Here’s Why CJ From 'Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas' Is Bad For The Culture
Photo Credit: Caveman

Here’s Why CJ From 'Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas' Is Bad For The Culture

Profile

      • Full Name: Carl “CJ” Johnson
      • Appears in: Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
      • Gender: Male
      • Race: Black or African American
      • Hair/Eye Color: Black/Dark brown
      • Height/Weight: 6’1/(varied based on fitness)
      • Family: 
        • Father: Unknown
        • Mother: Beverly Johnson
        • Brothers: Sweet Johnson, Brian Johnson
        • Sister: Kendl Johnson
      • Profession: Underboss in Grove Street Families
      • Residence: Los Santos, San Andreas
      • Based on (and Voiced by): Young Maylay
      • Signature Look: White undershirt, blue jeans, black sneakers

Background

Carl “CJ” Johnson is the main protagonist in the seventh title in the ultra-popular action-adventure video game series by Rockstar Games, Grand Theft Auto (GTA). In Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, you reside in  a fictional state based on southern California and Nevada in the 1990s, amid the turmoil that hit Los Angeles in the 90s. From the crack epidemic and gang wars to the relations with the cops, the infamous riots had a strong influence on the game.

CJ’s story begins as he returns to Los Santos following the death of his mother. Tragically, she was a casualty in a fatal drive-by shooting. 

Some dirty cops blackmail CJ under the threat of framing him for a recent cop’s murder. Like the beginning of the hit show “The Shield,” the cops were solely responsible for the death of their fellow officer.

On top of all of this, CJ is later reunited with the Grove Street Families who are struggling in a war with Ballas, a rival gang. 

During these tribulations, CJ gains access to a wide array of weapons and vehicles to be customized. Unique to this entry in the series, CJ also has the ability to alter his fitness levels, driving abilities, and adeptness with firearms.

Comically, by adjusting your diet and exercise, you can go from scrawny to obese to a bodybuilder in about a week (If only real life were that easy). 

For the Culture?

CJ and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas pushed the culture forward while simultaneously setting it back along this tumultuous ride. 

Let’s start with the good.

Released over 15 years ago, there are some gamers who not only see San Andreas as the best game on PlayStation 2 ever, but one of the best games in modern history. If you are someone who can immerse yourself in a game strictly for the fun factor, you can’t go wrong with Rockstar’s masterpiece.

Additionally, San Andreas did a phenomenal job of highlighting the epidemics that plagued its real-life counterpart. Oftentimes, history books don’t tell a story the same way the entertainment industry is capable of. This game mixes parody and loose history representation to highlight how corrupt the world can be.  

And now, the not-so-good.

The entertainment industry has made billions of dollars glorifying the plight of the Black community. In this example, we are tackling socio-economic catastrophes such as drug epidemics, gang violence, theft, and dealing with police violence.

In general, GTA has made killing innocent bystanders fun and, at times, necessary. Need some cash to buy a more powerful rifle? Start punching random civilians on the street. In fact, why waste time punching when you can just mow them down in the last car you stole?

To really bring the gamer into the world of a gang member, the language is not minced either. The n-word and every curse word under the sun appear in this Mature (ages 17+) rated video game. At a minimum, this type of exposure to young children — who shouldn’t have been playing the game to begin with — may empower them to use the in-game vocabulary in real life. 

So, is Carl “CJ” Johnson for the culture?

No, buyer, please beware. San Andreas is an all-time fun video game. However, playing as a Black gangbanger missing a father while avenging his single mother’s murder at the hands of gang violence is a trope that is tired. Black people can be, and are, so much more than this. While you may learn a bit through the parodied history lessons of the Black struggle in urban environments, this game reinforces too many stereotypes.

Two Average Gamers is a Black-owned small business founded in Spring 2018. It’s run by a pair of life-long friends, Fred & Julian, who grew up in the 90s and love all things gaming. They publish weekly articles covering gaming news, stream a variety of video games, and sell gaming merchandise.