A Character Case Study of “The Boondocks”

So, two seconds before I went to write the title of this blog post, it hit me to do a case study, from an Uppity Negro perspective of the hit show on Adult Swim entitled “The Boondocks” created by comic strip writer Aaron McGruder.  Initially, I was just going to write about the previous episode that rocked Twitter so much that half of the worldwide trending topics were Boondocks related.  But, instead, I think I’ll do a mini-series on the title characters of the Boondocks show of the following characters in the following order.

  1. Riley Freeman
  2. Huey Freeman
  3. Grandad
  4. Uncle Ruckus
  5. Mr DuBois/Jasmine

I will address the appearance of the characters, their main character flaws and their main character positives.  From there, I’ll take one episode, as a case study and just give my general armchair assessment as I normally do, from the comfort of my laptop.

My initial encounter with Boondocks was the comic strip of course.  It ran  in the Chicago Tribune, and it seemed a bit more cutting edge than some of the other black comic strips.  My parents bought the Chicago Sun-Times, so I didn’t get a chance to read it often, but I remember when a Trib came in front of me, I was most certainly flipping to the comic section to see what Riley and Huey had gotten themselves into this day.

By 2005 when it was certain that a television show was in the works, crunk wasn’t the word to explain my level of excitement.  It was as if another quality black television show was about to debut.  I remember the night it first came on and me and one of the other guys in the dorm were already talking about it with anticipation.  Even so much so that we kicked someone off of the TV in the common area (we didn’t have cable in our rooms, thanks HBCUs) who was watching an early season NBA game.  And I remember that after the first show, watching it on a week to week basis brought in as many people to the common area as a Super Bowl game.  In fact the girls would walk across campus to the boys dorm to watch because the other girls were watching Lifetime or something.

What bothered me was that the majority of the people seemed to be more interested, or rather comically stimulated by the blatant and frequent use of the word “nigga.”  When in the first season, I think it was the Stinkmeaner episode (fact checkers where are you?) and they introduced “A Nigga Moment” and the entire room went up in cries of “Oh shit” and “Awww damn” to the point that shushing was necessary to actually hear what was said.  Till this day, I don’t know what dialogue ensued after the Thuglicious kiss because the entire room erupted.

I personally felt that the gratuitous use of the n-word somewhat diminished the socio-political message that McGruder namely, and whoever else had began this project.  At the time I was ready to call McGruder a sellout of the worst kind because I was under the impression that the show was going to do more harm than good.  I felt that the first episodes didn’t really contain the real sharp and poignant political satire that could cut like a hot knife through butter in the comic strip. Yes the satire was clearly there, but in the comic strip, you knew that McGruder was going for the political worldview point, but on the cartoon show, u didn’t know if he was going for laughs or thinking.

Case in point is season one with “The Return of the King” where Martin Luther King, as an octogenarian speaks in front of a crowd of rowdy people and he liberally uses the word “niggas” to describe the crowd.  Frankly for me, it was a sad state of affairs and something worth damn near crying over, but everyone else took it as pure unadulterated comedy.  I really felt that the message behind it was completely lost on the crowd.

But, again, I thought “Coming To America” was buffoonery at it’s best.

Personally, I think the episodes “The Hunger Strike” where and the “Uncle Ruckus Reality Show” were of the best, but Adult Swim didn’t air those two because of the possible slander lawsuits against BET.  And I was able to see “The Hunger Strike” on the DVD set and I was able to see that this show figuratively “pulled back” and left a hard punch by saying BET was purposely set on the destruction of black people.

Really? No ish?

This season three proves to be the best for me because already, three of the aired episodes have dealt with current events.  The season opener “It’s a Black President, Huey Freeman” dealt with the election of Barack Obama and even included caricatures from the famed Jeremiah Wright.  The second one was “Smokin’ With Cigarettes” that invoked the images of real life Latarian Milton.

Seriously, if you’ve seen that episode, these Youtube clips make ALL the more sense now.

And now the famous “Pause” episode with the whole Tyler Perry caricature that just came out this past Sunday all lend a hand toward Boondocks being relevant and dealing with cultural phenomenon that is germane to our everyday existence.

So stay tuned and sit back and watch what I have to say.

Keep it uppity and keep it truthfully radical, JLL

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