It’s been five weeks since the debut of Fox’s new hip hop drama Empire and raving reviews keep coming in praising the show for its candidness. This star-studded cast of talented Black actors continues to bring reality to our doorsteps weekly with dynamic plot twists and catchy tunes, but one thing I couldn’t help but pick up on is the sexual undertones of this series. Maybe it’s the sexpert in me or maybe sexuality has more of a blatant position within this show’s storyline.
Because everything about our existence as humans is a result of sexual expression, I decided to dig deeper to reveal the lessons in sexuality that we all can learn from Empire and how we can benefit from these subtle teachings.
Andre and Rhonda Lyon’s open relationship
Andre (Trai Byers), the oldest of the Lyon brothers, has a pretty well-made life. He sits on the Board of Directors for his father’s record company, is in line to inherit the Empire kingdom and to top it off he has a supportive wife in Rhonda (Kaitlin Doubleday), his equally accomplished companion who he describes as “brilliant”.
In the second episode we learn of Andre’s battle with bipolar disease and we get a closer look into how his dedicated wife keeps him on track with his meds and keeps his mind from swinging into manic stages. She goes to the kitchen drawer, pulls out a bib and drops to her knees. Yes, she gives him a BJ right there in the middle of the kitchen.
This is just one of the many provocative, sexually suggestive exchanges we see between the couple and there is something every person can pull from their sexual dynamic. She is sexually in control and she isn’t afraid to use her seduction to persuade Andre. That’s what makes them a power couple. If sex is equivalent to Scooby snacks she uses it skillfully.
She keeps him balanced and uses sex as a tool to keep him motivated and focused. Andre uses sex as a way to persuade in the areas of business and Rhonda encourages it.
Take Notes: No one can deny that sex is a great motivator and if you are in a loving and committed relationship, why not use sex as a way to keep your partner encouraged. Through arousing the sexual senses, the body can become balanced and creativity is influenced. Sexual energy is creative energy and this energy can be used to create anything from babies to diabolical schemes to take over a musical empire.
Hakeem’s love affair with Naomi Campbell
In the third episode, we learn that the youngest son, Hakeem (Bryshere Gray), has had a year-long relationship with supermodel Camilla (played by Naomi Campbell), who is about 20 years his senior. Hakeem is the most affected by the 17-year absence of his mother, Cookie (Taraji P. Henson), out of the three brothers. She was convicted while he was just a few months old, and he was never able to feel the embrace of the woman that created him.
Throughout the series his disdain for her is shown with no remorse, yet his need for a motherly figure is fulfilled by his cougar mistress. “Who am I to you,” Camilla asks seductively as she instructs him to draw closer to her lips, leading him by his thick, yellow gold link chain. “You’re my momma,” he coyly replies as she kisses him passionately.
There is a lesson in sexuality to be pulled from this scenario and it’s pulled straight from the pages of Freudian psychology: The Oedipus complex. Hakeem’s repressed feelings of hate for his mother’s absence transformed into an unconscious sexual attraction to women who resemble the mother figure he never had.
Take Notes: The relationships we have with our parents play a major role in how we express ourselves sexually. In everyday life, unresolved mommy/daddy issues manifest into sexual dysfunctions that can take a negative toll on a couple’s relationship. In these cases, therapy is a great way to heal from those repressed wounds.
In the fifth episode of this dynamic drama, the secret love of affair between Empire artist Tiana (Serayah) and her supermodel girlfriend is revealed, leaving Hakeem stunned, confused and ultimately angry about the secret she kept from him for so long.
When confronted, Tiana keeps her cool and doesn’t back down from her decision to express her sexuality on both sides of the fence. She questions Hakeem when he approaches her with disappointment about the public display of affection caught on viral video. “Oh, so it would be ok if it was a dude, right?”
Take Notes: Tiana defends her natural birthright to love and embrace who she chooses, and this is the lesson in sexuality that can be drawn from her “defiance”: that is ok to love who you choose and your sexuality does not need to be explained to anyone.
Jamal’s coming out
Jamal (Jussie Smollett) is undoubtedly the most talented of the Lyon brothers and is the most dynamic character to watch of the entire Empire cast. Positioned as the middle child coddled by his mother and forced to face the repugnance of his father, Jamal pushes through a lifetime of hardship to come out strong and victorious.
Lucious (Terrence Howard) presses Jamal to make a choice between his decision to come out with his homosexual orientation and receiving his support for his musical career. Standing firm in his decision to live out his sexuality the way he desires, Jamal severs ties with his father financially and makes his way to the slums where he gains a new life perspective that enriches his musical genius.
Every episode of Empire so far documents the lifelong struggle for Lucious to embrace his homosexual son, and even well into Jamal’s adulthood and in the midst of a world that is changing its views about homosexuality, Lucious is unable to release his rigid beliefs about sexual expression. Jamal, however, tests his father’s dissonance by refusing to be ashamed of his sexual preferences.
Take Notes: The lesson in sexuality that we all can learn from Jamal is that you have to be bold enough to stand up for what you know is right, and sometimes you may have to make sacrifices in order to live in your sexual truth. You may lose friends or even family. You will have to sacrifice your current mindset and adopt a new way of thinking uninfluenced by society’s standards for sexuality. You will have to come from under the cloak of sexual shame and confront naysayers head on. You may be forced out of circles that once embraced you, but as Jamal gained a new perspective on life while living in less than favorable situations, you also will begin to see life from a refreshed vantage point that you set for yourself. This philosophy applies whether gay or straight.
The beauty of the show Empire is its ability to grasp real life situations and place them in the laps of the average American during prime time television. It’s raw, unapologetic and exactly what America needs at this present moment; a moment of authenticity, especially in the arena of sexual expression.
Catch Empire on Fox Wednesdays after American Idol at 8pm/7 Central.