Empire (2015-2019)

JAMAL LYON as portrayed by Jussie Smollet on Empire (2015-2019)

Jussie, Jussie, Jussie. Thankfully, this series is about characters so we won't have to get into the weeds of the actor's choices (what a mess). With Jamal Lyon, we got to see a Black gay man come into his own as he deals with a complicated family dynamic, especially the relationship with his father. And, in the midst of a Black centered world. In primetime. On network TV. Over several seasons. #progress! The show itself was a highly stylized and exaggerated soap opera about life in the music industry which means we weren't expecting poingnant, honest, introspection and that's okay. Representation shouldn't mean we only see heavy, slice of life dramas that show us as perfect. It means we want to see the fullness of our humanity explored in a range of styles, just like everybody else. I only watched the first season in its entirety, and that trash can scene has always stuck with me. To me, it felt extreme, but I recognize that very well may have been someone's situation, although not my own. I think there were missed opportunities to explore the relationship with his brothers as it relates to his sexuality, but maybe that happened in the episodes I missed? Regardless, this show is a part of a ciritcal mass of more and different depictions of Black gay men on screen, and here we see the tide turning, somewhat. And we even got a Black gay wedding out of it.

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