By Joyce Slaton,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Empire creator has another buzzy musical drama.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this TV show.
Family members typically stick together in this drama, and a trans character is treated sympathetically. On the other hand, women are called "bitches" and use their sexuality (successfully) for advancement.
Positive Role Models
Main character Star is determined and talented, but she finally gets ahead by giving a music exec a lap dance and committed a terrible and unnecessary crime. Other characters are alcoholic, duplicitous, or otherwise flawed.
Violence & Scariness
A character is stabbed onscreen and dies, we see blood and his dead body. An attempted sexual assault on a trans woman is thwarted when a character attacks the would-be rapist; a character sells sexual services for money. A woman threatens a man with a gun.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Women are encouraged to advance their careers by working in a strip club and giving lap dances for "music industry types." Many scenes take place at a strip club with women in scanty costumes who dance onstage and on stripper poles. A man attempts to sexually assault a trans woman, calling her a "black freak." A stepdad sexually assaults his underage stepdaughter.
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No four-letter words but "damn," "hell," "ass," women are repeatedly called "bitch," sometimes affectionately, sometimes as an insult. Racial language: "white trash," "black freak."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
An underage character drinks beer, scotch, wine, and vodka, gets drunk and clumsy and is criticized. Numerous characters smoke cigarettes.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Star is a drama about a young musician attempting to launch a musical career in a trio of female singers. Star's female characters are encouraged to seek advancement by working in a strip club, a gambit which works -- our main character wins a manager for her fledgling group with one lap dance for a music exec. Many scenes take place in a strip club with women in scanty costumes, dancing onstage and on stripper poles, shaking their body parts. A trans woman is a main character and is treated with respect, except in a scene where a men paying her for sexual service calls her a "black freak." A stepfather sexually molests his teenage stepdaughter, we see them in a bed with him on top and both characters in underwear. Language: "hell," "damn," "ass," women are frequently called "bitch" as a familiar term and as an insult. A man is stabbed, we see blood and his dead body; his murderer shows no remorse for the crime. A woman threatens a man with a gun.
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Based on 2 parent reviews
INNAPROPRIAT AND NOT FOR TEENS
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What's the Story?
Atlanta's music industry is tough to break into. But STAR (Jude Demorest) has a few things on her side: beauty, talent, determination, and the two other singers in her Destiny's Child-like girl group: troubled sister Simone (Brittany O'Grady) and songwriting genius Alexandra (Ryan Destiny). These three have the moves, looks, and sound to be the Next Big Thing, and soon they connect with music exec Jahil Rivera (Benjamin Bratt), who can make their dreams come true. What they don't know about Jahil: he has a shady past, not to mention a history with Simone and Star's godmother, Carlotta (Queen Latifah). What Jahil doesn't know about them: so do Simone, Star, and Alexandra. The girls are headed straight to the top -- at least, until that past catches up with them.
Is It Any Good?
Delightfully overstuffed with plot, characters, and full-out musical numbers, this Lee Daniels drama has everything it takes to please Empire fans. In one episode alone, our main characters move to a new town, find jobs and a place to live, meet a Svengali, win over a party full of Atlanta sports cognestenti, and develop an addiction -- in between two foiled rapes and a murder. It's a lot to take in, and it's pretty improbable. "The next time you see this face," Star announces to a bus ticket clerk, "It's gonna be on the cover of Vanity Fair." And maybe in the bananas world of Star, where a music exec is eager to give his business card to a woman who sings in his ear during a lap dance, that may actually turn out to be the truth.
Star's B-stories are equally bonkers and rich with possibility. Queen Latifah's Carlotta is masquerading as a humble church singer/beauty shop owner, but has some kind of double-crossing music-biz past with Jahil, not to mention her own plans for Star's group. Alexandra pretends to be just another songwriter, but her dad (a guest-starring Lenny Kravitz) is some type of musical bigwig. Carlotta's daughter (born a son) Cotton (Amiyah Scott) spends days working in his mom's salon, but nights accepting cash for her favors. And Star and Simone did something very bad and are trying to leave their past mistakes and lives behind, an ambition surely incompatible with pop stardom. It's all faintly ridiculous, but it's a lot of fun for adults and mature teens.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about Star's portrayal of what it's like being transgender in the African-American community. How accurate are the characters' experiences? What's the show's point of view when it comes to intolerance? Do you think the series could spark more positive conversations about trans acceptance, particularly within families?
Why do you think the show's producers chose to include original songs so prominently in the series? How does music enhance or detract from a TV show or movie?
- Premiere date: December 14, 2016
- Cast: Queen Latifah, Benjamin Bratt, Jude Demorest
- Network: Fox
- Genre: Drama
- TV rating: TV-MA
- Last updated: October 13, 2022
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