The word “geek” is now being thrown around like a slobbery stick wrestled from the mouth of the dog that is mainstream culture. Being a black nerd or geek may be harder because there is very little fantasy or sci-fi properties that cater to you.
Around the years 1998-2000, the Disney Channel was one of the greatest places for entertaining shows. So Weird and The Famous Jett Jackson were amazing genre shows that just don’t get enough fan love and instead seem to have fallen into obscurity. What’s so amazing about The Famous Jett Jackson is that the main character was this ultra-badass James Bond/Batman hybrid of an action hero. With fan rage over Michael B. Jordan being cast as an African-American Human Torch in the upcoming Fantastic Four reboot, people seem to forget that black leads in sci-fi/fantasy can work. It did for The Famous Jett Jackson and it did for Blade.
However, I will be completely honest about this; I think that 80% of comic book movies are just terrible. The lack of a black female or male leads in comic book movies is not the major issue. However, having a good character in a good comic book movie that happens to be black is more important.
Anyway, Jett Jackson was awesome primarily for the acting talent of Lee Thompson Young and the “show within a show” aspect. There was the TV show Sliverstone, a pseudo spy thriller alongside a teen drama about friendship and teenager shit. The reality is that the Sliverstone aspects of the show were my favorite. It appealed to my adolescent need for action-oriented violence and classic good versus evil plotlines that dominate mainstream culture. Young’s acting is what sells the show. He switches from badass to cool kid easily.
After looking back on the show, I have come to appreciate the teenage drama aspects of the show now. The show tackled issues of free speech, civil rights, and even eating disorders with the same intensity as Boy Meets World. Incidentally, the eating disorder episode featured a young Rachel McAdams. These topics are ones that popular shows of today don’t tackle because there isn’t a show like The Famous Jett Jackson. The 1990s truly was a golden age of TV.
After re-watching all episodes on YouTube, I realized that the show does not even have so much as a DVD release or any reruns on TV. This is 2014; there are no kids’ shows like The Famous Jett Jackson around where a person of color is without doubt the main and centralized character. Over a decade, this show has faded into the background even though it has a bit of everything. When news broke that Lee Thompson Young took his own life last year, people of all races remembered this show and its star. I say all of this because 1990s was the last decade that had multiple people of color on kids’ TV. We live in a very destitute time with very little diversity and unfortunately people of color, young girls, and LGBT kids don’t have a lot to look at, or look up to.