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.

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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!

 

Top 10 LGBT Films

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What’s up, y’all?

Today’s blog post may stir up some controversy, but as I promised, I’m going to keep it 100% with y’all.  The LGBT community is a part of life, and deserves some recognition.  What better way to do that than to post my very first top 10 list of my favorite movies that are LGBT themed?  And yes, some of these films I’ve watched have been written off as, “Oh, that’s gay.  I’m not watchin’ that.”  Yes, these movies are gay, but they’re damn good, and I highly recommend them.  So, let’s get on and poppin’!

10.  Rent

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I remember first hearing about Rent when I was in 8th grade, and I really wanted to see the play.  I never had the chance to go to Broadway as teenager though, so I settled for the film when it was released on DVD.  The movie is really great, and delivers powerful messages about friendship, love and dealing with the AIDS virus.  The songs are also on point.  Idina Menzel loans her vocal talents to the film (this is before she struck worldwide fame in Frozen).  Rosario Dawson and Tracie Thoms sing their butts off, too (and they said they didn’t think they had great singing voices!  Girl, bye!).  I have to say though, if you’re not into musicals, this movie may not be for you.  The songs stay stuck in your head for years, and years, and years.  Trust me, nine years after I watched this film, I still remember just about all of the lyrics.  No lie.

9.  Kinky Boots

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This film stars Chiwetel Ejiofor (one of my favorite actors, by the way), as a drag queen named Lola, that befriends a reluctant shoemaker named Charlie.  Charlie just inherited his father’s shoe factory and wants no parts of it, especially considering that the boring shoes he and his workers make hardly sell.  Lola pitches him a wild idea:  sell high heeled boots made specifically for transvestites and drag queens.  This movie is extremely funny, and as usual, Chiwetel Ejiofor does an outstanding performance.  I especially loved the ending (I won’t spoil it for y’all).  Another thing I loved is that there’s a scene where David Bowie’s original version of “The Prettiest Star” is played.  Y’all know I love David Bowie.

8.  The Crying Game

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OMG…I remember when this movie came out.  I was still in elementary school, and every time I turned on the TV, someone was talking about The Crying Game.  There wasn’t a soul (and I believe some of my classmates were talking about it, too) that wouldn’t shut up about how Dill, the leading lady, actually had a pickle.  A few years later, my mom and I checked the movie out for ourselves, and we were pleasantly surprised.  It’s a tense thriller, with an unorthodox love story, and I’m a sucker for love stories.  Y’all wanna know something else cool about this film?  Dill’s hair.  That child had some beautiful hair, and it sucks what happened to it towards the end (once again, I won’t spoil it).

7.  Dallas Buyers Club

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In 2014, I made it my business to check out nearly all the Oscar nominees for Best Picture.  Captain Phillips didn’t really do much for me until the end (Tom Hanks killed the ending).  American Hustle bored me a bit.  I couldn’t sit through Gravity (admittedly, I’m thinking about giving that one another chance…maybe).  12 Years a Slave was good, but damn depressing, and The Wolf of Wall Street was wild as all hell (but I still enjoyed it)!  Then there was Dallas Buyers Club.  For the longest time, I refused to watch it, because I knew it would depress me.  Then one night, it came on HBO…and I actually wasn’t depressed.  I was moved, and ironically enough, the Oscar movie nominee I thought I’d despise was actually the one I liked best.  Seeing a homophobic, ne’er do well promiscuous man use his fatal diagnosis to transform himself into a sensitive philanthropist sent a very powerful message.  Not only that, but I loved seeing how the relationship between Ron and Rayon (Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto, respectively) goes from one of animosity to true friendship.  Check it out if you haven’t already.

6.  The Birdcage

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The premise:  Robin Williams’ son is getting married to a young lady with a conservative political family, so he and his fiancée fail to tell her mother and father that his parents are actually a gay couple that run a drag club in Miami Beach.  Think that’s weird enough?  The conservative parents make a trip to Miami to meet their future son-in-law’s family, including his “mother”…who’s actually Nathan Lane in drag.  Y’all, this movie is so hilarious that I watch it every time it comes on, and when I do, I laugh so hard my side hurts.  Everyone in the movie gives a great performance, and there’s never a boring moment.

5.  The Rocky Horror Picture Show

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VH1 played this movie for its 20th anniversary when I was in 9th grade (which shows how old I am), and it scared the shit out of me.  Why?  Because Meat Loaf got chopped up with a pick ax midway through the movie.  Hey, I love Meat Loaf (the man, not the dish.  Actually, I can’t stand that kind of meatloaf).  I didn’t touch this movie with a ten foot pole until I was in my late 20’s or early 30’s, and after I was done laughing my behind off, I couldn’t believe I was actually afraid of it (the red lips against the black background in the opening credits still creep me out, though)!  Most of y’all know the plot:  Brad and Janet (Barry Bostwick and Susan Sarandon) have a flat tire and they end up stranded at Dr. Frank-n-Furter’s (Tim Curry) house.  The doctor’s a sweet transvestite from Transsexual, Transylvania and he’s about to unveil his greatest creation…a human boytoy.  When Halloween comes around this year, be sure to pop this classic in the Blu-Ray or DVD player.  It’s funny as hell.  Also, if you haven’t had the chance, please watch The Rocky Horror Show stage play.  The audience participation alone will have you rollin’!

4.  Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence

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I know what y’all are thinkin’, “You only have this movie on the list because David Bowie’s in it!”  As I always say, just because my favorite celebs are in a movie, it doesn’t mean the film’s good by default.  If that were the case, I’d consider Just a Gigolo to be cinematic gold (God, I hate that movie).  No, Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence is a very well made film with an interesting story about British soldiers trapped in a Japanese POW camp and both sides trying to work through cultural barriers.  I know what else y’all are thinkin’, “What’s this have to do with LGBT themes?”  The camp leader (Ryuichi Sakamoto) has a crush on Mr. Bowie’s character, which was a no-no in 1940’s Japanese society.  But hey, who can blame him?  By the way, Ryuichi Sakamoto not only plays the hell out of the lovestruck Captain Yonoi, but he also created the kickass score for the film.  I have two versions of the title track downloaded on my IPod.

3.  Milk

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No, this movie isn’t about my favorite dairy product/drink.  It’s the true story of the first ever openly gay politician in California, Harvey Milk, played by Sean Penn.  Harvey was a San Francisco supervisor during the 1970’s that fought for gay rights until he was assassinated in 1978.  Whether you’re gay or straight, seeing how Harvey fights for what he believes in and continues to get back up even when he’s knocked down (he lost three elections before he was finally voted into office) is completely inspirational.  Once again, this is another film I watch every time it comes on.

2.  Velvet Goldmine

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At its core, Velvet Goldmine is about a well renowned 70’s British rock star by the name of Brian Slade (beautifully played by Jonathan Rhys Meyers, another one of my fantasy men) who fakes being shot, is made a pariah by his former fans and disappears into thin air.  In 1984, Christian Bale is tasked to do a story on the singer’s career and disappearance, which stirs up good and bad memories, since he was part of the glam rock scene during the previous decade.  I’m not gonna lie…Velvet Goldmine is strange.  Very strange.  The structure of the movie is completely non-linear, and there’s musical numbers scattered throughout that don’t make sense, but at the same time, they do.  Don’t get me started on the surrealistic aspects of the film (i.e. the spaceship that’s flying around in certain scenes).  The character of Brian Slade was based on David Bowie, whereas his love interest, Curt Wild (Ewan McGregor), has a combination of personalities from Lou Reed, Iggy Pop and Marc Bolan.  Ironically enough, Mr. Bowie hated this film and refused to lend any of his music to the project.  I’ve always loved this film, though.  It’s weird, but it’s also interesting.  Plus, the movie has the extra added bonus of one of my favorite men playing a character based on one of my favorite men.  By the way, the costume and hair designer had Mr. Bowie’s looks down pat!  I can’t say this movie is for everyone, but I will say that the scene where Obi Wan Kenobi is gettin’ his freak on with Batman can’t be missed.

1.  To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything!  Julie Newmar

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C’mon!  What did you think would be number one?  I’ve loved this movie ever since I was 14, and yes, it’s another film that I have to watch whenever it airs.  Wesley Snipes, Patrick Swayze (may he rest in peace), and John Leguizamo killed their roles.  For those of you that haven’t seen this classic, it’s about three drag queens that travel cross country to a pageant and get stranded in a small town that’s near dead.  Naturally, the three vivacious ladies breathe life into the inhabitants of the town, all the while being pursued by a racist, homophobic cop, played by Chris Penn (may he rest in peace).  This is one of the sweetest, most heartfelt movies ever, and it’s damn funny to boot.  Every time I watch it, I forget that the three main characters are drag queens, and I see them as just women bonding during a road trip and using their flamboyant personalities to give some small town people life.  Plus, RuPaul makes a cameo.  You gotta love that.

—Written by Nadiya

Do you agree with my top 10 list?  What’s your favorite LGBT movie?  Give me your thoughts!