How The Boondocks Fell Off.

(More fried chicken jokes!)

Season 3 of the Boondocks ended on Sunday, and I haven’t heard much chatter round the interwebs about it this week. There’s good reason for that: it wasn’t very good.

I’ve had mixed feelings about Aaron McGruder since my former blog-mate saw him give a talk at our Alma Mater in which he maligned Obama (fair enough), but then demanded the student who videotaped the talk fork over the evidence to him (not cool). Then, at another campus talk, he said Obama wasn’t black because he didn’t fit the comic’s own myopic, and factually-shaky definition of blackness (you have to be a direct descendant of slaves). Who made McGruder the black people police?

But on to the show. There’s a fine line between toying with a stereotype to prove a point, and playing out a stereotype on screen for cheap laughs. Time has shown that McGruder is much more adept at the latter. Or maybe it’s that one can only talk about stereotypes for so long before it becomes an instance of laughing “at” us versus laughing “with” us. Back in June over at Ta-Nehisi’s, Dwayne Betts made an interesting point to that end:

…You have to understand that what I now see on The Boondocks makes me fear that the reason why Chappelle left his show was the fast approaching point where there will be no more clever, insightful jokes to make either about black people, poverty, the revolution, black folks’ relationship to fried chicken, black folks’ relationship to white people[...]etc., etc., etc.

I’d have to say Betts is dead-on here. On both shows, at three seasons in, the fried chicken jokes and “ripped-from-the-headlines” stories about random negroes acting up got old. With the Boondocks, all of the stories were stale when this season started. There was the Soulja Boy vs The Old Man Rapper Establishment beef, the KFC free chicken fiasco, a Latarian “I just wanna do hoodrat stuff with my friends” Milton nod, and random stray shots at Obama throughout. In a world where all of the aforementioned events were successfully lampooned ten times over within a week of their happening, McGruder’s “spin” on these issues felt like overkill.

The best moments this season occurred when McGruder & Co got out of their own way for a second, and let past storylines build on themselves. Stinkmeaner, the blind, foul-mouthed octogenarian who Granddad killed back in season 2, came back from the dead with help from nursing home versions of a few 70’s sitcom stars, and an awesome, action-packed, Kung-Fu showdown ensued. But even here the ending message, “sometimes niggas just have to go to jail,” felt weird and forced.

At the beginning of this season there was talk about it being the series’ last.  I hope it will be. Or maybe I’m the only one who still watched it up to the end? Could be. I live in Iowa. I won’t claim to know what’s hot on the streets.

Oh, and HELLO THERE! I’m excited to be blogging here. *throws glitter in the air*

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15 comments to How The Boondocks Fell Off.

  • Miss Sia

    To The Boondocks–”Why do you build me up, just to let me down”…I use to watch it religiously. Used to. In the first season, it was refreshing to see the comic strip I read come to life. The jokes were funny, the characters seamlessly brought to screen. By Season 3, I lost interest. Too much time passed and Sunday nights weren’t the same. “Winston Jerome” episode got the most laughs out of me. The rest were gasps or I didn’t watch. Oh well.

  • Grump

    The episode with Ruckus’ family was great, in my opinion.

  • In addition to what you cited, I think McGruder cratered his career when he quit his daily strip. I don’t think he was “there” yet to the point he could make the leap to television. I personally never cared for the show; it didn’t carry the same editorial weight that the strip did.

    And welcome to Post Bourgie! (releases pigeons in the air)

    • Ooh, pigeons! Thanks! Truth be told I never really read his daily strip, but I can see how making that transition too soon could have been a problem. There were plenty of times on the show when a point had been effectively made, but then it was dragged out too long and became clunky. A comic strip forces a sort of economy of language that prevents that type of over-doing.

  • storm

    I agree — this season was stale. It saddens me though, I am a big fan of the characters on the show. Grandpa, and especially bad-azz Riley, are truly funny and developed characters. If the show dies, I will miss them, not the over-done attempts to comedy and social commentary on Negros in America.

    • Brownbelle

      Speaking of the characters…what happened to Caesar? Cindy and Jazmine were sorely underutilized too. There were some great plots that could have come from focusing more on the kids’ interaction with each other.

  • Brownbelle

    I was disappointed too. The Boondocks show went from incisive satire to “why black people can’t get right”; whereas the comic strip lampooned politics and all aspects of American culture (consumerism, our superiority complex, etc). The comic strip was never ALL about black people but in the third season, the show definitely was.

  • *tosses more glitter*

    I’ll admit, I only caught the Stinkmeaner’s revenge episode this season. I couldn’t get into it this time around because a lot of the show topics did seem stale. My huge crush on McGruder notwithstanding, I’d really like for this to be the last season. I wish he’d bring back the comic strip.

  • Ash

    Honestly, I thoroughly enjoyed this season even though it wasn’t the best one, but I do wish the show had focused more on the kids. It seems like it’s all about Grandad most of the time. I also agree with Brownbelle about the comic strip. I still think it was one of the finest pieces of political satire. A Right to be Hostile is still just as funny now, as it was when the events were current. Perhaps if the show had been given more seasons and if Aaron McGruder was more involved, it could have had a chance to get back to its roots.

  • i always thought the show was overrated as satire. Not only was it broad — MLK coming back and finding fault with the black folks of today — but it was so broad that it was hard to figure out what McGruder was lampooning.

    I also think that McGruder’s politics are, well, childish. He’s like what a friend called a “sophomore year militant,” mistaking indignation for a compelling argument. More heat than light, yadda yadda yadda.

    Also, the New Yorker’s profile of McGruder from a few years back is a must-read.

    http://www.newyorker.com/archive/2004/04/19/040419fa_fact2

    • Darth Paul

      Spot on. It felt like barely-coherent South Park this season.

    • GD, I’m not even done with that New Yorker profile and I can’t stop cringing. True, this was six years ago, but he seems like a complete child. He uses “female” as a pejorative, “reserves the right to be a nigga” and talks about beating folks’ ass as if he’s not actually 5 ft 2, 150 lbs. It’s one thing to try to make a “personality” for yourself, but it’s quite another to just be an asshole. Yikes.

  • callmeRoseanna

    You took the words right out of my mouth. I was a huge fan until said incidence at our alma mater when I asked him directly what he thought about the actual viewership of his show vs. who he’d like to think his audience is (people who know better than to “laugh at us” and to laugh only in satire) … he had no other answer than that his intentions were to make money not anything else… i can’t really argue with him about that but i can smash whatever crush i had on someone who seemingly had the potential to do much more with such talent. This season just added to the disappointment.

  • i think i’m the most disappointed with the shift in focus–the comic strip centered around Huey, and the show…well, it centers on Riley, Ruckus, Grandad, and other “side” characters. Huey’s been turned into someone who just makes the occasional cameo, which is disappointing…yeah, certain eps he gets more face time, but not really…

  • trackstre

    I have to agree. Though entertaining, I was never quite sure what to do with the Boondocks.. on the one side. I enjoyed the characters and their interactions, the art, etc. On the other… I couldn’t help but feel the Boondocks was the greasy Quarter Pounder of the more substantive comic strip.

    As for his comments about Obama..Obviously he doesn’t decide who is black or who is not. Though, It sounds like he wants to say Black American and talking about Ethnicity, NOT RACE, but keeps pushing it as if they are synonymous. Though… I am not too surprised, honestly. Race seems to be going the way of Brazil, as the color palette in America becomes more distinct.

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