Empire, The Bluest Eye, and Dynasty

“Empire”, as described by Jo-Ann Wallace and Stephen Slemon in Keywords and the Oxford English Dictionary, depicts “ideas of power through, and subjectivity under, militarism.” Wrapped up in this term is great power, complete domination, and everlasting effects on either side of the “imperial divide”. Although often described in reference to political states and their conquests, the term “empire” doesn’t have to interact with the physical and tangible to be valid—concepts, structures, and families also work to comprise this keyword. In The Bluest Eye, families are being controlled by an ever-present empire, while in the TV show Dynasty, represented families are the ever-present empire.

Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye considers and condemns the empire of White Supremacy. The three girls that the novel centers around are interacting with whiteness on a daily basis, trying to navigate their world with the body that they were born into. In their society and ours, whiteness is something to strive for; once accomplished, the struggle ceases. This is proven through the notion, given at the end of the book, that if Pecola had blue eyes, if she was closer to whiteness, if she had aligned closer to white supremacist ideals, then she would not have been as vulnerable to the sexual violence that was acted upon her; she somehow would’ve been protected and sheltered from that occurrence had she been in a different body with a different look and value. White Supremacy upholds itself as an empire, not only through the admiration that white/whiter children receive in this novel, but also through the complete disregard that is given to the black fetus growing within Pecola after she was assaulted. The power of White Supremacy remains stable as we examine how that fetus might have been more appreciated had it been half white.

In a different light, yet similar realm, Dynasty centers around an empire, hence the title of the TV show. This empire takes form as an international company that has been passed down through generations within the Carrington family. Like other multi-billionaires, wherever they go, everyone knows their name and their impact; one wrong move and you’ll disappear. Their family and their company embodies the term “empire”. Aligning with The Bluest Eye’s empire of White Supremacy, the Carringtons have control in every situation that they face, whether it be seducing the police department with under-the-table “donations” or leaking private information about a new company rival. The Carrington family succeeds in all that they aim for and come out on top, all without having to try too hard; their privileges are handed to them because their “old money” power delivers a bite to those in opposition. They are on the benefitting side of the empire and have nothing to worry about until trouble finds them, for they could never be the ones to start it.

The Bluest Eye and Dynasty exhibit different positions in the empire framework—the young girls are at the complete will of White Supremacy and the Carrington family has absolute control over others’ lives. They both navigate in their own spheres, yet only one side longs to break the divide and live freely. The deconstruction of these two empires, and all others, needs more than just one fighting line; the actions need support on both sides along with a copious amount of time. Hopefully, we’ll live long enough to see the beginnings.

2 thoughts on “Empire, The Bluest Eye, and Dynasty”

  1. I really enjoyed reading your post, Shaniya! I totally agree and can see the connections between the empires within Bluest Eye and Dynasty and how they both center around wealth, power, and ultimately inequality. I appreciated your analysis of the shared ideals of each of these institutions of empires and it made me think of other “empires” dominating our society today: heteronormativity, capitalism, the patriarchy, and ableism along with many others. I think it’s so interesting to consider the dynamics of these institutions as empires and utilize the definition we learned about empires in understanding how these empires pick one group up and put another group down; benefit some and harm others. Thank you for the insight into this connection 🙂

  2. I like your view of White Supremacy as an empire, I had never thought of it that way before. I think it’s very interesting to see that an empire can be formed on the basis of money, which gains power, like in the TV show Dynasty, or can be established by slavery and its continuing consequences today.

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