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Black Writers and the ‘Empire’ “Curse”

Black Writers and the ‘Empire’ "Curse"

To be honest, I haven’t watched the show since the first few episodes of season one (I had enough) but I hear that this “Empire” show is something
of a big hit.

And though there are some who say that the show has already
“jumped the shark” this second season,
it’s still a huge hit, and one that every other network would love to have. But
that success has come at a price for some, and some of those who are paying for it
are black TV writers. In particular, black writers in the business who are struggling to find
work or to get their projects on the air – so they say.

However, the increasing problem is that
many of them have revealed that they are finding, is that networks and producers are all looking for another “Empire,” or another black sit-com (especially if you’re a black writer) and nothing else – this according to a recent article in the
Hollywood Reporter (HERE).

As one writer in the article said: “Everyone in
Hollywood is looking for the next ‘Empire’ from every black writer – because I
cannot possibly have any other idea or perspective. My creative parameters are
limited to the next ‘Scandal,’ ‘Black-ish’ or a TV version of ‘Straight Outta Compton’”.

No doubt there will be those who wonder what the writer is complaining
about; That if he doesn’t want to write
the next ‘Empire,’ then don’t do it’ and instead create your own work. But then
there are others who say that black writers are burdened in ways white writers aren’t, in terms of opportunities. While white writers have the luxury and are encouraged to write whatever they want,
even a black project, black writers are too often shoehorned into a “black box.”

And though the Hollywood Reporter article makes this sound
like this is a recent problem, the fact that black writers have often complained
about being forced to write just black projects is a very old one. I heard similar complaints 20 years ago.

But today, as was back then, why must black writers allow others
to tell them what they can and can’t write? True, everybody may want some “Empire” rip-off today (which is ironic, since a lot people say that “Empire” itself is a
rip off of “Power”). But like all unexpected flashes in the pan, it will
eventually fade and then producers and networks will be looking for
something else, whatever is the hot thing at the moment.

Yes, writers need to make a living, but I would say that
your chances of survival in this business will be longer, the more diverse a writer one
is, instead of allowing oneself to be placed in a box, doing only one thing. Sure, you can be can
happy and feeling like you’re a success on a some hit show, but once that shows ends, what will you do next? I’m not saying that black writers should not write black projects. Just the
opposite; and if that is what you want to do, then more power to you. But you
also should write whatever you want to write, without restrictions from either
someone else or yourself.

What do you say?

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