Empire, the wildly popular series about a family deeply involved in the music industry, is well known for its dramatic plot twists and turns and Taraji P. Henson’s meme-tastic character Cookie. But this past Wednesday, the FOX music drama set Twitter ablaze for a new reason.
This week’s episode opened with a love scene involving actress Gabourey Sidibe. Gabourey is a plus size actress well known for her starring role in the 2009 film Precious. Almost immediately after the scene aired, many people took to social media to share their disgust after seeing an overweight woman involved in a sex scene on national television. There was so much hate that materialized in everything from jokes about her looking like fried chicken to memes about how “even she can get a man”. The fat shaming was unreal and seemed to come from an especially hateful place.
Pop culture has brainwashed us all to think that only fit, mega-attractive people have sex and relationships. That’s all we want to see. If any show or movie shines a light on anyone other than a model or A-list actor that fits the widely accepted standard of beauty, that piece of work is maligned by the general public. Though I’m not a regular viewer of Empire, I applaud the show for treating its characters equally regardless of size, race, or sexuality. Everyone deserves love, and everyone deserves to see that love depicted on the big and small screens.
In addition to fat shaming, this has been a year of slut shaming, skinny shaming, and shaming for pretty much anything. In a time where our technological advances are expanding our worlds and capabilities, the minds of the American public are becoming more rigid and less accepting. Amber Rose, an untraditional symbol of beauty, has openly fought against slut shaming in her viral Funny or Die video “Walk of No Shame” and through her newly christened SlutWalk event. Both platforms, whether comical or encouraging, seek to show women that’s it’s okay to embrace their sexuality, and that it’s not okay for anyone to disrespect them because of it.
At the risk of sounding like a self-help podcast, we are all beautiful. Gabourey Sidibe and Amber Rose are more representative of the American public than any A-list actress or model. Why aspire to an unrealistic standard or reject their standard of beauty? If Gabourey’s sex scene made you uncomfortable, that’s probably natural because it’s not something that’s happening on national TV. That’s a good thing. But the intolerance, hate, and mean-spirited humor is not a good thing. That scene was a huge step forward for all women like Gabourey, and to watch the Twitter trolls dehumanize her is disheartening.
We need to let go of our dated and narrow views of beauty. I can’t tell you what to believe, but I can share that shaming of any kind in a public forum helps absolutely no one. Accept people for who they are or simply keep your mouth shut.