Netflix’s animated reboot of Good Times is dividing the internet

It’s been a while since I’ve seen one of these get much traction, but a petition has been launched that seeks to cancel the upcoming Netflix release of Good Times — the streaming giant’s animated reboot of the beloved ’70s sitcom, which for a number of reasons has sent the Internet’s hot-take machine into overdrive ahead of the show’s April 12 debut.

The animated series on Netflix, the petition explains, “is a glorified stereotypical show that has damaged the image of the original Good Times family show that started in 1974 through 1979. The New Good Times animated series promotes violence, culture destruction of the Black community and alcohol abuse. It’s time to put a stop to this nonsense that is portraying Black Americans in a negative light through these shows.”

The 2,670 signatures that petition has gathered as of this writing puts the effort more than halfway to its goal of 5,000 signatures. Obviously, that’s not the kind of thing you want to see in response to a high-profile Netflix release. And the fact that it’s already garnered a slew of negative headlines about the controversy, in addition to spinning up a round of Internet discourse on social media over its portrayal of the Black family, is particularly noteworthy given that we’re still a week out from the release as I write these words.

People are basing a lot of these takes and opinions, from what I can tell, largely on the show’s trailer — which, I’m sure you’ll agree, is a stereotype-filled hot mess:

Some history is probably in order, by the way, before we get too deeper into a discussion about the show. The new show was executive-produced by Normal Lear, the TV legend who developed the original Good Times and who died in December 2023 at age 101. In the original, the character of J.J. Evans, played by Jimmie Walker, was famous for his catchphrase of “Dyn-oh-MITE!” And especially important was the original show’s history-making presentation of the first Black two-parent family in a TV sitcom.

Netflix is billing the new series as a “spiritual sequel” to the live-action original (which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year). The animated Good Times centers around the fourth generation of the Evans family, living in apartment 17C of a Chicago housing project. In the show’s press material, the streamer also makes a point of noting that Lear was involved behind the scenes before his death, in addition to making a cameo appearance in the eighth episode.

“It’s about a Black family that comes together, laughs together, and survives the system on the South Side of Chicago,” showrunner Ranada Shepard explained in a Netflix interview. “What you’ll get from that is a lot of social commentary, a lot of pushing the boundaries, a lot of feel-good television, but also a lot of things that may be in the vein of The Simpsons and South Park and Family Guy.

Good Times on Netflix
Yvette Nicole Brown as Beverly in “Good Times.” Image source: Netflix

As for why the show went the animated route, Shepard goes on to point out that doing so allowed the creative team to have a bit more fun with the whole idea. For example, the original series often saw Florida Evans, played by Esther Rolle, constantly looking to the heavens and talking to God about her family and her problems. In the animated series, we actually see what God humorously thinks about her requests.

But not everyone thinks things are so funny. “The Original ‘Good Times’ Stars React to Controversial Animated Reboot,” reads a recently headline from The Root. “Do They Have a Point?” The catalyst for articles like this one include everything from the show’s drug-dealing baby named Dalvin to a perceived glorification of certain racial stereotypes.

A sampling of some of the comments left on YouTube in response to the trailer:

  • Dear Black Celebs: It’s ok to turn down certain work, especially if your dignity and integrity is at stake. This ain’t it.
  • Stereotype Theater Presents: Good Times- The Reboot NOBODY Was Asking For
  • This is absolutely disgusting. Netflix should be ashamed and embarrassed for this.

A comment left on the petition makes several points similar to those of the YouTube commenters: “This is an obvious attack on the Black family! This show makes a mockery of what the original Good Times was about. It glorifies the degenerate, destructive behavior some in our community engage in, and tries to portray this a normal behavior. This is unacceptable! I will not be watching, and I will tell everyone I know not to watch either.”

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