Opinions · reviews

Why Empire Sucks(and some writing advice)

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Empire holds a terrific score on Rotten Tomatoes for reasons I haven’t bothered to uncover yet. Here is what I know, Empire has a ton of flaws and it is simply one of the worst series I have ever watched in my life. It is so bad that I am planning on getting drunk and watching it ironically this weekend, so that I could just laugh at how horrible it is. Perhaps that is why everyone loves it, I don’t know.
If you don’t know what Empire is, it is an American musical drama.

Here are my reasons why I think this series is truly awful.

Bad dialogue

The characters in this series, when they speak to each other, they announce exactly how they feel and what they want. People hardly talk like that, despite that this is lazy, easy writing. To illustrate, if you are mad at your friend for not inviting you to an important dinner party you probably won’t walk up to him and say, “I am really mad that you didn’t invite me to the party because I am in love with you”  out of the blue (unless this is comedy or some weird fiction). People are more likely to act in ways that show they are mad, frustrated or unhappy, only when the tension is high or they can’t keep their cool anymore or the situation demands it will they be able to share how they truly feel. For an example, when mad, depending on your personality of course, you are likely to avoid your friend’s calls, or be less enthusiastic around him, your demeanor might be cold, or you might act in ways that don’t entertain him or something unique to your personality and nature of the relationship. Not only does this realization force a writer to sit back and create clever and engaging ways of showing conflict, it is also believable.

When drunk, or you have calmed down and exhausted your energy, you might begin by saying something like, “You know, I don’t like what you did.”

If the fact that your friend is still oblivious to how you feel, you might snap at them, “You don’t care about anyone, do you? You just think about yourself.”

If you are the alcoholic type with psychological issues, you might show up at your friend’s doorstep uninvited and say, “Are we not friends enough? I thought you loved me. I thought we were cool but… I guess everyone leaves, just gets bored of me and cuts me out.”

I’m just thinking about this on the spot but I hope you get the point.

There is a bunch of places you could take this. Characters that are honest and speak their feelings and motives straight up make for boring and uninteresting characters, despite it being simply lazy and underwhelming.

No character growth/drama for the sake of drama

The characters in this series act or take decisions that should change them without changing. They act out of their character, now and then, without growing. They act in ways that are the polar opposite of their values, beliefs and convictions without changing afterwards.

Take Spider-man, he is opposed to killing like most super heroes. Now imagine in one story, he does end up killing someone. It wouldn’t make sense if he woke up the next day the same Peter Parker/Spider-man. Without any inner conflict, or change in how he carries himself or sees the world. Acts that are deeply opposed to a person’s conviction generally come under driving circumstances that are complex and change the character to act in ways that he/she never thought he/she would act. These acts are rarely random, unexplainable, or without seeable consequences. Characters in Empire, make a ton of these decisions without circumstances that provide enough explanation or consequences. They return to themselves like nothing happened. Plot changing decisions or turns don’t do anything to the characters. Characters should be driven by the plot to points where they grow, growth that is supportable by consequences and experience, usually this growth is signaled by characters acting in a way you wouldn’t expect but can believe because of all that has occurred before which drove them to that point. Nonetheless this transformation is not too drastic, it is proportional to the pressure exerted by the conflict.

It makes me wonder why such things happen in Empire without changing the plot much or the characters. The answer is simple, it is drama for the sake of drama. Conflict for the sake of conflict.

Some writers and directors out there just think that conflict, tons of it, is a sign of good writing no matter how outrageous and unwarranted it is.

Not only is this futile, it is time wasting and makes the story more and more hard to believe or be engrossed by.

Editing, settings, and flashbacks

In most cases the flow from scene to scene feels very awkward and messy. I think that is bad editing in general.
The flashbacks, in this series are terrible. They make the same actors play their character’s younger selves. There isn’t much difference in make-up either. You feel like the actor walked off the scene based in the present and shot a flashback without changing make-up. An actor playing a character in their late forties and then playing the same character when it was seventeen years younger without looking like anything near thirty has to make you cringe.

That is just terrible.

These horrible flashbacks are also redundant and sometimes badly inserted. So it ends up being a really awkward experience in general.

At one point two of the main characters walk into the old house which they have left there for ages in the ghetto and it looks like they left it two days ago. Have they seen abandoned houses in the ghetto? They just don’t look like that. This is one example of bad settings, there are more.

Acting and casting

A few, very few, actors in this series are actually good. The rest are just a little less than adequate.
The casting is terrible, I mean they had Chris Rock, the comedian, play a major drug dealer who everyone is terrified off. I mean Chris Rock was just bad casting, horrible casting, he didn’t look anything like the big bad ass drug dealer boss who is intimidating. He is just one example of bad casting in this series, there are many.

I’m left scratching my head as to why Empire holds such a terrific rating with Rotten Tomatoes and others.

I decided not to talk about the music but clearly the music is generic and nothing special so I am bewildered as to where the good reviews are coming from.

I also wanted to give more examples but I can’t stand watching it again. Not sober. I made notes of how terrible it was while watching and most of them are not discussed here. I thought these were major ones that jump at you as you watch.

Thanks for reading

“You sold us all down the river.
I hope you choke on the vows that you failed to deliver.
You said you’d change the world, but death still flies east.
The blind lead the blind, so we bomb for peace.” –  Architects ‘Gravedigger’

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