Adult Swim’s newest show, 'Black Jesus,' has been stirring up plenty of ire and controversy, but the conversation among detractors neglects to see the overall message: love.
Where must all this love be in present-day, southwest Compton, you ask, occupied with homeless persons, drunkards, ex-cons, drug dealers and atheist cops?
It comes through the character of Black Jesus, played by Gerald ‘Slink’ Johnson. In his biblical, brown robes, he’s dropping nuggets of love, compassion and understanding to the “downtrodden” community, who are looking for some hope. He’s not only among the sinners, he represents them, engaging in foul-mouthed exchanges, greedily smoking weed, and doing other things deemed “ungodly.”
Creators Aaron McGruder (The Boondocks) and Mike Clattenburg (Trailer Park Boys) makes the realities of contemporary society, and how faith intermingles with it, visible, through the faces of multicultural communities in American culture.
In one scene from the first episode, one of Jesus’ followers, Fish, sees a traffic officer writing a ticket for Jesus’ parked van on the street. He tells the officer that he can move it, and calls two of his friends to help. All the while, the officer pays him no mind, proceeding to fill out the ticket. As the van is being moved to another area, Fish pleads with the officer.
“C’mon man, it’s not even 8 (expletive) o’clock. You trippin.”
“8:20 [a.m.],” the officer dryly responds. Fish gets irritated.
“You out here writing these funky (expletive), $79 tickets for street cleaning and look at this, man!” (Kicks empty liquor bottle off the sidewalk.)
“This (expletive) street ain’t even clean. The least your fat (expletive) can do is clean up some stuff.”
From the 3 minute segment you see a cop, indifferent to the space that he and other inhabitants live around. Streets and sidewalks are trashed with litter composed of paper, emptied trash bags and liquor bottles. He also disregards Fish, a resident of the community, who kindly and imploringly asks for a break.
On the other hand, it’s 8 o’clock in the morning and Fish is standing in the midst of the garbage, drinking a 40 (beer), which is left on a concrete block. He’s not cleaning the area around him yet, reproaches law enforcement.
Neither of them recognize that it’s a shared and equal responsibility to keep the community clean.
It’s also one of many interactions that illustrate the lack of compassion and empathy among everyday people as we deal with race, religion, economic status and various social problems.
And the show conscientiously holds that mirror in front of our faces.
It may be offensive, even “blasphemous” to some, but the lessons of love, faith and unity are there, punctuated with street life.
Black Jesus is trying to change the neighborhood, for the better. He and his fellow disciples get into some hairy predicaments along the way, but our human existence isn’t always filled with “hallelujahs” and praise. The half-hour, live action comedy show informs us of a simple truth: Life ain’t easy.
“What can you give me then?” a homeless man asks Black Jesus, exasperated.
“I got some kindness, I got compassion and love for all mankind,” offers Black Jesus. “You better get on some of that, man.”
‘Black Jesus’ premiered Thursday Aug. 7, 2014 on Adult Swim. Episodes are shown Thursdays at 11 p.m. ET.