Norman Lear Reshaped How America Saw Black Families

By admin Dec9,2023

Cast members believed the performance portrayed Black Americans in a stereotypical lens. Despite these concerns, the show’s writers transformed J.J. from a minor character into one of the show’s central figures.

“I thought too much emphasis was being put on J.J. and his chicken hat and saying ‘dy-no-mite’ every third page,” Amos said in a 2014 interview with the Television Academy. He added that producers resolved the conflict by getting rid of Amos’s character. “So they said, ‘Tell you what? Why don’t we kill him off and we’ll all get on with our lives?’”

In addition to Amos’s firing, Rolle also left the show for a season before returning.

“When we found out that John wouldn’t be back, we read the script and I thought it was mistaken identity,” Stanis said, adding that when Rolle, who died in 1998, briefly left, “I don’t think that she was very happy with having to leave the show the way it was designed.”

In his 2014 autobiography, “Even This I Get to Experience,” Lear wrote that members of the Black Panthers came to his office to complain that “Good Times” perpetuated stereotypes about Black poverty. Lear responded with “The Jeffersons,” which debuted on CBS in 1975. The show featured Sherman Hemsley as George Jefferson, a Black man with a successful dry-cleaning business and a luxury apartment in Manhattan, and Isabel Sanford as his beleaguered wife, Louise.

Gibbs broke out as Florence before going on to a long career that included roles on series like “227” and “The Hughleys.” When she received her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2021, Lear accompanied her to the ceremony. She remembered him saying that laughter adds years to one’s life and thanked her for adding years to his.

“I’d say without Norman, people would not know my name,” said Gibbs, 92. “He hired me and because of the affiliation, everybody knows Marla Gibbs and they know Florence, so I’d say he definitely added years to my life.”

Susan Beachy contributed research.

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