". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Empire - Fox - Season 1

Despite it being noon on Saturday in Soho, the temperatures, the ice everywhere and the intermittent snow left Gourmet Garage so quiet that the sound system -- Pandora, Spotify -- whatever service they use that eats musicians' profits and leaves none at all for the creators -- could be heard so clearly that one of the few other customers was dancing to the hiphop track that was currently playing.

In the course of being checked out I observed to the young African American behind the counter, "Gee, that sounds so old school it could be on Empire."

She interrupted processing my purchases to toss me a look.  "Are you saying this cut's that's playing is on an Empire soundtrack?"

"No, no. it just that whatever-this-is, has so copped that sound, from, like, 20 years ago or something, that it could be Empire. That whole picture the show makes of the music, the biz, the lingo, the bling, though not the shoes or the dresses of the female characters who aren't Cookie, the aspirations, are from at least 20 years ago, but nobody seems to notice that."

She says, "It's older than that!  1997, no wait, really, it's 1993."

Thoughtfully, she adds, "I was one then, in 1993. I like the sound and looks from then, though, maybe because it was my mom's music."

We love Empire's Cookie!
We love Nashville's Rayna!

We love Treme's Desiree!
Part of the reason Empire feels 20 + years earlier in many ways, though set in the present, is because Cookie has been in prison for about that amount of time, and has just gotten out.

Empire big extended not-so happy family.
Empire is a hiphop music soap, in the way Nashville is a country music soap -- which, when I first looked at it, struck me as the Treme for white people, the same white people who couldn't get how music and musicians, instead of gangastas, could be the center of a show that had so many black characters.

Anika, the bougie baby who thinks she can take Cookie's stuff.
I love all three of these series, primarily I'm sure because some very interesting and strong women are in the front of them, as only one woman among several other women whom the male characters need to reckon with. The music is strong too: Treme's live music was provided by some of the very best living musicians; the music supervisors for Nashville's first season was T-Bone Burnett; Timbaland is Empire's music supervisor

The writing for Empire's pilot was very, ahem, strong.  So much got effortlessly established in terms of who everyone is, their relationships and the plot.  None of the subsequent episodes so far have quite equalled the pilot, but they still exert that same effortless engagement on the part of the viewer.

For ye fans of olden, golden daze Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Danny Strong is one of  creators and executive producers of Empire -- along with Lee Daniels.  They have previously worked together on 2013's multiple-award nominated film, The Butler, set in the White House over the course of 8 presidents' administrations.

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