TheBoondocks moves in.

TV and popular culture.
Nov. 4 2005 2:29 PM

There Goes the Neighborhood

TheBoondocks moves into the Cartoon Network's Adult Swim.


In the first minute of the pilot episode of the  The Boondocks (premiering Sunday night at 11:00 as part of Cartoon Network's Adult Swim lineup), Huey Freeman, a black kid with revolutionary leanings, dreams of disrupting a white garden party with some incendiary rhetoric: "Jesus was black, Ronald Reagan was the devil, and the government is lying about 9/11." Just as quickly, Huey's grandfather slaps him awake (child-smacking is matter-of-fact in The Boondocks) and counsels him never to even dream of telling the truth to white people: "Better learn how to lie like me."

The debut of this spinoff of Aaron McGruder's newspaper comic strip has Granddad (voiced by the comedian John Witherspoon) moving from the South Side of Chicago to the affluent suburb of Woodcrest with his two grandsons, 10-year-old Huey and 8-year-old Riley. (Both boys are voiced by Regina King, who played Jamie Foxx's spurned mistress in Ray.) As Granddad berates them for not appreciating their new digs, the boys hang around at the window, training their disturbingly realistic toy rifles on the white neighbors outside.


The loosely plotted episodes are essentially excuses to cram in the maximum possible number of racially disquieting situations, some funny, some not. The garden party in Huey's dream becomes real when a wealthy neighbor, Ed Wuncler (voiced by Ed Asner) invites the Freeman family over to celebrate his grandson's return from a tour in Iraq. As it turns out, the war vet is a classic wigger wannabe who speaks in fake gangsta dialect—as flimsy a stock type as a satirist could hope to produce these days. But the uneasy friendship between the circumspect Granddad and the condescending, yet well-meaning, Ed is a sharply written subplot that captures the malaise of suburban integration.

There's been a lot of talk about this series' free use of the n-word (or, as McGruder would probably put it, "nigga nigga nigga nigga"—in interviews, he sounds exasperated with our culture's lily-livered fixation on those two forbidden syllables). "I think it's OK as long as they say it," one guest whispers to another at the garden party, and while these two whiteys are clearly the object of satire, McGruder seems, in the main, to agree.

In the second Boondocks episode, "Guess Hoe's Coming to Dinner," a prostitute named Cristal seduces Granddad into keeping her in the style to which she's accustomed, while the boys look on in horror and speculate in private as to whether all women are hoes. (Only 20 to 25 percent of them, Huey concludes.) The episode's casual misogyny is a depressing reminder of how often the protest strategies of young black men, in hip-hop culture and elsewhere, rely on unreconstructed stereotypes of women as money-grubbing hoes and bitches. It also can't help but recall the flap surrounding a 2003 Boondocks strip in which McGruder had Huey and his best friend, Caesar, conspiring to find Condoleezza Rice a love match: "Maybe if there was a man in the world who Condoleezza truly loved, she wouldn't be so hell-bent to destroy it," said Caesar, to which Huey replied, "Condoleezza's just lonely and bitter." In the outcry that followed, the Washington Post pulled the strip for a whole week, but upon his return to the paper, an unapologetic McGruder continued with the Condi-matchmaking story line for more than a month.

In future episodes of The Boondocks, not available for review, Martin Luther King returns from a decades-long coma, Oprah Winfrey is kidnapped, and R. Kelly goes on trial for wetting his bed. The Boondocks rarely aspires to knee-slapping hilarity (and it fits oddly with Adult Swim neighbors like the serenely nonsensical Aqua Teen Hunger Force), but McGruder's gift for agitprop makes this show worth keeping an eye on. With Dave Chappelle's show in apparently permanent hiatus, where else are you going to find mordant racial satire on TV?

Dana Stevens is Slate's movie critic.



Talking White

Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.

Hong Kong’s Protesters Are Ridiculously Polite. That’s What Scares Beijing So Much.

The One Fact About Ebola That Should Calm You: It Spreads Slowly

Operation Backbone

How White Boy Rick, a legendary Detroit cocaine dealer, helped the FBI uncover brazen police corruption.

A Jaw-Dropping Political Ad Aimed at Young Women, Apparently

The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 4:05 PM Today in GOP Outreach to Women: You Broads Like Wedding Dresses, Right?

How Even an Old Hipster Can Age Gracefully

On their new albums, Leonard Cohen, Robert Plant, and Loudon Wainwright III show three ways.

How Tattoo Parlors Became the Barber Shops of Hipster Neighborhoods

This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century

Oct. 1 2014 8:34 AM This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century To undertake a massively ambitious energy project, you don’t need the government anymore.
  News & Politics
Oct. 1 2014 7:26 PM Talking White Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.
Buy a Small Business
Oct. 1 2014 11:48 PM Inking the Deal Why tattoo parlors are a great small-business bet.
Oct. 1 2014 6:02 PM Facebook Relaxes Its “Real Name” Policy; Drag Queens Celebrate
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 5:11 PM Celebrity Feminist Identification Has Reached Peak Meaninglessness
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 1 2014 3:24 PM Revelry (and Business) at Mohonk Photos and highlights from Slate’s annual retreat.
Brow Beat
Oct. 1 2014 9:39 PM Tom Cruise Dies Over and Over Again in This Edge of Tomorrow Supercut
Future Tense
Oct. 1 2014 6:59 PM EU’s Next Digital Commissioner Thinks Keeping Nude Celeb Photos in the Cloud Is “Stupid”
  Health & Science
Oct. 1 2014 4:03 PM Does the Earth Really Have a “Hum”? Yes, but probably not the one you’re thinking.
Sports Nut
Oct. 1 2014 5:19 PM Bunt-a-Palooza! How bad was the Kansas City Royals’ bunt-all-the-time strategy in the American League wild-card game?