Emory Cinematheque showed episodes of Good Times, the Fresh Prince of Bel Air, and Black-ish. The focus of this screening was on sitcoms. Sitcoms were described as “industrial projects, cultural artifacts, and creative endeavors.” This type of show is repeatedly declared dead, but it always remains because it is a reflection of popular culture. These shows depict three decades, and particularly, African American community over time.
Good Times portrays the Evans family living in a Chicago housing project. Notably, this is the first African American sitcom where blacks are writing, acting, and producing. There is a contrast between the Evans family in Good Times and the Johnson family in Black-ish. The Johnson family lives in a large home in a nice neighborhood. Their children attend private school. It is a more modern image of a successful African American family. Yet while the Fresh Prince of Bel Air also depicts an upper class family, the Johnson’s cultural sacrifices are highlighted.
Unlike Good Times and the Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Black-ish shows an African American family living in a predominantly white neighborhood. In the episode, Dre realizes that his son is one of the only black children in his class. The show focuses on how their success has affected their connection to African American culture and community.
The development of female television characters was also noticeable. In the Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Aunt Vivian is portrayed mostly at home throughout the episode while in Black-ish, Rainbow is a successful doctor. The evolution in women’s roles can be viewed through the lens of these sitcoms as reflections of culture.