57) Black Jesus (Good Times)

Good Times was a spin-off of the show Maude… which was a spin-off of All in the Family. As far as I know, the Evans family was the first working-class black family on Television (I’m not counting Sanford and Son. I have my reasons). Florida and James Evans (Esther Rolle and John Amos), along with their three children J.J., Thelma, and Michael (Jimmie Walker, Bern Nadette Stanis, and Ralph Carter), live in a poor section of Chicago, but try to get by in a high-rise, despite their poverty. That was how it was supposed to be, at least, but the show soon devolved into the increasingly stupid antics of Kid Dy-No-Mite (J.J.), to the point that John Amos had his character killed off, and Florida was married off to someone in another state, leading her to abandon her 14-year-old son. They really, really wanted off of the show. This episode is before any of these problems arose, because it’s the second episode.

J.J. paints a picture of “Ned the Wino” a homeless prophet who constantly foretells the end of the world in exchange for a dime, which he uses to buy wine so that he can “die happy.” J.J. calls the painting Black Jesus, because… well, he’s black and looks like Jesus. Michael tries to convince him to enter it in a contest for Black History Week, but instead they hang it up in the apartment. Florida, a devout Christian, takes down the painting as blasphemous, although Michael responds by pointing out that it was quite possible that Jesus was black, citing a passage in Revelations (specifically that Jesus’s hair was like wool. I am not allowed to explain this joke further). She almost puts it back up until she finds out the model was the Wino. But, ultimately, the painting stays up because the family starts to have an abnormal streak of good fortune, including some financial windfalls. Florida, meanwhile, gets progressively more upset because people are attributing their “miracles” to Black Jesus instead of what she calls “real Jesus.”

J.J. tries to enter another painting into the contest, before deciding that it doesn’t matter whether he does or doesn’t because he isn’t talented (despite the rather high quality of his art). James tells his son that he should never put himself down, and encourages him to enter Black Jesus in the contest. Even though he loses the contest, Florida finally consents to the painting being hung on the wall, because the family needs as much help as it can get.

This show managed to show a decent, albeit heavily edited, example of a working class black family, as well as containing clever banter about religion, superstition, and luck. Also, it seems that it was the first televised use of the joke “I’ll take it like I take my men: Hot, black and strong!” That alone gets it on the list.

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7 thoughts on “57) Black Jesus (Good Times)”

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