened.  I hail from South Carolina, where Susan Smith drove her car into a lake to drown her two young children because…reasons.  Oh yeah, and she tried to pin the blame on a black man before she was ultimately busted.  When I was 12, I remember hearing the tale of Lorena Bobbit, who was so fed up with her husband’s abuse that she waited until the dead of night to slice his dick off.  John Bobbit’s junk was later reattached.  Just recently, in Jacksonville, FL, a man shot a woman he paid $5.00 and a can of Pringles to because the services he paid for weren’t up to his standards.  Dude, you paid five bucks and a can of chips.  So yeah, a man (a bachelor at that) going out late at night in colder than cold Chicago for food and getting attacked on the way back home isn’t that farfetched to me.  A lot of other people didn’t think so either, seeing the outpouring of support Jussie received when the story first broke.

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Now it’s come to light that this was all orchestrated.  The letter was created to bring attention, and when it didn’t create the spark that was intended, Jussie allegedly decided to go bigger and better.  Now all of us that were supporting him feel like damn fools.  A good many Trump supporters have decided to come out of the woodwork to either holler out “See how the left is,” “I told you so,” or to swear up and down that the Make America Great Again slogan isn’t related to anything racist, and this whole thing was a conspiracy that was cooked up the evil, dirty ass Democrats.

What’s even worse is that now when a man or woman is attacked in this country for being black, gay, or both, when it’s reported the authorities and general public will look at it with a degree of skepticism, possibly going as far as to treat the real victim as a suspect.

I don’t know what the hell Jussie was thinking with this stunt.  If he thought the cops were too stupid to figure out what he was doing, he was dead wrong.  Creating this attack to gain attention worked, but now he’s getting attention he may not have wanted.  His name has now pretty much become synonymous with “liar,” and he’s getting drug by his pretty hair by Black Twitter.  Here’s just a few of the memes:

Jussie Smollet - Lying Meme 2 (Alt)Jussie Smollett - Crying Jordan (Alt)Jussie Smollett - Gay Tupac (Alt)Jussie Smollett - Oppression Meme (Alt)Jussie Smollett - Scooby Doo (Alt)

Fox released a statement saying that Jussie was not going to be written off Empire (a rumor was going around saying this attack was staged because Jussie was cut from the show), but the possibility of him being fired from the show later has increased, no doubt.  Fox has already released a statement saying that he won’t be featured on the last two episodes of the season.  If they cut Jamal from the show, I really don’t know if I’ll continue watching it, considering that he was always my favorite character.  Hell, even if he’s not officially written off, he’ll have a mighty hard time filming the series if he’s convicted and ends up in prison.  If Jussie gets off or ends up serving a lighter sentence like probation or community service, his career is dead in the water at this point anyway.  People will never forgive him for this ruse, and if they—by some miracle—do, they damn sure won’t forget it.

Being completely honest, there’s still a small part of me that hopes that this is all a conspiracy and Jussie was telling the truth all along.  If that were the case, I’d happily put my foot in mouth and retract my statement.  But common sense and mounting evidence continue to refute that small hope.  It’s just been reported that the police recovered text messages between Jussie and one of the brothers, and have an actual check for $3,500.00 in their possession.  *Sigh*

I still love Jamal Lyon, and there’s a small part of me that still loves Jussie Smollett as well…but I have to give him a serious side eye for his shenanigans.

Kandi - The Lies (Alt)

—Written by Nadiya

So what do y’all think about this whole Jussie Smollett situation?  Do you think he’s innocent or guilty?  Do you believe there’s enough evidence to convict him?   Do you think this crime has serious repercussions for black and/or gay people?  Are you still a fan of his after this?  Will you tune into Empire when it returns to TV?  Let me know in the comments section!

 

UPDATE: Freda Comes Closer to Finding Her Father’s Killer

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Okay…that title is misleading.  Very misleading.  I just thought it sounded cool.  In truth, Freda hasn’t come closer to figuring out who killed her father.  As a matter of fact, that child is completely clueless.  However…(SPOILER ALERT!!!) Cookie recently learned who Freda’s dad was, and it’s now becoming an actual conflict on the show.  Gone are the days when Freda and Lucious would be in the studio together lost in their pseudo father-daughter type bond and the very mention—or even hint—of Frank Gathers or the fact that Lucious had him murdered would fail to come up.  Now, Cookie no longer wants Freda around her sons, judging that once she puts two and two together about her father and Lucious, her wrath may be incurred on them in retaliation.  That presents a problem within itself, seeing as Hakeem and Jamal are now working on a song with Freda.

In my previous post, I mentioned that “Empire” has been guilty of missed opportunities as of late, and I hoped that Freda eventually learning that Lucious killed her father wouldn’t be one of them.  After last night’s episode aired, I see that this is one opportunity that the writers may take advantage of, and I’m all for it!  Let’s hope that this tension is stretched out for a while to make the characters, as well as the audience, feel the pressure.  Lucious made a bad situation worse by going after his murdered enemy’s daughter for a paycheck, now let’s see how he handles things when he meal ticket turns on him in the worst way possible.

Man, I can’t wait for that!  Don’t disappoint me.

—-Written by Nadiya

“Empire” Ain’t What It Used to Be

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From the time the very first episode aired, I have been hooked on “Empire.”  The first season was so mesmerizing.  A crooked music mogul, an ex-wife looking for her fair share of the dynasty she helped create, all kinds of family and business drama going on within the home as well as the company—what was not to love?  One of the things I really enjoyed about “Empire” is that it was so reminiscent of The Lion in Winter.

In The Lion in Winter, King Henry II has an empire to protect, and is tasked with passing it on to one of his three sons once he leaves this mortal coil, just like Lucious Lyon.  His youngest son, John, was the favorite, but he was extremely spoiled and undisciplined, and was in no way fit to run the kingdom.  We all know that description fits Hakeem.  His oldest son, Richard the Lionheart, was clearly the best man for the job.  However, Henry disliked him because Richard was not only close to his mother Eleanor (more on her later), but he was also a homosexual.  The only difference between Richard and Jamal is that Jamal is not the oldest child in the TV series.  Then, there was the middle son, Geoffrey.  Geoffrey was smart as a whip and cunning…and his dad barely noticed him.  That of course, is Andre.  Last but not least, is Eleanor, Henry’s estranged wife.  Eleanor spent the last few years locked away in a dungeon and has come back to raise hell and let her presence be known…and to say she does it effectively would be an understatement.  Eleanor plots against Henry constantly, but it’s clear she’s still in love with him, just as he is with her.  She hates his new mistress, and although she’s not crazy about how her sons have turned out, she lets it be known that she loves them and wants the best for them as well.  If I have tell you who represents Eleanor on the show, you’re clearly not a fan.

It was so cool to see a medieval story converted to a contemporary drama.  More so than that, as an African-American woman, it was even better to see a series with black people that was so compelling and smartly written.  To top it all off, the music was slammin’!  I have so many songs from the series on my IPod, it’s not even funny.  Then, something happened.  “Empire” seemed to lose its way.

It started around last year’s season finale, and ever since then, “Empire” hasn’t quite found its groove again.  Lately, I find myself getting more psyched to see “Underground” on Wednesdays than “Empire” (if y’all haven’t seen “Underground” yet, I highly recommend you watch it.  Wednesday nights at 10:00 PM EST on WGN, baby).  Why, you ask?  Well, let me break it down a bit for you.

The Villains Aren’t Real Threats

When the second season first started, the first villain we were introduced to was Chris Rock’s character, Frank Gathers.  Frank was supposed to be the Voldemort of street crime, so I really intrigued to see how Chris would play this out.  Sadly, the brother barely lasted two episodes before Lucious took him out.  Next, Ludacris came on the scene as a dirty correctional officer taking orders from the equally dirty DA, Roxanne Ford (played by Tyra Ferrell, aka Ricky and Doughboy’s mama.  I love Boyz ‘N the Hood!).  When Lucious learned he was a threat, Luda didn’t last one episode.  Once again, I wanted to see what would unfold between these two, and I was cheated (although interestingly enough, this is the third time Ludacris has gone toe-to-toe with Terrance Howard and lost; see Crash and Hustle and Flow).  It’s been happening with all the antagonists this season.  Before we really have a chance to see these villains shine, they’re taken off the show.  On the last episode (SPOILER ALERT!!), Camilla (Naomi Campbell) killed her lovely wife Mimi (Marisa Tomei), and Lucious miraculously managed to record the murder.  After letting her know that he would bring his evidence to the police, he gave Camilla the option to kill herself…and she took it.  Camilla just took over Empire, and once again, we didn’t have the chance to see her play the game of cat and mouse with the Lyon family as we hoped.

Missed Opportunities

Earlier this season, Hakeem was kidnapped, and the previews led me to believe that the following episode would show Lucious and Cookie release their rage on everyone in the city to find him.  Needless to say, I couldn’t wait for the next week to come!  Instead, Hakeem was locked away for the first 5-7 minutes of the show, released, had unprotected sex with Anika (big mistake), and went through an extremely brief period of PTSD because when he was taken, “he didn’t do anything.”  Yeah.  That could’ve been handled better.  Another example is the show’s treatment of the Roxanne Ford situation.  When she found Vernon’s rotten corpse in her car, that was end of her campaign to bring Lucious down (which goes back to my first point).  I don’t know why it wasn’t further explored that Vernon was killed by a blow to the back of the head.  She could’ve easily had Lucious brought up on murder charges (although Rhonda is the guilty one).  That would’ve been really interesting to watch.  Another great plot point would be Freda Gatz finally learning that her mentor (Lucious) was the one that killed her father (Frank Gathers).  I’m hoping that opportunity doesn’t slip by.

Some Storylines Are Just…Unbelievable

Hakeem is a stud and not one, not two, but three women are in love with him!?  Then, two out of the three aren’t even his age!  Don’t get me wrong, Hakeem is cute and all, and I can suspend my disbelief with the best of them, but I seriously doubt a 19 year old would have a 40-something and a 30-something’s nose that wide open, especially a 19 year old that’s as immature as Hakeem.  True, he’s improved since the first season, but he still has a long way to go.  And I’m sorry, I’ll probably be bashed for this, but I didn’t buy Jamal’s hookup with Skye (Alicia Keys).  Yes, they made a cute couple and I get the whole “sexuality is fluid” argument, but Jamal had no interest in women before!  His forced marriage to Raven Symoné’s character ended in complete disaster.  Yeah, he was intimate with her once, but I’m sure that was to placate Lucious, who we all know is the poster child of homophobia.  Now, out of the blue, he’s drawn to Skye and sleeps with her?  Nah.  Lastly, there’s Rhonda’s attack.  I know that the writers are trying to keep us all in suspense as to who actually pushed her down the stairs (my money’s still on Anika), but no matter who the actual culprit is, who the hell would commit assault wearing Louboutins?  Wouldn’t sneakers be a bit more appropriate?  It’s hard to run in dress shoes, and that includes flats (I don’t know about y’all, but flats kill my feet)!

Rapid Fire Drama

Lucious is in jail, then he’s not.  Jamal is CEO, then he steps down.  Lucious takes over, but he loses the company to Hakeem.  Now Lyon Dynasty (originally Cookie and Hakeem’s company) has merged with Empire.  Then, if that’s not enough, the gays feel betrayed by Jamal, Andre is relapsing into another mental break, Anika’s pregnant (and scheming), Hakeem is betraying Camilla while bedding Laura (and planning on bedding some other hootchie mamas later, apparently), and now a war’s starting to erupt between Lucious and Jamal thanks to Big Daddy runnin’ his mouth about what happened with Skye.  Great day, that’s a lot.  Y’all, the concept of having too much of a good thing actually does exist.  When too much happens too quickly and it’s not really fluid and just thrown at you, it just feels like excess.  Think of it like this:  if you sit down to have one bowl of ice cream, that’s a great treat.  But if you eat the entire quart or gallon of ice cream in one sitting, you’re going to have some messy results.

Despite all these points I’ve made, “Empire” still remains among one of my favorite shows.  It’s still entertaining, but now that the initial storyline has been all but forgotten, it’s not the edge-of-your-seat show it once was.  I’m not the only person that’s noticed.  According to Variety and The Hollywood Reporter, the series hit a ratings low in November of last year.  So is “Empire” a one trick pony?  My answer is no.  It was brilliant once, and I’m certain it can be brilliant again.  Hey, even the late great David Bowie had to put his nose back to the grind and re-calibrate his focus once or twice.

—-Written by Nadiya

So what do y’all think about “Empire”?  Do you think it’s lost something or do you believe it’s still the same great show it always was?  Did you agree with anything in my long winded post (sorry, y’all.  I’m wordy)?  Please discuss and let me know!  I welcome all comments!  Thanks!