Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Empire Season 2: Why You Always "Lyon"?

Last week’s Season 2 premiere of Empire was, in one word, OVERTHETOP. From Cookie’s grand entrance in the gorilla suit, citing an impromptu reference to the Black Lives Matter movement, correlating with a message to free Lucious from prison to the irrelevant cameo appearances (Swizz Beatz, Al Sharpton, Don Lemon, Chris Rock, DeRay Davis, Miss Lawrence, Petey Pablo, Ricky's mama from Boyz In Da Hood – did I forget anyone?). Additionally, the same-sex overtones - Jamal (who deserved that double slap) mind controlling his boyfriend, Michael, and "Anita" being designated to sleep with the female investor so that her nemesis, Cookie, can position herself to take over the company. Just. Tew. Much.

Although I live tweeted through the full first episode, I found myself critiquing each scene rather than getting lost in the anticipation of how the new storyline would unfold. And that’s the thing – after rushing through Season 1 and climaxing prematurely for fear of not being renewed, Empire’s overall storyline still isn’t quite clear. 

Yes, we know that Cookie donated some of her own drug money to fund Lucious’ music career, which ultimately catapulted him to success, showcasing her loyalty via a 17-year bid. And it’s clear that all three sons, Andre, Jamal and Hakeem, struggle with their own issues, including bipolar disorder, homosexuality, and narcissism, respectively. Yet, the supporting characters serve as nothing more than fillers for a randomly put together cast. With Becky (Gabby Sidibe) as the awkward-dressing Executive Assistant, Anika aka Boo Boo Kitty as the mistreated mistress, Porsha as Cookie's Ratchet, illiterate do-girl, and Andre’s wife, whose name and presence is so forgettable, as the token white chick, it’s apparent that the show lacks substance. The hype mostly stems from Cookie’s outrageous, mouth-dropping punchlines (i.e. “You can’t even dyke right!”) 

But when did shock factor become an acceptable substitute for quality writing? In an era where primetime television has become an interactive event, with many of us sharing thoughts online, quickly responding to the action during commercial breaks, and even going as far as hosting watch parties, there seems to be little room for the positive shows that some may argue are more worthy of the spotlight (insert Blackish here). 

However, when we station ourselves in front of our flat screens, it is an attempt to escape from the hectic reality of our everyday lives. Sometimes, we even notice bits and pieces of our personal experiences dwelling in the midst of the action. Perhaps that’s why I steadily succumb to partaking in such an entertaining and unhealthy vice. I should be utilizing that one-hour slot to write as much as I can, since most of my time lately has been dedicated to editing. Instead, I’d rather press pause on my important tasks and divert my attention to the Lyon family and their dramatic, dysfunctional problems, complaining about the plot discrepancies and poorly executed dialogue.

You're probably wondering why I'm faithfully watching, only to produce negative feedback. One: I'm a writer. Two: I'm studying. Lastly: I absolutely love Taraji P. Henson. I'm actually rooting for Empire to succeed, but for better reasons; not because of the shade behind the coonery. 

If Empire's contract with Fox network is extended, it will solely be due to its loyal fanbase; it will not survive on the acting alone. Nevertheless, I’ll be tuning in tonight, scouting for any and all necessary signs of improvement. I'll also be looking forward to hearing Jussie Smollett's voice. At least his songwriting/singing skills are getting recognition. But can he prove that he's man enough to reign as heir to the throne? We gon' see...

#WriterWednesday #WriterGrind®

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Dreaming while Depressed (I'll Rise Up)

I've been struggling with self-diagnosed depression for about 3 months now. I can sense that something is terribly wrong when I am unable to write. And I haven't really been able to completely decipher any of my jumbled, dark thoughts, except for that late July afternoon... I was sitting in the public library, pen in hand, notebook flopped open, staring at a blank page. 

"God, please let me get something out," I begged. 

I wrote this poem and titled it Dear Duval:

Dear Duval

I missed you, 
but my return has been somewhat of a blur.
When I left for Kuwait, 
I vowed to remember you as you were.
You've changed
more than I care to grasp or comprehend. 
The excitement of reuniting with family and friends 
withers away each passing day.
Distance makes the heart grow fonder
as guilt rests quietly, at bay.

My life is not my own
Since a fire damaged my actual home, 
the extra stress of trying to figure out 
exactly where I belong weighs heavily on my soul.
Although I know that God is in control, 
He's testing my patience, 
while I'm praying that He'll eventually bless me, tenfold.
"You're so selfish", I've been told.
from people who don't understand 
that I'm still trying to patch up this broken heart of gold

Success is a deadly sin
Oftentimes, I'm repenting 
over and over again for finding pleasure in
bragging about all the things I've accomplished 
and all the places I've been
Awards aren't as glorious as they may seem
and despite how much I'm held in high esteem, 
I can't lose sight of my purpose behind this dream 

I'm not always strong enough 
to hold myself up from falling 
when personal struggles take a back seat to my calling

As Luke 12:48 states, 
"To whom much is given, much is required"
I don't have time or the right to get tired. 

But the pressure from old burdens
creates periods of hesitation
Dragging unresolved issues 
to each new destination 
I came back to Jacksonville in need of restoration 
temporarily displaced, 
pondering permanent relocation 
constantly focused on detailed preparation
reestablishing my independence 
in the midst of a separation 
It's hard to stay inspired  
when overwhelmed by anticipation 
I chose freedom over stability 
fell victim to instant gratification 
with unanswered questions, 
deep in contemplation, 
these words have rescued me 
from suicidal temptation 
and fully recharged my diminishing level of motivation. 

So Dear Duval,
I guess I should thank you.

I wanted to share it immediately, but instead, I swiftly left the library, rushed back to my temporary haven at a nearby hotel and cried. Hours later, I frantically fumbled with editing the most honest words I'd ever written. I texted a dear friend and he shamed me for it, understanding that deleting the transparency revealed within a first draft is the ultimate no-no. So, I kept the poem tucked away, until I could figure out exactly what type of mental warfare I was dealing with. 

After abruptly wrapping up the most thrilling adventure of my life, happiness abandoned me. Giving up was not an option, so I settled for hiding. I became an anti-social hermit; not really communicating my feelings or alarming thoughts to anyone. Although I felt empty, I still prayed. For many things. Mostly for my sanity to return. 

I wasn't necessarily going crazy; I was simply lost... unsure of what to do next. Afraid that there were no more pivotal events to look forward to, personally or professionally. My mind was playing tricks on me. As I attempted to sleep the pain away, I approached each new set of 24 hours with just enough strength to breathe through the misery. No one noticed how deeply I was suffering; I masked the sadness well. 

Worrying and planning. Planning and worrying. 

Forgetting about my previous accomplishments, I began to complain excessively, not recognizing how blessed I truly was (am). To the average person, I'd seem ungrateful. Success was quickly crippling me and the responsibility of fulfilling an inspirational role became extremely overwhelming. 

"Be careful what you ask for," they say. I asked for a lot, obviously more than I could handle. Sometimes it's hard to unravel and examine the short-term or long-term repercussions of our desires, especially when we have reached the height of the climb.

Today, I'm in a much better place, mentally... Creating opportunities, moving forward and staying optimistic through minor and major failures. I have more than enough reasons to be thankful and I'm trying my best to appreciate every blessing that I sometimes feel I don't deserve. I'm a work in progress, for sure, but the best part about that is I'm constantly growing, and a few months from now, I'll look back on this time of my life and smile at how I was able to rise up from the turmoil of being temporarily defeated.