Thursday, June 2, 2016

When were the "Good Times"?

Let me first say that the Black Family unit is one of the strongest things on the planet. Black families are strong and resilient  and need to be to deal with the racial and social injustice this country places on us daily.  All that being said, lets look at some of the lyrics to the classic sitcom, Good Times- which ran for six seasons in the 70's.  Sing along if you know the words....

Temporary lay offs - Good Times.
Easy credit rip offs - Good Times.
Scratchin' and surviving - Good Times.
Hangin' and a-jivin' - Good Times.
Ain't we lucky we got 'em - Good Times.....yeah....

The tv show Good Times is back in the news cycle recently because Black-ish did an homage to the show in a dream sequence involving Dre( played by Anthony Anderson).  In his dream, Dre dreamed that his family had been transported back in time and took the familiar roles of the characters in the sitcom. Junior plays JJ, Dre plays Keith, Rainbow plays Thelma and so forth.

What Black-ish accomplishes in that episode tho is to brilliantly point out how ridiculous parts of Good Times were. Yes, the foundation of Good Times was that family trumps all and you have to stick together.  However, looking back, the show is either misnamed or grossly used Black people as props to exploit real life pain of families living in poverty.   Think back to some of the episodes and what the Evans family was dealing with:  JJ got a venereal disease, Penny gets burned with an iron, there was a lady who ate cat food, James dies ( leading to the best GIF ever by the way)

How these issues were made into jokes and dramedy is tragic.  On top of that, it reinforced the idea that Black people are gonna be "happy" no matter what bullshit they went through.  Um to quote myself, "Fuck that!"  How are these Good Times when the power is cut off, my dad is unemployed, and I'm hustling to survive? And even when there were times when the family was going to make it out- the show kept pushing them back down( James dies, Thelma chooses to stay instead of moving to LA, Keith tears his knee at his football tryout) to keep them broke, but happy! Well they had Black Jesus to keep hope alive, right? Man, get the hell out of here with that bullshit!

When were the Good Times?  I grew up black and poor in the 70's around other black and poor people and even tho ends were tight all around, it never resulted in eating cat food, iron burns, and venereal diseases. And even tho we loved our hood, we for damn sure knew there was something better out there and did what we could( legally) to try to get it.  And the early seasons of Good Times attempted to have the Evans family try to make it- of course only to be denied jobs, loans, and opportunities and stay broke, but happy! In later seasons, they show shifted to JJ, played by Jimmy Walker and the shenanigans he would get into- still resulting in being broke and happy.

Using pain for jokes is an old, tired TV trope- especially when it comes to families of color.  The underlying belief being, " Yeah, we broke, but we are together".  But real families do live like this and there is no thought to the psychological, social, and emotional toll this takes on individuals and their families. TV loves to play it for jokes and we laugh at their pain because its not ours. Yet people still wonder why often times people in this communities act out in anti-social ways. 

Maybe the show should be renamed Bad Times. Or Struggling. Or See our Pain.  It for damn sure should not be called Good Times!

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