Jussie Smollet burns down his own Empire
Is Jussie Smollett even really gay?
I think that's a fair statement and one that I've been wondering in my head ever since the details of him faking his gay-bashing became breaking news in the last 48 hours. It also seemed that this plot could've been ripped from one of the episodes of Empire, the hit show where Smollett plays Jamal Lyon, a talented singer-songwriter who has issues coming to terms with his homosexuality, partly due to the bigotry of the family patriarch roughneck Lucious Lyon (Terrence Howard). Jamal is accidentally shot in the Season 2 finale of Empire and I wonder if that storyline eventually influenced his idea. If you weren't aware by now, Smollett paid (with a check no less) two extras from Empire to act out the bashing. I read a New York Times article with the headline "Who is Jussie Smollett.." -- but in my head, I was thinking "Yeah, who is Jussie Smollet, really?" All actors are chameleons to a certain degree, but I fear Smollet is something much worse and potentially dangerous, he is a product of the social media, Instagram era of being a full-time persona.
There is something depressing about wallowing in victim-hood, let alone when you're pretending to be a victim of a assault that never happened, that was a figment of your imagination. What's worse is this adds another counterpoint to those that question victims of rape, assault and domestic violence. In a week where Ryan Adams has been accused of being at best a major creep and at worst a pedophile, we have Smollett revealed as the orchestrator of what was universally condemned as a vicious attack. As someone old enough to remember Matthew Shepard's murder and when being called "faggot" in high school was a daily occurrence before society got a little more "woke," this was ugly and extreme for these times, an alarming attack that included pouring bleach on a person while screaming slurs and epitaphs in Chicago's Streeterville neighborhood. Chicago, of all places, where queer people move to become more safe and accepted. This was hurtful in that people began to think that they were not safe anywhere, until now it was revealed that it was all a hoax. All for attention, all because Smollett was frustrated that he only makes $65k per episode of Empire. I don't think that is the kind of income inequality Elizabeth Warren was referring to.
I ate up Empire when it first aired. I loved the music, especially Smollett's songs, which were the best on the show. Fully enthralled with Lee Daniels' flamboyant, edgy modern Shakespearean satire of the music industry, centered on a hip-hop titan turned label boss who is fighting to adapt and stay in control of his legacy and fortune. But, as the show went on (full disclosure, I checked out somewhere around Season 3), Smollett's portray of Jamal as reluctantly gay, a cross to bear, began to wear on me. He is crude to his loving boyfriend. He is not the hardcore, masculine rapper like his brother Hakeem is and he lashes out in ugly ways towards his friends and family. His romantic relationships become the sort of loveless, gay cliches of the worse stereotype garden variety. To be frank, Empire is soaked in gay shame.
The saddest detail in this tragedy is the mental health of Smollett. In retrospect, some previous actions point to the desire for attention and acceptance -- coming out on Ellen, in 2015? Does one really feel the need to do that, haven't we progressed to a point as LGBTQ people that we don't need such showmanship? Unless, maybe, you're not really gay, or still very confused about your identity and doing this all for attention. For likes. For hashtags.
The strange delusion a successful, talented, handsome and seemingly bright man like Smollett would have to be under to carry out this ridiculous plot is baffling. It is the ultimate manic episode of "Trump Derangement Syndrome." Life imitating art in the most bizarre way. But as the facts come to light and if Smollett is indeed guilty of the crimes that he is now charged of, he should be held accountable and be forced to get some psychiatric help. But no cost he will bear will outweigh the lack of trust and the escalating resentment and divisiveness this stunt perpetuates. The nightmarish "MAGA hat" wearing redneck racist that Smollett created in his head -- those people exist. And in dark corners of the internet they are falsely declaring him as the poster-boy of the liberal Democratic party. Smollett's selfish false flag has tried to jeopardize the rainbow one. However, the true colors always shine through.