A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that the irreverent humor in Black Jesus isn't for kids and won't appeal to all adults, but its unique portrayal of modern-day Jesus' efforts to spread the good news is both humorous and heartwarming, even if it is brimming with racial and socio-economic stereotypes that portray inner-city people of color as carefree and lazy. The show is laced with strong language ("s--t," "ass," "hell," and "Goddamn"; only "f--k" is edited), and the mostly African-American characters frequently use the "N" word with each other. All the main characters drink, smoke, and use recreational drugs such as pot, and they're often at odds with the law. On the other hand, Black Jesus appeals to them at their level and in their language, and his messages are solid, even if his presentation is a little rough around the edges.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
BLACK JESUS follows the modern-day Son of God (Gerald "Slink" Johnson), who in this imagining is a long-haired, robe-wearing African-American in Compton, California. His messages of kindness and forgiveness often fall on the deaf ears of those around him, but that doesn't stop him from trying to spread the word among his friends and neighbors as they hang out on street corners smoking and drinking. Created by Aaron McGruder (The Boondocks) and Mike Clattenburg (Trailer Park Boys), this series ponders what it would be like if Jesus surrounded himself with the socially marginalized in the inner city rather than only those in Galilee.
Is it any good?
A TV version of a popular YouTube character, Black Jesus is so simple it's almost complex, which makes it mildly confusing for those who watch. The concept is easy to grasp: What if Jesus returned today as the antithesis of what popular opinion portrays him to be? On one hand, the show's irreverent trampling of Christianity's sacred beliefs about the Son of God's impeccable moral character is laugh-out-loud funny; on the other hand, this nontraditional portrayal still manages to reflect many of the Biblical savior's original messages, despite the bearer's pot-smoking, insult-slinging trappings.
Clearly this isn't a show for teens who won't see past the superficial absurdity to its better messages, and the rampant language is a strong deterrent for this age group. But adults will see it better for what it is -- a comical supposition of how modern-day Jesus's charismatic messages might fall on our ears today. Would new takes on Jesus quotes such as "He not know what the f--k he do" and "You do realize I died for you, right?" impress themselves upon us, or would we write them off because of the messenger's delivery? If nothing else, Black Jesus makes you look at long-held beliefs about Christianity in a different way, and even believers will see that the character's redemptive qualities outweigh his questionable moral fiber in this uniquely comical reimagining.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what this show tries to accomplish. Does it cross a line of decorum in poking fun at Jesus Christ? Are its intentions to debunk faith, or does it merely attempt to present faith in a different way?
What stereotypes are at play among these characters? How do they reflect society's impression of racial and socio-economic divides? Is it ever appropriate to use stereotypes in comedy? Is the show's use of the "N" word OK, given the predominantly African-American cast?
How has the Internet changed the entertainment industry? Have you seen the Black Jesus clips on YouTube? Do you think this show transitions well to a sitcom format? What defines good entertainment?