Tag Archives: Marla Gibbs

The Jeffersons Character Review: Florence Johnston

*For the foreseeable future, some Character Review posts may not be published every Thursday as they have in the past.

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about the characters from the television series The Jeffersons. Read at your own risk if you have not watched the show.

There is something to be said about a well-written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front of us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations. When one hires household help, they expect this person to be respectful and do the job they are paid to do. On The Jeffersons, Florence Johnston (Marla Gibbs) is not this kind of household staff.

Florence is a smart ass, lacks some of the skills needed to complete her work, and has no problem talking back to her employers. She frequently gets into rows with George Jefferson (Sherman Hemsley) and complains that her paycheck is on the small side. She is saved from being fired several times by Louise Jefferson (Isabel Sanford), who sees Florence as part of the family instead of hired help.

Though Florence and George don’t exactly get along, both reveal their softer sides and provide assistance when needed. George stepped in before Florence could commit suicide and Florence saved George when he got involved with a couple of con artists.

To sum it up: Household help characters have been around for generations. For the most part, they have been meek, mild, and have only been in the spotlight when they are needed. Florence is a unique not only because she is a major character, but because she is not afraid to speak her mind. Even if that means mocking those who sign her paychecks.

Which is why she is a memorable character.

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Filed under Character Review, Feminism, New York City, Television

The Jeffersons Character Review: Louise Jefferson

*For the foreseeable future, some Character Review posts may not be published every Thursday as they have in the past.

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about the characters from the television series The Jeffersons. Read at your own risk if you have not watched the show.

There is something to be said about a well-written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front of us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations. For every yin, there is a yang. The best partnerships are the one in which one person balances out the other. On The Jeffersons, Louise Jefferson (Isabel Sanford) is the the exact opposite of her husband, George (Sherman Hemsley).

When George is obnoxious and full of it, she is kind and openhearted. Willing to give people a chance, she becomes good friends with Tom and Helen Willis (Franklin Cover and Roxie Roker), a bi-racial couple who lives in the same building. Remembering the poverty she experienced in her childhood, she is reluctant to hire a maid. After some convincing on George’s part, she agreed to hire a maid. Over the years, the relationship between Louise and Florence Johnston (Marla Gibbs) becomes less like employer and employee and more like two women who know each other well.

But even as calm and collected as Louise is, there is one person that gets under her skin: her mother-in-law. Mother Jefferson (Zara Cully) knows exactly how to push Louise’s buttons. Though Louise and George have been married for a long time, she is still the target of criticism and disapproval.

To sum it up: Without Louise, George would be just another asshole. Her presence is both a calming influence on both him and the audience, allowing us to laugh without feeling the need to knock him down a peg or two. Louise is the character the audience can connect with, giving us a natural access point and allowing us to enjoy everything this show has to offer.

Which is why she is a memorable character.

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Filed under Character Review, Feminism, New York City, Television

The Jeffersons Character Review: George Jefferson

*For the foreseeable future, some Character Review posts may not be published every Thursday as they have in the past.

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about the characters from the television series The Jeffersons. Read at your own risk if you have not watched the show.

There is something to be said about a well-written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front of us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations. The American dream is the ability to pull yourself and your family up by your bootstraps. But as we all know, that dream still does not apply to everyone. On The Jeffersons, the patriarch of the family, George Jefferson is not exactly humble.

Descending from sharecroppers, and growing in poverty during the Depression, George became a business owner. Opening a chain of dry cleaners, he was able to move his wife Louise (Isabel Sanford) and son Lionel (played by both Damon Evans and Mike Evans) from Harlem to Queens and then finally to the Upper East Side of Manhattan. There are some in his shoes who would be unassuming and appreciative. But not George.

Like his former neighbor, Archie Bunker (Carroll O’Connor), George is arrogant, full of it, and has certain ideas about certain people. Though underneath it all he is a loving and supportive husband and father, that is not the impression one gets upon meeting him for the first time. He takes pleasure in riling up his neighbors, Tom and Helen Willis (Franklin Cover and Roxie Roker), and their maid Florence Johnston (Marla Gibbs). His schemes to bring in more money usually ended up in failure, to be replaced with a new idea.

To sum it up: George Jefferson should be proud of his success. In his time, what he was able to achieve is nothing to sneeze at. But there is a thin line between pride and arrogance. That being said, the reason that audiences have loved this character for nearly fifty years is the duality of being a good spouse and parent and having a large ego. Balancing both aspects, George appeals to the audience in a way that not only breaks boundaries but reveals the human side to what could easily be a dislikable man.

Which is why he is a memorable character.

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Filed under Character Review, New York City, Television