How “Empire” Failed Its Queer Female Characters
Why we’re covering this: Empire is one of the most racially and sexually diverse shows on television and the treatment of LGBT characters on TV, especially women, remains an important barometer of their existence in the cultural imagination.
WARNING: Spoilers for last night’s episode of Empire.
“And it’s not just the [lesbian] death trope that the show is guilty of. Earlier in tonight’s episode, Camilla made it very clear she was using Mimi for her money, waiting for her to die so she could be left the Empire shares and take over the business with her lover, Hakeem. She’s a manipulative, lying, scheming bisexual character, although “bisexual” is never used and is rarely brought up unless it’s being used to accuse Jamal of not being gay anymore. Meanwhile, Tiana’s bisexuality has all but disappeared, as her girlfriend is nowhere to be found and Tiana is instead singing songs about dancing in the club while boys can watch (“Look at my body/Don’t I look sexy?”). Her entire performance is for the male gaze, and her Season 2 arc is all about her jealousy of Hakeem’s interest in Laura as she goes on tour with [the girl band] Ménage a Trois.”
— Pop-culture critic and editor of AfterEllen.com Trish Bendix talking about Empire‘s overall maltreatment of its queer female characters. Two of the show’s bisexual female characters died in last night’s episode, something that follows the tired and lazy trend of television regularly killing off its queer women. In the past, television used lesbian kisses as a way to boost ratings and regularly portrayed bisexuals as scheming psychopaths. It would seem that neither has changed.
At the end of her article (which is totally worth reading), Bendix says that Empire should no longer be praised for being “queer and feminist friendly” until it sustains a non-stereotypical queer woman; though the show also has another gay character (Jamal), he gets treated far better than any of his bisexual female counterparts.