by James Hill
April 20, 2017
This is “The Breakdown” where we look at some of the biggest moments in our lives (and by “our lives,” we mean stuff that was happening on TV) and get at the heart of what makes these scenes and characters so unforgettable with five thoughts.
Even with ALL the TV out there, it’s still hard to find a show that keeps it as real as “Good Times” did way back in 1974 and this clip is no exception. Today, we look at the time J.J. got profiled in season one of this seminal show.
1. Before we get into the nitty gritty, can we first address the green elephant in the room — J.J.’s outfit? Look, the 70’s let you get away with lots of unimaginable things — doctors smoking in hospital rooms, hot metal slides for children — but this is unacceptable. Was J.J. auditioning to play Robin Hood? Had he just left an all-Black Ren Faire? What is the purpose of this outfit and what mad man created it?
2. We know better than to apply current-day standards to things that happened 40 years ago, but DAMN what’s with all the fat and height shaming here? Willona not only drops the word “midget” like it’s nothing but later mocks the young, Black boy about to go to jail as a “fat, little butterball.”
3. You know what moment REALLY got us upset? When the white officer admits they arrested the wrong person and apologizes by saying “sorry for the little inconvenience.” That moment so accurately depicts the acceptance of rampant police misconduct and the lack of care for the people it affects. We see our family and friends locked up and killed over “mistakes” and are expected to move along as if there’s nothing to see here.
4. Another defining moment is when James blames “those damn computers” for J.J. losing his job. We laugh now because we’re all reading this on a smart phone, but in the 70’s, while most of America looked at computers as a step up, many in our community saw it as one more brick in the wall separating us from the American dream.
5. Last but not least, let’s just pay all due respect to a show that never shied away from exposing real life and how real people lived it. On any other show, J.J.’s vindication would end the show on a high note but not “Good Times.” Not only did J.J. still lose his job — highlighting the circle of poverty — but it ends with James, the moral center of the show, saying “You can’t win for losing.” DAMN! Let’s see “Black-ish” top that.
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