WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD
Empire’s handling of LGBTQ lives and homophobia in the black community has always had it’s messy moments, despite progressive portrayals. But, last night’s episode took the show into a decidedly trope-y direction that has several folks calling foul.
With the death of Mimi Whiteman (Marisa Tomei) and Camilla Marks (Naomi Campbell), Empire becomes the latest victim of “Dead Lesbian Syndrome” aka the Bury Your Gays trope.
The Mimi Whiteman character was enveloped in stereotypes from the onset — from her evil, conniving tendencies, to her voracious sexual appetite. At one point her desires are even portrayed as being in tandem with Lucious’s, despite his overt homophobia. Though, the warped and misogynistic idea that gay men are repulsive and lesbians are sexy seems right up his alley.
Then of course there’s also the fact that Whiteman is often the butt of Cookie’s rather clunky jokes.
In this latest episode Whiteman meets her demise. She is supposedly poisoned by Camilla and spends her final moments as a pair of legs in a bathtub. As Camilla stages the scene to look like a suicide, Lucious shows up and begins filming her for evidence. He convinces her to kill herself, instead of spending the rest of her life in jail. While we don’t see Camilla’s absolute final moments, Empire showrunner Ilene Chaiken confirmed that this is definitely the last we’ll be seeing of her. Chaiken also responded to claims that the show had fallen victim to the trope.
“I think that we aren’t a part of that phenomenon or conversation,” she said.
Regardless of Chaiken’s assertions, Empire has now become another television, in a growing list, that has used the death of lesbian characters to either fuel the plot or wrap up a story line.