The Television Show Good Times and the Chicago Public Housing System

Created by: Jasmine Williams
Time Period: 20th Century
Topic: Culture, Poverty, Race and Ethnicity

Good Times cast

 

The sitcom Good Times was a popular show back in the 70s. Good Times is known for showing the Evans family and how close they were and, JJ famous line dynamite. Good Times provided a source of entertainment and a sense of learning about society. Urban history can be learned by watching the show because Good Times was influenced by the Cabrini Green housing system in Chicago. I believe that Good Times can help urban historians use popular culture to understand how cities impacted the community.
Public housing was one topic that Good Times reflected on. Cabrini- Green was operated under the Chicago Public Housing Authority also, known as the CHA. When looking at the Evans family home one might notice the small space. Space was small because the federal government wanted to limit the cost limit, and contractors did not take the time to make the layout better for the Cabrini- Green community.

The Evans family were a close family and always made the environment around them workout. With the Evans family being close people watching Good Times was able to see the importance of family reflect through the television set. Good Times was known by the Ebony magazine as being the “tubes best effort at showing black ghetto life.” Not only did the show reflect what Ebony Magazine saw but also, each episode of Good Times provided an important lesson to learn. The lessons could be about crime, public housing, markets, education, medical care and moving up into society.

Crime was reflected in both the show and the Cabrini- Green area. Gangs were around and Good Times reflected gangs in two episodes “Mad Dog Wanted JJ to Join his Gang” and “Michael vs. the Warlords.” Education was impacted by the desegregation of schools and how the city of Chicago reacted to integrating schools. Medical resources was also a problem and Ms. Evans reflected in the episode when “Penny Gets Sick”  how people living in poverty do not have the resources available to get better. The “Food Market Protest” reflected the Evans family calling action on how the markets in the area treat their consumers. The market in which the Evans brought their food from did not value them as an consumer and sold the a  spoiled product that made the family sick. With the discrimination that the Evans family witnessed they always looked at the positive side of things. Meaning that the Evans always wanted better for one another and never gave up on their dreams because of the situations they had witnessed  through.

The last episode of Good Times reflects the Evans family going  towards their dreams because the Evans family had an opportunity. The last episode called “The End of the Rainbow” goes over how the Evans family had an opportunity to leave public housing. In “The End of the Rainbow episode the members of the Evans family got job opportunities. Keith Thelma’s husband took a contract with the Chicago Bears and JJ comics finally got published. Thelma announced that she was pregnant, and the family friend announced that she had a new job and was leaving public housing with her daughter Penny. Eventually, the Evans family leaves public housing and moves to a penthouse and Willona the family friend also lived in the same apartment.

In conclusion, Good Times provided real life situations that affected families that lived in Chicago public housing system through everyday life situations. Through housing, education, crime, and discrimination. Urban historians can use Good Times in order to see how public housing effected African American communities in the 70s.

Word Count: 518

Citations

Joseph Godlewski, “The Tragicomic Televisual Ghetto: Popular Representations of Race and Space at Chicago’s Cabrini-Green,” Berkeley Planning Journal 22 (January 2009), 115. http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eih&AN=47731560&site=ehost-live.

Brian J. Miller, “The Struggle over Redevelopment at Cabrini-Green, 1989-2004,” Journal of Urban History 34, no. 6 (September 2008): 945, doi: 10.1177/0096144208319646.

Godlewski, 117.

“Good Times – The End of the Rainbow,” YouTube, 24:32, posted by Cory Mchenry, October 27, 2018, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AvyuKGS5Ryc.

“Good Times – The End of the Rainbow,” YouTube, 24:32, posted by Cory Mchenry, October 27, 2018, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AvyuKGS5Ryc.

Photo Citation

“Cabrini Green.” Chicago Gang History. Accessed April 04, 2019. https

“Actor Ben Powers, Known For ‘Good Times’ TV Role, Dies at 64.” NBCNews.com. Accessed April 04, 2019. https://www.nbcnews.com/news/nbcblk/actor-ben-powers-known-good-times-tv-role-dies-64-n344916. ://chicagoganghistory.com/housing-project/cabrini-green/.

Fitz-Gerald, Sean. “The Original Good Times Cast Wants to Make a Movie, But They Also Want Your Kickstarter Help So They Can Make It Dyn-O-Mite.” Vulture. February 17, 2016. Accessed April 04, 2019. https://www.vulture.com/2016/02/good-times-movie-kickstarter.html.
Monte, Eric. “Eric Monte (@eric_monte2001).” Twitter. April 09, 2015. Accessed April 04, 2019. https://twitter.com/eric_monte2001.

 

Video Sources

“Good Times – Florida’s Protest.” YouTube video, 25:09. Posted by Nyong Porto, November 25, 2018. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZgLyqU5Sxi8.
“Good Times – The End of the Rainbow.” YouTube video, 24:32. Posted by Cory Mchenry. October 27, 2018. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AvyuKGS5Ryc.
“Good Times S06 E17 Where have all the Doctors Gone.” YouTube video, 23:19. Posted by Kerstinkruger, 2018. https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x6gqlqi.
“Michael vs. Warlords on Good Times.” YouTube video, 1:48. Posted by Princess Princess. June 11, 2016. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oJx2NjAzoPY.
“That Good Times episode where Mad Dog Wanted JJ to join the War Lords.” YouTube video, 1:00. Posted by Vintage Throwbacks Classics. January 21, 2019. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jPSVWU9MWZg.

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