James Evans: The End Of The Good Times

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“A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots”-Marcus Garvey

Though it seems so off in the distance, time has a way of exaggerating its own elapse as though thousands of years have thus surpassed and the futurism that is today has all but superseded the so called yester-years of what is considered an archaic era of extinction. I pause before subscribing to this idea that my era is antiquated. In fact that theory is for lazy people who have accepted convenience over conventional thinking. I say this not with a vibrant arrogance, but I do make this statement with unapologetic conviction. The “old school” temperament had an invaluable substance to it. It contained certain values and working elements that did not require an in-depth analysis nor a downloadable app to enhance the functionality of a simplistic daily routine. I stand mystified and often perceive myself a relic of sorts, when recognizing that the values that I cling on to like the accessory weapon inside the Kung Fu grip hand of a G.I. Joe action figure, seems to no longer be a viable option that many are willing to subscribe to. I certainly have applauded the newfangled world we reside in on several other blogs that I have written; as I have acknowledged the fact that the advancement of technology is both wondrous and brilliant. My one caveat, however, is the fact that the quality of humanity, in spite of today’s nuances, resembles that of a fallen world and that of a society on the brink of self-destruction. There is no longer a conscious, nor is there honor, discipline, truth, justice and dare I say a strand of hope, when reflecting on the ills that continue to haunt and affect our society as a whole. We have rogue policemen murdering innocent victims, assailants killing their own family members, streets that resemble a war torn third world country and the senseless rants of bloviating, political orators whose tongues speak with the principles of ignorance and not that of education. Even those public figures who we once held in high regards, we now find that they have skeletons of alleged laced cocktails and non-consensual sexual deviancy at the forefront of their character assassination. Yes these are troubling times with a hand written signature of a demonic glyph on full display for all to see; yet we still continue to ignore. These are not the rants of a bitter man frozen in the tundra plains of the late 70’s and early 80’s. These are also not the ideological rants of a man who is not modernized. Simply put, this is a man who enjoys observing and documenting the occurrences of life. I am sure you are asking, what does this have to do with James Evans from the television show Good Times? Well that is a great question and one I would be more than happy to answer. When the character of James Evans (played by John Amos) died on the socially conscious television show, it symbolized a shift in not only the way the nuclear family was being displayed on television (especially in the African-American community), but it also marked a shift in television philosophy as well. John Amos character was killed off in the episode entitled “The Big Move”. The quick synopsis was the fact that the Evans family, who had been living in impoverished conditions, were now finally moving out of the doldrums of poverty and into the world of prosperity. Before the “Big Move” took place, James Evans was killed and thus the move never took place and the family was left in dire straits and despair. I won’t delve too deep into the ramifications and symbolism this represented on a grander scale as it pertains to the African-American household, however I do want to tell the backstory of what this represented from a production mindset. The show was originally a vehicle for both John Amos and Esther Rolle that would deal with socially conscious topics in a comedic like platform. The character of J.J. Evans (played by Jimmy Walker) was a subordinate role at the time, but do to his “Dy-No-Mite” catchphrase, the producers at the time stopped writing quality dialogue for the show and began to favor and focus on the buffoonish antics of Jimmy Walker’s character. Esther Rolle (Florida Evans) did an interview with Ebony Magazine and was quoted the following when describing Jimmy Walker’s character during its ascension to popularity: “He’s 18 and he doesn’t work. He can’t read or write. He doesn’t think. The show didn’t start out to be that…Little by little—with the help of the artist, I suppose, because they couldn’t do that to me—they have made J.J. more stupid and enlarged the role. Negative images have been slipped in on us through the character of the oldest child”. John Amos echoed those same sentiments stating: “The writers would prefer to put a chicken hat on J.J. and have him prance around saying “DY-NO-MITE”, and that way they could waste a few minutes and not have to write meaningful dialogue”. Both statements were extremely provocative and profound in nature, as it provided insight into the philosophical shift from conscious imagery to the unconscious philosophy of finance and marketability. The death of James Evans, represented a plethora of changes. It symbolized the removal of the African-American patriarch from the household, the death of African-American prosperity and the injection of coon-like buffoonish imagery of the African-American to the forefront of the American television audience. All of the aforementioned are even more prevalent today. Rarely do we find prominent images of African-Americans in the realms of entertainment that don’t exhibit some form of degradation. If you don’t believe me, do your own research on this. I am sure that by the end of your research, you too will utter the greatest catchphrase of despair from the show Good Times #damn, damn, damn!

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