Jimmie Walker Says Your Constant Complaining Discourages Studios From Taking Risks On Black Stories

Jimmie Walker Says Your Constant Complaining Discourages Studios From Taking Risks On Black Stories

In a good interview with NPR earlier today, Jimmie Walker of Good Times fame, had a few things to say, when host Michel Martin asked him to respond to criticism (then and still now) of the show that would make him a star – specifically, the notion that it encouraged and exploited stereotypes of black people.

In addition to challenging those criticisms by exalting the show’s pros (like the many issues that affected the black community that it did tackle), Walker argued that it is essentially because of the fact that we (black people – although, in fairness, not all of us), routinely (and reductively, I might add) reject what we deem as “negative” depictions of black people on screen, so much that Hollywood studios, and other financial risk-takers in TV and film, are less willing to back productions that tell complex stories about black people. 

In short, they (the studio execs and financiers) would rather just not deal with the hassle (in the form of outrage or protest from the black community), and thus, suggesting that, unlike what many believe to be the case – that Hollywood isn’t sensitive to the lack of variety in its productions – is instead the opposite; that Hollywood is very sensitive to the feelings and needs of under-represented groups (in this case, black folks), because they are concerned that certain depictions of black people wouldn’t be embraced. 

Take for example, the recent petition to boycott Flight, because of the kind of character Denzel Washington plays – a drunk, drug addict who has a relationship with a white woman, who’s also an addict.

I believe it was Boyce Watkins who started that petition, although I don’t think anything came of it – thank goodness for that! (CORRECTION – as Dr Watkins notes in the comment section below, he didn’t start the petition; he only wrote about it in one of his blogs. I should however, also note that Dr. Watkins suggested a boycott, with respect to Denzel Washington’s performance in Flight, arguing that the Academy only seems to reward black actors when they are, as he stated, “forced to debase themselves and play to racist stereotypes in order to be recognized.” Read The Hollywood Reporter’s piece on that HERE).

Here’s Jimmie Walker’s quote:

What happens is, it also is reflective in black TV shows and movies, that you’re not gonna get anymore of those because of the constant complaining, moaning and groaning… The point is to make money. And therefore, the network themselves have actually stopped doing any ethnic shows, because they don’t want the aggravation… What has happened is that any minority character you see on a show now is always the police commissioner, the head of the hospital, the school superintendent. Those kinds of people don’t invoke followers. The people who are going to get attention are the wacky guys… who eventually become stars… You’ll never see a black Will Ferrell, You’ll never see a black Adam Sandler, because black people aren’t allowed to play those kind of roles.

So does Walker have a point there? Are we, in essence, partly to blame here for the lack of variety in depictions of black stories on screen, because we are, albeit unintentionally, discouraging studio execs and other financiers from taking any risks with us and our stories, because they aren’t quite sure how we will respond to one kind of portrayal or another, and would rather just not deal with the hassle?

What do you think about what he’s saying there?

And, by the way, Walker also added that he’s doing a Showtime special, titled It’s Not All Dy-no-mite, which will be recorded in Raleigh, NC soon, and will air on the network some time after.

Feel free to listen to the full interview HERE.

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Comments

Anitasuker777@yahoo.com

Our story has not been emphasized. But red, black, white, blue does not matter. Honor American Indians once and for all. Where did we go

Anita Suker

Being Native American I feel we we are by far the the majority to our own lands. Abenaki

James Briggs???

C’mon JJ, we all know that’s you.

James Briggs

The whole issue is stupid. Concerning yourself with blacks issues opens you up to attack. You have millions who exist to attack and complain. They say you could do this and that but they don’t do it. They use hindsight to attack and that is childs play. Blacks cannot live their life they must be miserable constantly because of the critics.

Tyrone

I never liked "Good Times" matter of fact I hated it! All those adults in a rent control apartment and they still could not afford nothing…SICK!! That the image Jimmy walker wants???? HOW IGNORANT!!!!!! If he wants to act like a nut a buffoon do it at his home! I understand that he was too stupid and horrible actor to do nothing but Good Times…And he is mad!!!! I was born in 1958 at that time there were very little if any black people permitted on TV. Whites dominated TV and they laid the foundation . Or rather the positive image for their race! White women could not come on TV or be in a movie. Without makeup lipstick down throughout the TV program or movie! She could be in a fight in mud and would come up with perfect make up and lip stick down!The nuclear family was promoted in the white TV and movie families! Whites were the good people and the rest of the races were invisible! Sitcom like Ozzie and Harriet showed the perfect white family! The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet is an American sitcom, airing on ABC from October 3, 1952 through March 26, 1966, starring the real life Nelson family. Whites brought to the public a image of whites were in authority and everyone else DID NOT MATTER UNTIL WHITES SAYS THEY MATTER!!!

When blacks were allowed on TV they were white people’s joke……. THE BUFFOON! Dark skin big eyes and white white teeth were whites preferable black people. Horrible stupid ignorant diction is also a preferable at that time for white people. What was crazy was the fact that the real Ozzie and Harriet. The white father was a drunk and a womanizer the white mother a alcohol ! In other words whites in entertainment TV And movie were very concern about the image of white people! This behavior worked for whites in many ways…First it made white Americans feel superior to all other race of America. Second it made all other race of American feel whites are prettier better and superior! This laid the ground for “First fire last fire (WHITE) vs Last hire first fire (BLACK)! AND DWB..Driving While Black)….WWB …Walking While Black.. And today unemployment national unemployment 7.9% vs black unemployment 16.7%!

That why I’m very critical of Tyler Perry movie and TV sitcom. In my opinion Tyler Perry has turn the clock backward with the accomplishment made by black actors. Black sitcom today overall are a disgrace to the many accomplishment of black American! Black American that demanded better! Black actors that refuse to do anything that made them act like fools or rather buffoons! Tyler Perry puts overweight and ignorant speaking black people in his movie and TV sitcom. At a time when black obesity is causing many health problems! Even before Donald Trump’s 2011 season of “Celebrity Apprentice” began, the chosen previews featured NeNe Leakes of “Real Housewives of Atlanta” raising Hades with everyone, especially the other black women on the show. I’d bet “The Donald” loves this — black girls “gone wild”— as it is good for ratings and for those who like such acerbic behavior. But I say, enough already.

NO BRAINER

My dun, Jimmy. You're speaking the truth, brother…

Troy

Is it possible for someone who has been in the industry over 40 years to know less about what's going on in said industry than a bunch of people who are not? I think complaining by the black audience keeps studios from taking more chances on different stories leading many young filmmaker's to stay the independent course. I think everyone in entertainment wants to cross over. The stage doesn't save lives just like Hollywood doesn't.

Wise

You lost me at "Boyce Watkins."

Micah

There is very little validity in what Jimmy Walker is saying. Jimmy Walker is being dishonest when he suggest characters that are noble or have decent jobs can't be compelling. It's the flaws in these people and their struggles to maintain that "invoke followers". It's far easier to find a black Will Ferrell or Adam Sandler then to find a black Tom Hanks or Meryl Streep in the history of popular entertainment. While the latter actors have played less than respectable characters, they also have played the lead a multitude of times as noble characters. They also where allowed to play both with complexity. Out of the few well known-superstar black actors that we have had in the history of hollywood, they have mostly been comedic actors. Take away Denzel Washington, Sidney Portier and Morgan Freeman, how many major dramatic black actors do we have? Not many. When they do get parts it's almost guaranteed that they will be negative and the actor will be doing his or her hardest to bring a shred of humanity that character the writer/director left out(They always have their work cut out for them.) I'm more concerned with two things: (1) Making platforms where young and upcoming black artists can grow and shine where they reflect the true variety of the black experience. (2) Having the equivalents in stature and success of actors like Leonardo Dicaprio, Charlize Theron, Hugh Jackman or Kate Winslet. All of which are allowed to play deep thoughtful characters whether noble, vile, comedic or dramatic with a sense of respect.

There are a lot of issues that effect why studios are less willing to put up minority actors of any kind in a lead role, complex role or unusual role. Is this really his excuse for why they don't use other minorities either? This is certainly not the root of the problem.

Charles Judson

I would suggest listening to the whole interview. One, Walker sounds incredibly humble and self aware of where's he at with his career. Two, his major point is not that the frequency of actors appearing on shows has dropped, it's the lack of roles that can allow an actor, specifically comedians, of color to breakout that's been reduced or restricted is his major point. Just look to the recent history of SNL as an example. Will Ferrell (as mentioned), Amy Poehler, Jimmy Fallon, Tina Fey. The number of breakouts on that show is small compared to the overall number of cast members. Even smaller is the number of breakouts who rolled that into success. Exactly how many network shows can you name with a character played by anyone of color that has broken out in the last few years? Donald Glover is one of the few examples I can think of. Mindy Kaling is another (notice they're both writers as well). This isn't a new phenomenon. If Lucy Liu's character hadn't become an unexpected hit and by extension a reoccurring character would she be where she is? Think back to Bill Cosby and Richard Pryor who had platforms like Johnny Carson and the Ed Sullivan's show. Same with Eddie Murphy on SNL. At the moment, there are not a lot of spots for someone who's just coming up and on the brink to shine. If you want a final comparison, go back to Def Comedy Jam. Aries Spears (16), Dave Chappelle (19) and Chris Tucker (19) all appeared on the show at a young age. Who's a current comedian under the age of 25 you can name? Who's been in a role that's allowed them to standout or made you notice them? Over the last few years we've definitely seen a number of actors slotted into the safest of roles and it's definitely a problem if you're looking to develop and groom actors of colors to be leads.

Mary

Am I the only one who thinks Jimmie Walker has gotten increasingly more handsome over the years?

Miles Ellison

The issue of how black people are portrayed has less to do with the offensiveness of the images than it does with who is perceived to be controlling them.

Miles Maker

I'm not buying Mr. Walker's opinion as the prevailing reason why we're not seeing people of color depicted as often as we'd like to see ourselves in TV and film. However good writing requires compelling characters with seemingly unconquerable problems, and the most intriguing story arcs involve characters with inner demons and interpersonal conflicts that are perceived as larger than life–hence fiction on screen to convey them. Some of the most memorable and endearing white characters in cinema have the vilest of personal struggles–yet these same struggles depicted with Black characters gets us heated. Is it because they're produced by white people, or does it matter if the same story was depicted by a Black creator?

There's something about us 'looking bad' on screen we're vehement about. On the other hand I've read countless books by street lit authors that depict such downright distasteful images of us I cringe at the thought of seeing them adapted for movies and TV. However these are the very same bestselling books I see in countless Black hands. Is it because we only picture these characters in our private thoughts & minds?

Boyce Watkins

Hi, I am Dr. Boyce Watkins – I did not start any such petition. I simply wrote about it on one of my blogs. Please do your research.

Bee

I'll put it simply: both Jimmie Walker and Boyce Watkins need to have a damn seat. Several seats. They are both symptoms of the problem we as black Americans face in terms of film representation. One (Walker) blames black folks for Hollywood's misrepresentations and refusal to recognize us, while the other (Watkins, who is a hypocrite, among other things) cries about every single representation that even slightly displays a black man with real human faults. They both need to just stop and get a clue. Period.

ALM

Yes, Mr. Walker, blame the audience, who has very little control over what the media decides to show….that's real productive. SMH

Miles Ellison

It seems to me that Hollywood defaults to simplistic negative stereotypes and buffoonery because it's easier to sell than dimension and complexity. And people buy it. More people watch Real Housewives, Basketball Wives, or the Tyler Perry cavalcade of neo-blackface than watch The Wire or Treme.

Bondgirl

"I believe it was Boyce Watkins who started that petition, although I don't think anything came of it – thank goodness for that!" <<—Says the author of this post who secretly slams Scandal in public. Look down, you're fly is open.

getthesenets

check out the videos to some of his book signings and the Q&As…he says some of the same stuff…find it at the usual video sites.-book was a good read also

Tali

This story has NO validity.

Tyler Perry, a billionaire off black theater and movies and tv has some of the worst stereotypes on screen and yet his movies, tv, theater does beaucoup business.

And at ANY given time, some group is protesting Hollywood offerings. Be it gay people, latinos, arabs, asians, christians, hell parent groups… Does it change the business model? Hell no! Because there is GREEN to be had. And Hollywood's favorite color is GREEN.

Hollywood doesn't do "black" stories more often because they are short sighted. People in power in Hollywood have one job… to KEEP their jobs. They are more concerned with keeping their jobs than doing their jobs. And since they are all white with no cultural experience or knowledge of black people, they greenlight things they are familiar with and want to see and think others will want to see (even though they are usually wrong). Doing a "black" film is a bigger risk in their eyes than doing other types of movies… And executives are NEVER fired for NOT taking a risk on a project. They are fired when they take a risk and it doesn't pay off (hence executive turnover every few years).

Historically, if you look at straight budget and box office numbers, "black" movies are the LEAST risky to do. They tend to always make money (ask 50 cent who has been investing in no budget films the last few years). However, since Hollywood executives change over every few years, that lesson gets lost as the new batch of executives coming in will only take risks in worlds they know… which is not ours.

What I'd like to know is what the hell is Jimmy Walker doing right now other than schtupping the ultra-conservative Ann Coulter? My point is he is NOT a friend to black people despite being black and acting on one of the greatest shows ever. He has little legitimacy on the issue and needs to go back and hang with his tea party buddies and leave the hustle to those that are truly invested in the community and entertainment industry and care.

travis

Damn….Damn….Damn……!

Alice

I kinda just talked about this in my new blog post Django: A Story Still Chained. Controversy sells and fear of criticism is not why Hollywood isn't producing more movies about black folk that present us positively. They aren't producing them because they don't make as much money. PERIOD. Gauge the box office receipts of films like "Django" versus "Amistad" or compare a film like "Love Jones" to "Think Like A Man". Had it NOT been for the mainstream success of the book and its producers track record, the studios would not have been so open to support, "Think Like A Man." Why invest millions of dollars in a movie when the stats show black audiences don't support them as much. WE ARE OUR OWN WORST ENEMY…between boot-legging and willingness to wait for DVD or On Demand, we as an audience have told Hollywood what we are willing to spend our money on. That said, did "Red Tails" make a profit? Read more of my take on why Django is still chained…http://www.hollywoodliveandwork.com/2013/01/django-story-still-chained.html

bill

Shadow and Act. A place where we can agree to disagree. Like I need advice from JJ. I think the only character in flight written for an Afro-American was don cheadle's character. Denzel made that movie (flight) and I'm sure it wasn't written for him ten years ago boyce so do some research. Seriously though Bill O' Reilly? As as far as voting is concerned, no I don't have to vote for some one because they may be of my complexion, but I'm also not going to vote for a party that doesn't give a damn about me.

Charles Judson

It will be easy for some to dismiss his points, but it's a very valid point. You can go back to the days of the Hays Code and regional Censorship boards and you'll see that Hollywood has always been afraid to turn off any group. Especially any group willing to pay money. They've reedited films, designed them to have scenes that could be pulled out, and changed the posters to fit whatever region of the country they were targeting. Is the complaining the only and main reason that they've shied away? No. However, I would say that in today's Wall Street run fire first analyze the fallout later Hollywood, executives are likely even more adverse to dealing with anything that will be deemed a "headache" or a hardsell. This is even more so when you also add in the perceived lack of foreign market for projects with actors of color. Think back to the 1990s. Between those who came up through Def Comedy Jam and In Living Color, and the myriad of offshoots that showed up in syndication and on cable, there were quite a few folks who got their start. Does that hold true now? I haven't looked at it, but it does seem to be fewer Black comedians who have come up in the 2000's and crossed over, even into reoccurring roles, than in the 1990s. Even the newer shows on BET, TV One, etc. are mostly featuring actors and comedians who have been in the industry for 20+ years. I'd be curious to compare the two time periods.

Nat Jones

I heartily disagree. Why are WE taking the blame for Hollywood because we want them to show us in a positive (or at the very least NORMAL) light? Hollywood doesn't want to tackle the REALITY of oppression/microagression that people of African descent deal with because their majority white audience doesn't want to deal with it. TV/Movies are for escapism/entertainment and people don't want to turn on the TV and be confronted with their privilege-it's THAT SIMPLE. That's one thing. Two, they won't hire black writers/directors/staff who can give them input on how to make a successful program centered around an African-American character -OMG that's just too much work! It's easier to make fluff, throw in a token black character to appear multicultural without addressing WHY that's the only black character in a cast of 100. The success of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Scandal and the internet series Confessions of an Awkward Black Girl just go to show that the material is OUT THERE, but no one wants to give it a chance. We have tons of talent out there that is never given a fair chance, so YES, JJ – we have every right to complain! If for every 100 shows/movies they make, 20 have prominent black characters and 15 of them perpetuate negative stereotypes – it is our RIGHT and our DUTY to say something.

Lowell

Women complain about how Hollywood depicts them too. Why are we being singled out? Because there are more of our stories to tell that does NOT involve slavery or the hood?

Lawrence

Interesting article. I thinks some, not all of us have a hard time divorcing our feelings when looking at ourselves (black characters) on TV/film. It's like we put ourselves in a box and can't play anything other than hero roles. In the film 'The Hangover' I wonder if that film would have been embraced by blacks like it was, if all 4 characters were black and on the highly rated show 'Shameless' what if they were a black family? I don't know.

donnadara

Shut up J.J.. Is that why Django is doing so well in the box office? Hollywood tells that stories that it wants to tell, directed at a white audience, regardless of what we say. And they love to greenlight the buffoonery of Tyler Perry – positive images? And Training Day, Precious, and Monster's Ball, all won actors Academy Awards without positive imagery. They do what they want. They are not checking for us.

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