Written by Penelope Farthing
In the latest remake no one asked for, Jimmy Kimmel and Norman Lear will be spearheading a Good Times remake. The actors and actresses tapped to play the Evans family from the iconic sitcom are Viola Davis as Florida, Andre Braugher as James, Jay Pharoah as JJ, Asante Blackk as Michael, and Corinne Foxx as Thelma. Tiffany Haddish will also be present, playing the next-door neighbor, Willona.
Now, out of all the reruns my mom watched growing up, I liked Good Times the least. I didn’t like the poverty they endured, and the show itself was depressing to me. However, I understand and respect the role it has in black pop culture, and recognize its greatness, even though I never enjoyed the show.
One thing I did like about the show was the fashion, and Willona and Thelma lead the pack in peak 70s glam. I’m not a fan of Tiffany Haddish, but somehow, despite her constant playing to stereotypes, I think she could possibly pull off Willona. It would show she has range beyond being a caricature, which would be good for her. However, my main issue (because I always have one), is with who will be playing Thelma.
Thelma, originally portrayed by Bern’Nadette Stanis, an Instagram baddie before Instagram or baddies, has been given the biracial treatment as is fairly frequent in black sitcoms. She was (and still is!) beautiful, a bona fide sex symbol, and I have no doubt she was the crush of many gents (And a few ladies, probably) back in the day.
Don’t get me wrong, I can suspend my disbelief like no other, but I’m struggling with how two dark-skinned parents can make a whole biracial child. Black people can come in many shades, but the most likely shade for two dark skinned people to create, is a dark-skinned child. To say otherwise is to make the exception the rule and is being dishonest.
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This is truly curious to me. Why is it always the woman who gets the “bleaching” treatment? JJ and Michael’s actors are believable as the sons of Viola and Andre. Not a single male character on this remake, or the Jeffersons one before, were played by lighter complected actors. Not to mention, the role of Jenny from the Jeffersons, the biracial daughter of Helen and Tom Willis, was played by a fully black woman in the original, but a biracial actress was cast in the remake. I don’t have a problem with that, mind you, because that recast makes sense.
But if biracial women get to play biracial characters, and black characters too, where does that leave unambiguous black actresses? How come biracial women get the “they are black just like us” treatment, but very, very rarely does a biracial male actor get to supplant the image of a role meant for an unambiguous black man? Wasn’t there some outrage about The Rock portraying John Henry earlier this year? Or that Will Smith was not dark enough to play the Williams patriarch in the biopic about Venus and Serena’s father? There is no shortage of young, fully black actresses, and yet the lightening and brightening of young black female characters continues to pervade TV and pop culture. Why is this?
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I have no problems with biracial women, and respect and understand their right to play the game to win. But black women need to be playing to win too, and be ruthless in our tactics.
This same erasure was also slated to happen in the Jeffersons remake back in May, as the character of Florence was to be played by Justina Machado, who is Hispanic. However, the casting directors must have realized the errors of their ways, and the legendary Marla Gibbs reprised her iconic role. I hope something like that happens here also. Bern’Nadette herself would not make sense in the remake in her original Thelma role, but she posted on social media that her daughter, Dior, could, and bonus, they look alike.
Since this remake thing is moving along, imagine if a predominantly white sitcom was recast. Could you imagine if Chrissy or Janet from Three’s Company, or Jeannie from I Dream of Jeannie, or Lisa from Green Acres was cast to be a black woman? Or even a biracial woman? I would imagine that would not go down well. Many tears were shed with Halle Bailey’s casting of Ariel this year, for example. If every other race of people is (rightfully) protective of their iconic fictional characters, why aren’t we?
Now that the erasure discussion is out of the way…
I don’t know any of Corinne’s work, but given that her father is Jamie Foxx, I do wonder if nepotism played a role. After all, he butchered George in the Jefferson’s remake earlier this year, maybe this is the Foxx family’s way of trying to bring honor back to the family name. I wish her well, and hopefully she doesn’t flounder like her dad did.
Hollywood’s seeming lack of originality is definitely getting tiresome. With all the new talent out there, surely there are fresh ideas that can be brought to life so that iconic shows like Good Times and The Jeffersons can be left alone. The Good Times remake will air on ABC this Wednesday December 18th at 8pm.
What are your thoughts on yet another remake? Will you be tuning in? Let’s hear your thoughts in the comments below.
Disclaimer: This blog was written by me, Penelope, and my ideas are not necessarily reflective of Christelyn Karazin or other writers on this platform.