27 April 2021 1032 Views

Empire Magazine is like, SOOOOO IN-clusive and ON Message!

by James Murphy

Empire Mag: we are so over. Done. Finished. Broken up. You have jumped the shark and nuked the fridge. Nuked the shark and jumped fridges. 



My love of film was fostered in part via EMPIRE Magazine. But I have fallen out of love with it I am afraid. I have noticed in say, the last two to three years especially, an increasing tide of political commentary sneaking in. Which would be fine in an openly political polemic piece on some substantial side of cinema. But no. Think more ‘Brexit bad’ ; ‘Trump bad’ etc (not direct quotes btw, like, obviously, although..).

One or two contributors especially make EVERYTHING political. Fine. Except this is the same magazine that last year referred to a James Bond Director ‘popping his cherry’ on a particular Bond movie. As in: ‘what was your first Bond movie memory’ rephrased with a reference to loss of virginity. Prurient. Lazy. Pointless.

To be fair, the mag always had a naughty side. Today, though? It is all about being seen as earnest. So you either deliver on that with substance or you look a bit to my mind, anyway, hollow, hypocritical, even? I do ‘get’ how a product /service moves with the times. Today’s youthful reader is a more politicised animal. But it is a corporate device, ultimately.

‘SEXIEST STARS’ pin up /poster supplements of yesteryear captured the lads’ mag zeitgeist of the 1990s. They had their day. And so it is that the current fixation with all things BLM etc could also in time, simply be replaced by the next corporate fad. And no, I do not mean #BLM the genuinely progressive hashtag that started with a heartfelt rebellion against inequalities and brutalities. If you try and repel that with some glib bollox like ‘yeah but all lives matter’ then you miss the point and I have no time for you. I understand this is a cultural and political force of note and movies follow suit.

What I object to is the use of race relations as a kind of logo and branding supplement in every second media outlet. Whether Empire et al intend this or not is beside the point? Is it simply my perspective? Ok, feel free to argue. There is a trend, nonetheless. And in the bid to refer to inclusion and progression relentlessly; a danger of real activism being devalued into some glib tagline.


Marvel has the same /similar problem (imho). Why is it a ‘big deal’ for a black man to be Captain America? There has been a decade plus of your own heroes in the pantheon being African/American with nobody (other than daft racists) raising objections. Prior to that?

I myself grew up watching Wesley Snipes and Eddie Murphy kick arse onscreen alongside Arnie, Sly, Bruce et al. I saw them all as stars. Still do.  This is not ‘new’ and making it seem that way, arguably invites rather than extinguishes division that simply need not exist at all. It does not help anyone in a practical sense, surely? And it’s not just not any FUN!



Back to EMPIRE. The Oscars. FINE to run an opinion piece saying ‘Chadwick deserved better’. But there then seemed, prima facie, a fusion /confusion of columns, online and via your own social media channels. Simple reporting of the Anthony Hopkins‘ win got muddled with the praise for Chadwick as though the two are mutually exclusive? News is news. Comment is comment. Stop confusing them in your own headlines. 

In any event, the Oscars have ‘form’ in awarding the compromise candidate. The acting category is always a tough call. Was Pacino great in Scent of a Woman? Yes. But not Godfather 2 great and he simply could not equal Robert Downey Junior’s Chaplin or Denzel’s Malcolm X. And that’s 30 years ago!

The debates remain the same. Winning an Oscar is never a truly exact science or empirical measure of who was ‘best’, whether they deserve additional tributes or not. That’s showbiz. Ever was it thus..ever will be.

Before I go? EMPIRE: if you are so ‘right on’?  How come your cover stars of late include TOM HIDDLESTON (white, middle class, male, public school, Oxbridge..) and HARRRRRRYYYYYPOTTTTTERRR (a boy wizard who made MILLLLLIOOONS from being a..boy wizard..ten- twenty years ago)? Why are you so in love with Edgar Wright to the extent that I don’t know why the magazine is not simply retitled ‘EDGAR WRIGHT FANZINE!’. Just sayin.


I genuinely have happy memories of reading EMPIRE and learning the inclusive craft of cinema. Of reading contributions from the likes of Spike Lee and Carl Franklin as they described the joys of filmmaking. Not as ‘black’ artists but simply, as artists.

But we are done now, at least, until, maybe you check your own white middle class privilege at the like and subscribe door. And sharpen your editorial cohesion and presentation? Best of luck to you, all the same, in these more uncertain and competitive markets. 

EMPIRE has a still substantial podcast, all the same. Skip / fast forward any political lectures and the interviews remain solid. If only the whole product could be restored! Hope springs eternal.


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