Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Florida Evans Debate

Ok, so I watch Good Times everyday. It's in my Tivo list to record each and every episode. The only higher priority on my Tivo list is Law & Order:SVU. You can't help but notice so many things when watching a show thats now 30 years old. But I always end up goin back to Florida Evans.
The first is this. Esther Rolle was perfect for that Rolle at that time. Black woman on tv in those days had to be thick (i wont say fat cuz she really wasnt that big) and matronly. Some might say a living breathing Mamie image was the only thing accepted in those days. She always had a nurturing look on her face. She had a face that screamed sweet potato pies or fried chicken and corn bread. It wasnt just her face it was that syrupy voice.That always won everybody over and made them want to be saints to just like her. And at the end of every show she would tilt her head up and smile that toothy smile. The reasurring Mamie smile to reassure the viewing audience. But why did she have to?
We always remember Florida as being this strong woman who pulled her family out of the ghetto by the bootstraps. But if you watch those early episodes she was more apt to be playing Damsel in distress to James. She said "OH James" as much as JJ said "Dynomite." Or good concious to all that she came in contact with. Lots of times he was the tough street smart man of the world and she was his naive wife. If you even mention the name God she cried blasphemy. She refuse to entertain the notion of Jesus being a black man at a time when black power was florishing and the community was just starting to learn our history and being empowered to show such images. She almost had a nervous breakdown when James kept 2000.00 of the 25,000 he found. And the list goes on and on.
Don't get me wrong I love Florida and what she later represented. But these sort of things really bother me when I watch the show. Is this what people are talking about when they talk about the rumors that John Amos was run off the show because they would rather have a strong mother figure than strong black male. Sure they strengthened Floridas character when James left but why couldn't there have been two strong characters. Anybody who has ever lived in poverty like that will sure tell you it sure is better to have 2 parents in your corner ready to beat somebpdy down for you than one.

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