HOLLYWOOD—Anyone who thinks “ South Park” or “Family Guy” are controversial shows haven’t seen Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim series “The Boondocks.” It has to be perhaps the most eye-opening series that pushes the envelope when it comes to tackling social issues relevant to the African-American community and society as a whole. The series is based on a comic strip by the show’s creator Aaron McGruder who developed the characters Huey and Riley while attending school at the University of Maryland.
In April 1999, the comic strip began to appear in newspapers and publications across the nation. The television series, which debuted on November 2005, depicts the lives of Robert “Granddad” Freeman (voiced by actor John Witherspoon) and his two grandkids Huey and Riley (voiced by actress Regina King). He relocates the family from the Southside of Chicago to “The Boondocks”—the suburb known as Woodcrest. Robert is old-school, he’s loud and he doesn’t sugarcoat the truth. His honesty is at times visceral, but you appreciate the truth being spoken even if you prefer not to hear it.
Huey and Riley may be siblings, but they’re nothing alike. Huey is two years older than his brother and is deemed by many to be wickedly intelligent for his age. He is aware of his environment; he’s knowledgeable about politics and social issues many of his peers could care less about. Then there’s Riley, his 8-year-old brother who enjoys creating chaos and getting into trouble. He is an avid lover of hip-hop music and is always on top of the current trends in pop culture. Both boys have to face the pressures of living in the suburbs, while maintaining their credibility.
Other characters on the show include Uncle Ruckus who has a huge dislike for African-Americans, which is ironic considering Uncle Ruckus is African-American himself. There’s also Tom DuBois (voice of Cedric Yarbrough) who plays Huey and Riley’s neighbor. He is an upstanding model citizen who is also the district attorney. He is married to Sarah DuBois (voiced by Jill Talley) and they have a daughter named Jazmine (voiced by Gabby Soleil).
The topic of interracial marriage is something the series addresses as Tom’s wife Sarah is white and he receives plenty of flack for it. While the issue is addressed satirically in the show, its relevance is potent because interracial marriage is still an issue in America today. Not to mention their daughter, Jazmine, who is bi-racial and has to deal with that issue. She is very unaware of the world, stuck in a bubble where she only sees what she wants to see. A prime example of this would be the episode “Or Die Trying,” when Granddad sneaks Jazmine, Huey and Riley into the movies and she senses and overwhelming amount of guilt about stealing.
The series has tackled a multitude of other issues including racism, the music industries influence on today’s youth, movie piracy, violence, politics and the use of the N-word in the African-American community. In the second season, the episode titled “The Story of Gangstalicious Part II” examines the issue of homosexuality in rap music as well as in the African-American community as Granddad fears that Riley may be gay. The episode was poignant in tackling an issue that is taboo in the black community, as well as in American culture. While the episode is expected to be funny, you find yourself questioning its effect and why it’s such an issue the American public isn’t always open to talking about.
The show has taken heat for taking shots at public figures such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., talk show queen Oprah Winfrey, musicians R. Kelly and Usher, filmmaker Tyler Perry and political guru Ann Coulter to name a few. What many critics find appalling about the show is what makes it so important. It pushes the envelope in order to create dialogue in the public sphere. The best way to change things is to get people talking about them. Of all the characters on the show, I embrace Huey the most. He is an independent, open-minded firecracker who isn’t affected by the stereotypes inflicted upon him. Of course, this is another issue in society— we all stereotype. It’s not done intentionally, but we do it to interact with other races and cultures.
“The Boondocks” is a series that is a bit touchy, but people talk about things depicted in the show and its relevance has an impact on American society. I would argue that this show is not intended for children under any circumstance, and I’d even argue that anyone under 17 shouldn’t be watching the show; but for those who are looking for a satire that has punch and will engage conversation “The Boondocks” is a show to catch.