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How Power undercut its lofty ambitions by making Ghost an "antihero" to root for

  • "While the (Starz) series’ attempt to imagine a black antihero on the model of The Sopranos’ Tony Soprano and Breaking Bad’s Walter White is laudable, the image of a black man engaging in a similar criminal enterprise with so little moral ambiguity has societal and cultural implications that it wouldn’t if the character were white," says Greg Braxton of the Starz series that ends after six seasons on Sunday. “Power is set in an approximation of the 'real world' that nonetheless trivializes the real-life consequences of the drug trade by leaning on melodramatic plots and outlandish luxuries. In trying to have it both ways, the series ultimately creates an unsatisfying sense that it doesn’t know what it wants to be." Braxton adds: "Coupled with the series’ lack of attention to the havoc illegal drugs — and law enforcement’s 'war' on said drugs — have wreaked on black and brown neighborhoods for decades, these choices, intentionally or not, are troubling. Even in the most ruthless of antihero dramas, we still amass an understanding of the victims of the protagonists’ actions, one that Power seems reluctant to provide. (Ghost has explained his hard beginnings by saying that he and Egan had little choice as struggling young men when it came to making a living, but the series mostly passes over the subject.) Indeed, though Power falls into the antihero genre, it positions Ghost and Egan as heroes for the audience to root on without going to great lengths to question that allegiance — notably sidestepping the moral compromises that might have haunted St. Patrick and his family in favor of highlighting his seductive underworld. Some may read Power as a saga about a black man from difficult circumstances achieving the American Dream, but in prizing mayhem over meaning, the drama undercuts its own lofty ambitions." ALSO: Creator Courtney A. Kemp on Power's impact on black TV dramas: "In the modern age of television storytelling, we are no longer burdened with the requirement to make polemical characters, to prove to white people that we are good too. To hell with that."

    TOPICS: Power, Starz, Courtney A. Kemp, Omari Hardwick, African Americans and TV