Browne 1 Patrick Browne 9-29-12 Mr. Slade Boondocks Driven Satire Sunday nights on Cartoon Network has become fertile ground for some of the most side-spitting, razor-sharp humor on this side of a cable box. The show concepts that constitute the “Adult Swim” block of programming on CN has drawn its fair share of rave reviews and harsh criticism from anybody willing to offer an opinion. For Afro-American viewers, no show represents that aforementioned razor’s edge quite like Aaron McGruder’s comic strip creation, “The Boondocks”.
The first season of the weekly series found every way possible to poke humor at many of the events, individuals, and situations we see around ourselves on a daily basis. In some cases, the biting satire that’s become this shows trademark may have opened up some ‘wounds’ that some folk in and among Black America would prefer to have left stitched up. From the would-be Revolutionary Huey, to the saggy pants wearing, “thugged” out Riley, to the blatantly Uncle Tom-like Uncle Ruckus, the characters and situations are cleverly designed to force us to look at ourselves through a very revealing lens.
No person, topic, or issue has been too ‘taboo’ to examine within the show, which has drawn the ire of some of the more ‘prominent’ faces within the African-American community. Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, Oprah Winfrey, and Bill Cosby have been among the more outspoken detractors of the show, harping Browne 2 on the use of the dreaded “N” word among other things. The second season of the show may prove to be just as funny and potentially inflammatory as the previous one.
The scrutiny has been pretty intense, drawing criticism from multiple sources in the black community, as well as some pretty severe rebukes from the aforementioned likes of Sharpton and Jackson. In fact, the pointed criticism that has come from these sources saying are we not supposed to talk about such things? Are we supposed to ignore some of the more embarrassing fads and unhealthy stereotypes that have come with this generation among black folk? I mean, we can talk about the war, how the government is ‘shafting’ the black man and woman out of our ightful piece of the American Dream. We can talk about all these things, but there’s a big stink about one person taking an assessment of our own house through his own prism. Maybe the real reason some folks are getting so uptight about what they see is because some of the material hits really close to home. As much as I respect the Cosby’s and the Jackson’s of the world, there method isn’t the only means to get the message across. Sometimes the finesse and subtle nature of satire and humor can deliver the same powerful, heartfelt message.
Sometimes, we as black folk need to be shocked and ‘awed’ into seeing a particular reality. That’s what this show is; A strong smack in the mouth… A wake-up call… Humor is a pretty revealing thing; If we can take the time out to laugh at some of our own shortcomings, we can take the same type of time out to correct those issues and set about the task of strengthening our communities. Will we hear the occasional curse word, sure… We might even hear the foul Browne 3 and dreaded “N” word a few more times before the show leaves syndication.
So what is more important? Listening and acting on the message delivered to correct said problems, or whining about a character that portrays something that practically all of us have seen at some point during our lifetime? I don’t know about the next viewer, but this show represents solid with most Afro-Americans, which is why I’ll be tuned in for season four…I may indeed get a good laugh out of the over-the-top ‘pimp’ behavior of “A Pimp Named Slick Back”, or the numerous references to some of the out-of-control aspects of hip-hop culture.
Through that laughter I and others tend to see a bit more of the reality that some of Black America seems too apathetic or too afraid, to confront the satire that this particular show represents. I can’t think of a better way to start that process than speaking on this issue through our own prism. Since 2005, Aaron McGruder has brought the previously unexposed taboos of Black American culture in its most raw and comedic form to the forefront of this country’s conscience through our TV screens.
The tales of Huey, Riley, and Granddad Freeman’s migration from the Southside of Chicago to the lily white suburb of Woodcrest has endured its share of controversy. From public condemnation by Rev. Al Sharpton to threats of legal action by BET, The Boondocks, one of the most watched shows to be broadcast on Adult Swim, goes straight for the jugular of many of the most famous and infamous figures of our generation.
As the main character on the show, Huey’s neo-Black nationalist views have been the centerpiece of some of The Boondocks’ most memorable moments. From blasting MLK for Browne 4 repeatedly saying ‘nigga’ on the “Return of the King” episode to calling Ronald Reagan a devil, Huey and his militant antics made way for more serious issues to be addressed. The way he schooled Granddad about the origins of Christmas and dropped knowledge about the negative and nostalgic images shown on cable giant Black Entertainment Television were classic and unprecedented.
His less informed and gangster inclined little brother Riley barked ‘Ain’t nothin’ wrong with BET’, while he punctuated every sentence with an unapologetic ‘nigga’. Other episodes like “The Hunger Strike” and “The Uncle Ruckus Reality Show” ridiculed BET to the point where they pressured Sony to ban the shows. One of the funniest and ironically most criticized characters is Uncle Ruckus, a self-hating older black man and brother of Granddad Freeman creates a climate for one of the shows more controversial episodes, “Jimmy Rebel”.
In this particular instance, Ruckus wrote music for a racist country singer, made mention to every known racial epithet to Black people, and called our president, ‘that baboon ‘Bama’. Other creative minds were not spared by McGruder’s satire, like Tyler Perry who was extremely roasted on the “Pause” episode, where they focused on Perry’s overzealous religious POV and used his cross-dressing and homosexual innuendos as fuel for the fire.
It was a point in the episode where Granddad, whose voice is that of actor John Witherspoon, was forced by Perry’s character to say, ‘I renounce Ice Cube and all his works…even Friday! ’ Actor Kadeem Hardison was even clowned when his lack of persistent work in the film industry was mentioned as he auditioned for one of Perry’s plays turned films. Whitney and Bobby, Lil’ Browne 5 Wayne, and even fictional musical artists like Thugnificent are used to manifest negative, yet accurate portrayals of Black performers.
There’s always talk about white television shows that ought to have black faces, but many of these same critics tend to overlook the reality that programming in general could stand to diversify, too. Diversity comes in many shades – most of which go beyond color. To that end, while it’s lovely to see so many shows strive to show the more “positive” aspects of black life, more often than not it appears to come at the expense of offering our perspective as it relates to race, class, and pop culture on the airwaves.
There are plenty who confirm the satire found in the social and political commentary on the show, and other instances of the kind of acute humor found in shows like The Boondocks and Chappelle’s Show. That kind of humor, for the most part, can only be found in shows largely scripted and conceived by whites like The Daily Show, or even Family Guy and The Cleveland Show. Those shows are great, but still come from a separate point of view.
The Boondocks has been known to be brought up in conversations as a point of reference to show how much driven satire entertainment that is enjoyed by Black people is a step backwards toward the days of the minstrel shows, but you have to be able to keep laughing, even if it’s at your own shortcomings. Browne 6 Works Cited Allah, Shabe. “The Boondocks”. The Best of Boondocks. Source Magazine 24 June 2010. Seward III, Herbert. “The Boondocks”. The Boondocks: Offensive show or stinging reality. Yahoo article 16 November 2007. Arceneaux, Michael. “The Boondocks”. Black Satire. Thegrio 18 May 2012