Good Times: Blaxploitation on the Small Screen

Many of you who were born before 1975 watched a little ditty called Good Times, starring the late Esther Rolle, Ja’net DuBois, John Amos, Jimmie “J.J.” Walker, BernNadette Stanis, Ralph Carter, Johnny Brown, and, of course, Janet Jackson. Everyone has their views about the show. Some view it as entertainment, and some might see the show as nothing short of a televised minstrel show. I’m inclined to agree. My mom once said that she thought the “JJ. Evans” character was a buffoon and a poor example for the African-American community. Until I reached my 20’s, I never thought of Jimmie that way. After the age of 25, I started looking at the entire show in a different light. And if I may say so myself, that light isn’t so bright.

Let me say this about the show: Good Times showcased a lot of talent, including a young Janet Jackson, who was and is a star in her own right. While Good Times wasn’t her only show, it certainly helped her along the way. However, as good as it was for her resume, it did very little for the black community. Think about it for a moment: when you look at shows like Good Times, what is the first thing you think of? Do you immediately think about a black family who is doing everything they possibly can to survive under the most dire circumstances, or do you see a young man who is shuckin’ and jivin’ and jumping about like a buffoon and basically, making a total ass of himself? If I see Jimmie Walker, I think of the latter. I don’t see a man who has made something of himself or a talented comedian. I think of the flailing, screaming jackass who can’t come up with anything intelligent to say except for “Dy-no-mite!!!!”

I understand, to a degree, the meaning behind putting on a fictional account of a family nearly under the poverty line: the point might be–and I put a very strong emphasis on might–to show that a black family can make it in the face of adversity, contrary to the stereotypes you hear. Unfortunately, Good Times reinforces those same stereotypes that the actors and writers claimed to fight against. Jimmie Walker is a walking stereotype. Let’s be honest, that damn show was a walking stereotype.