Shadow and Act has reported that the Boondocks is making a return to television for a fourth season. Let all the lampooning of the Black community begin.
I’m kind of excited for the show’s return. For those who have been living under a rock, or don’t have cable (whichever applies), The Boondocks is a satirical cartoon series, created by Aaron McGruder and based upon his comic strip of the same name. The show tells the story of America from the perspective of Black men and is probably one of the most intelligent and provocative representations of black life there is on television.
Fused with lots of social and political commentary, there is no topic that is off-limits. From gay gangster rappers to the Black community’s Jesus-like worship of Barack Obama, the Boondocks offers the ugly truth: harsh, uncomfortable and sometimes funny. Who or what will McGruder take on next? Basketball Wives? The rise of Herman Cain, Alan West and other notable Black Republicans? The hype around Red Tails…oh wait, he co-wrote that film so probably not.
Aside from my obvious enthusiasm for the show’s return, I wouldn’t be a critic if I didn’t say there were certain elements of the show that I have always been less enthused about like the outing of Tyler Perry – while funny, it just wasn’t cool. The Boondocks took great pleasure in lampooning Perry’s drag persona Madea through the guise of Winston Jerome, a theater cult leader who uses Christianity and his cross-dressing stage to seduce men. Besides being homophobic, the unprovoked attack against Perry seemed a little too much like Black on Black crime for my taste. Also, I don’t appreciate the irresponsible way in which urban, poor black communities are portrayed as being full of lazy, ignorant “ni**as” without the context of class and race. That is a reoccurring theme in the show, which reminds me a lot of how some Black folks will “other” other Black folks of a different economic status.
And finally, I take issue with the complicated and often heavy handed depictions of Black women.
On the show, the representation of Black women is dubious at best. In fact, a large number of female characters that exist within the realm, which is the Boondocks world, are loud, fat, ratchet single moms, prostitutes or video vixens. This is not to say that all of McGruder’s gender politics are messed up but that his representation of women, particularly Black women, borders on the line of misogyny.
One of the characters on the show that exemplifies this is one of the three central characters: Robert Jebehiah Freeman. He is the white haired Tuskegee Airman and former participant in the Civil Rights movement, who lives in the suburbs with his two grandsons, Riley and Huey. Freeman is an interesting character because of his clear issues with Black women. First, he holds a grudge against Civil Rights Icon Rosa Parks because he too refused to give up his seat yet it was Parks, who was the one pulled off the bus and indirectly sparked the Montgomery Bus boycott. Secondly, in his overall interaction with women, he regularly and unapologetically refers to them as “bitches.” Usually a typical Freeman storyline goes something like this: Robert meets an attractive woman, finds out that she is crazy, gold digger or a ho (and I mean an actual prostitute) and then the woman, who have been framed as the problem, is chased away.
The only exception to this frequently played storyline comes in the way of the widely circulated Season 3 episode “titled “The Lovely Ebony Brown.” It began with Freeman being counseled by friends Uncle Ruckus and Tom Dubois on his inability to find the perfect black woman. Uncle Ruckus, a self-hating character as the name suggests, offers his thoughts on what Freeman should do including: “The key to happiness is to eliminate all black women from your life.”