Animation Television

Revisiting The Boondocks Part Two: The Show

Yesterday, we ran through a brief history of the characters that inhabited The Boondocks comic strips that I loved. That roll call was all prelude to why I don’t love the animated “adaptation” on Adult Swim.

When I first heard of a ‘Docks cartoon, I was elated. If I could never have a Calvin and Hobbes cartoon, I was owed a ‘Docks one, right? Like damn near all my friends, I was glued to the television. The first episode, “The Garden Party,” started off promising with a Huey Freeman voice over: “I’m not a prophet. But sometimes I have prophetic dreams; like then one when I was at a garden party.” Huey walks out on stage at this lily-white garden party, and drops the following jewels, “Jesus was black. Ronald Regan was the devil. And the government is lying about 9/11.” A riot ensues. The white folks can’t handle the truth. Despite my finding the anime/manga style stilted, this scene was rendered well. What a way to launch your first episode.

ImageThis wasn’t as audacious as Chappelle’s Show first episode — I mean… Clayton Bigsby? Who opens with a black white supremacist?

ImageHuey wakes from his dream because his grandfather slaps him and berates him for telling white people the truth. There was something about that slap that bothered me — especially when Grandpa encourages Huey to lie to white folks, implying they cannot handle the truth. Why punish Huey for doing what we should be doing? Then Asheru’s “Judo Flip”Boondocks theme — hits which is so out of tone from what we’ve just witnessed.

After the theme, we see Grandpa doing naked Tae-Bo. And then we are tortured by a John Witherspoon gag about there being no more orange juice. Shades of Friday and just as annoying. But it was at 9:33pm on November 6, 2005 that I lost faith in the series.

ImageRemember, this is still only the first episode, but at the three-minute mark of the episode, we meet Uncle Ruckus.

In the strip, he worked. Most black folks know someone with Ruckus tendencies. But he was effective in the comic strip as a window into a self-hating world-view.

ImageBut as we’ve experienced throughout the entire television series’ run, Ruckus ceases to be racism personified but becomes a racist with no other function other than to insult and demean. He’s also become one of the show’s biggest stars. Between Ruckus and Stinkmeaner — you would have heard fewer “niggers” (or any mutations of the word) at a Klan rally. And it is the mean spirit of the show that I take the most issue with.

I wanted to love the show. I really did. But the increasing number of “niggers” being hurled, the lightweight misogyny, the homophobia — all things absent in the strip — just became too much. The strip pointed out the racial and cultural flaws of our shared world in a way that was humorous and relatable.

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A show that allows Uncle Ruckus to become the breakout star — even appearing in public — this is a problem.

On the flip, the cartoon is inherently conservative. In its mocking of “ratchet” and “gangsta” black cultural performance, it is actually delivering a Cosby-influenced haymaker on behalf of respectability politics. I could care less about airing cultural dirty laundry. As a writer, I believe that nothing is off-limits. You write and comment on what you want. End of story. This isn’t my issue with the Boondocks cartoon. My issue is that a once great unifying artistic platform has devolved into a shitty rap album.

We’ve moved into the “laughing at” and not “laughing with” Chappelle territory. White folks loved them some Uncle Ruckus. Where the strip was all about discovery, the cartoon is world-weary and spiteful. Yes, there were some absolutely brilliant episodes and brilliant bits within episodes. One standout? These thirteen seconds of pure genius comparing American and Chinese capitalism. Also — and despite my distaste for the word — the “Nigga Moment” was hilarious despite it not tracing the true origins of what allowed those moments to come to fruition.

I did not come here to praise The Boondocks; I have come here to mourn it and to hasten its demise.

5 comments

  1. True, After the first episode of the new season I see the conservative angle, it was painfully obvious the way they came down on Chris Brown or whatever his name was supposed to be….it’s like they generalize and attack the culture of hip hop as well….it’s like they just want to reach the wider demographic I guess which is sad.

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  2. That show airs on NITV down here in Australia. I never understood why it was popular with its self-hating, negative racial stereotypes. Now I see it wasn’t just me. That show really has become what they call themselves.

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  3. I don’t know why you would have problems with the first season, as it was thoughtful and kept to the spirit of the comic strips. From then on though it’s a different story.

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