by Christine Anderson
Christine is going to be sharing mental health/mental illness articles now and then with us here at KRL in her new column-Forever Different.
Fox’s new drama, Empire, tells the rags-to-riches story of the Lyon family, whose patriarch, Lucious, played by Terrance Howard, rises to fame as a hip-hop artist, and starts a record label called Empire with drug money his ex-wife, Cookie (Taraji P. Henson), earned by dealing, for which she spent 17 years in prison. She left behind three children. The oldest, Andre, played by Trai Byers, was groomed for the position of Chief Financial Officer and sent to the Wharton School of Business, where he obtained his MBA. We see in the first couple of episodes that he takes medication; it’s finally revealed that he’s bipolar.
In the beginning of the series, Andre was a well-educated, strong, good looking, businessman. We are now three episodes away from episode 9, the season finale, and he has completely unraveled. We have followed his path, from stable to psychotic, from businessman to burden. In episode 8 he tries to kill himself, but can’t go through with it. In last week’s episode, he went on a buying spree and purchased a Lamborghini, which he drove dangerously. He became uncontrollable to the point where his wife, Rhonda, played by Kaitlin Doubleday, and his father, call an ambulance, have him sedated, and taken away as his wife signs commitment papers for a mandatory 48-hour hold.
What’s intriguing and interesting about this is that the writers of Empire have chosen to show both sides of the illness. They introduced us to Andre as a stable businessman, and then showed what pressure and enormous amounts of stress can do to a person with a mental illness.
“It’s a very real look at this illness,” said Christie Mayo an Advocate for Mental Illness. Christie runs a secret Facebook group to provide peer support for those with bipolar disorder. Christie also said, “Shows like Empire are making it acceptable for people to talk about their illness, get help, and find support that they normally wouldn’t.”
Empire has been picked up for a second season. It will be interesting to see where Andre’s storyline and the development of his character will lead. Having bipolar disorder myself, I am tuning in to find out. Those of us with mental illnesses need shows like Empire to help us fight the stigma. I hope they continue to do it justice.
Check out KRL’s Mental Health section for more mental health related articles, and watch for more from Christine.