Black America

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Shaping the Image of Black America
Kathleen Gorman

Author Note This paper is being submitted on March 7, 20143, for Kathleen Gorman’s G380 Visions of America Since 1945 course.

Shaping the Image of Black America Good Times originally aired on CBS in 1974. It was a black situation comedy

focused on the daily lives, struggles, and hardships of a disadvantaged black family

living in a Chicago housing project during the peak of the civil rights movement. Esther

Rolle was cast as the matriarch, Florida Evans. The character had originated as a maid

on the sitcom “Maude”.

From analysis of the main characters in Good Times, there emerges a clearly

exhibited grouping of a minstrel show ensemble. Every minstrel caricature is

represented; the mammy, the brute, the promiscuous, exotic woman, the lazy son, the

‘mulatto’, and the pickaninny. There are no legitimate marked talents portrayed among

the characters, except for J.J., whose inability to be taken seriously enough undermines

any effort to benefit from his artistic talents.

As Bodroghkozy (2012) observes, “Good Times waded into these troubled waters.

As a comedy reaching a diverse audience, the show had to negotiate its representations

with care in order, on the one hand, to circulate empowering messages about African

Americans while, on the other hand, not to unduly discomfort more conservative white

viewers, including those who might have seen the ethnic whites of Chicago and Boston

as victims in the era’s racial turmoil. Good Times quickly developed into an important

site of contestation and struggle over questions of “blackness,” the black family,

“authenticity,” and black versus white control in the immediate aftermath of the civil

rights movement”.

These kinds of cultural arguments…...

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