The Boondocks – The Complete Second Season
by Elaine Hegwood Bowen
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Controversial political satirist Aaron McGruder has been offering up a big dose of reality staged from the Black household for many years. His award-winning comic strip The Boondocks was widely syndicated across the United States until a couple of years back, and his namesake animated series on the Cartoon network on cable television has just ended its second season.
Sony Pictures recently released a three-disc DVD of The Boondocks – The Complete Second Season, which promises to be “uncut and uncensored!” and includes never-before-seen bonus episodes.
My! My! How does one describe the Boondocks household that includes Robert “Granddad” Freeman, 10-year-old Huey and eight-year-old Riley Freeman? The Freemans are transplants from the South Side of Chicago, and they now live in the boondocks suburb of Woodcrest. Things should be simple for Granddad, whose character is voiced by Jim Witherspoon, but they aren’t. Far from it. Huey lives up to his namesake, the late Black Panther leader Huey Newton, and Riley is a “rapper-thug in training.” Regina King voices the two grandsons’ characters.
Other guest voices include Mos Def, Lil Wayne, Snoop Dogg, Katt Williams, Cedric the Entertainer, Kim Whitley, Tavis Smiley, Samuel L. Jackson, Busta Rhymes, Charlie Murphy and a host of others.
It goes without saying: some folks just won’t get it. And even some folks, with skin tones similar to the Freeman family, are reportedly disgusted with McGruder’s “slice of Black America.” But I give it to him. The Boondocks tells it like it is. It explores crucial issues that beset the Black community, and it does it with raw honesty.
Riley uses such profanity that you wonder where a kid learns all those words. But with negative cultural influences and role models abound in most Black communities, it’s easy to see how he cultivated his language skills. Common Hip-Hop vernacular is laced throughout the episodes, which gives me pause. But McGruder’s position is that this thriving enterprise has inundated society with profanity and that the “N” word and others that rappers use to describe women is par for the course. He uses The Boondocks in a way, I suppose, as a clarion call that such language is harmful and, I think, responsible for a lot that’s gone awry in the Black community.
The nuances brought forth in the series are not to be missed: In “Tom, Sarah and Usher,” Tom and Sarah is an interracial couple, and they share chocolate and vanilla ice cream for dessert. In the same episode, there’s a character resembling Soul singer Sade, whose name is Sweetest Taboo; and a character whose name is “A Pimp named Slickback,” whose mannerisms and speech pay homage to stand up comedian and “pimp extraordinaire” Katt Williams. In this episode, the pimp does an intervention on Tom who has “chronic bitch dependency,” because his white trophy wife Sarah has fallen for the singer Usher.
In “Or Die Trying,” there’s rapper 50 cent as an airline patrol agent and Monique as the reservation clerk, with “CPT” as the estimated time of arrival for ALL flights in a version of Soul Plane, wherein Granddad sneaks into the theater with children in tow.
The episode “The S-Word” is particularly effective in getting folks to see the confusion caused when “homies” use the “N” word for affection, as opposed to accepting that it’s a word that should never be used, under any circumstances. Riley is called the derogatory name by his white school teacher. The teacher is confused, because he said Riley used the word with him, and he was simply just affectionately addressing Riley, and because he had heard the young Black students do the same among each other many times before.
Well, all hell breaks lose in this episode that features characterizations of Larry King, Ann Coulter, the Rev. Al Sharpton and Bill Cosby, among others. Huey, Riley’s brother, is caught up in it all, as Granddad sues the school system but loses.
The moral of this episode, which was probably written around the time of the public dialogue around rappers’ use of the word in lyrics, is that whether with an “a” or an “er,” the word should not be acceptable language anywhere.
The two “never-before-seen” episodes deal with BET and its role in negative cable programming.
If one has tolerance and an open mind, The Boondocks – The Complete Second Season is a must-have edition to any good DVD collection. Its characterizations and animation are superb, and its social commentary on a variety of topics can be used as a good teaching tool for the Black community, both young and old.
Elaine Hegwood Bowen is a freelance writer and film critic living in Chicago.
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