Monday, November 14, 2005
A right to be hostile
And that was just the introduction clocked in at 1 minute, 36 seconds and counting. The socially distorted world so vividly drawn on daily UComics strips is brought to sharply animated life in Cartoon Network's adaptation of The Boondocks.
Welcome to life in Woodcrest, a surbuban enclave outside of Chicago that centers around 10-year-old rebel with a cause Huey Freeman and his 8-year old younger brother Riley (both convincingly voiced by actress Regina King) who've moved from the South Side for a better life with their grandfather Robert (smartly cast with the always entertaining John Witherspoon) who serves as their caretaker.
The strip, and now the series skillfully illustrate a world where the generation gap never seems wider and the truth about what's Black, White and uncomfortable all over are never out of sight, nor out of mind. At first blush, The Boondocks is a welcome blast of fresh air that lives up to its considerable hype. It's frequently funny, fearless and brutally frank in its approach. And while the pressure is on creator Aaron McGruder to keep the shock value high for ratings' sake, the central theme that comes across on the newspaper page isn't lost in translation — Huey consistently left disappointed by the antics of the shades of him while raging against the establishment of White folks in general, and Riley, whose personal credo is less protests and more "it don't mean a thing, if it ain't got that bling."
From his perspective, McGruder has commented he isn't concerned with what White people think about The Boondocks. Nor, for that matter, Black people. It's this unwillingness to ingratiate for the approval of self-appointed media gatekeepers of African-American imagery (yes Bill Cosby & company, this means you) that separates this series from anything you've seen before. While the first episode from last week's launch, The Garden Party, felt a bit too eager to flaunt the creative freedom allowed on the Adult Swim banner with N-bombs crammed in a 22 minute space (the "look how edgy we are!" undercurrent toed the line of subtlety a bit too often), last night's imagined day in court for the urinary tract infection of R&B in The Trial Of R. Kelly was a breakthrough of utter proportions. I haven't been shocked and brought to the brink of side-splitting tears so many times in one sitting (by a cartoon, no less!) in ages. From the courtroom clash of the Pied Pisser's backers and protesters (which included of all people, Cornel West) to Uncle Ruckus's unabashedly racist stance towards his own, it shines an unflinching, unairbrushed look at the reflection we've refused to examine for so long. Ourselves.
- Will commented at 11/15/2005 11:19:00 PM~
Yup yup ... co-sign. Sunday's episode was on point. I look forward to where he goes next. As I wrote on my blog, this is Aaron's time. He's shinin'.
Great, great review. Love it.
- Berry commented at 11/15/2005 11:50:00 PM~
Gotta' catch that second ep in repeats. Darn it!
- Rell commented at 11/18/2005 06:30:00 PM~
Youp it's great stuff -- the R. Kelly episode was very funny yet dangerous at the same time. I hope white people didn't think that it was all on us and that we all thought that way about r. kelly.
At any rate -- the only thing I don't like about it is i've been reading the comic for a couple of years and i already had voices in my had for the characters. I always imagined Huey having a deeper voice and being more intellectual, even though he is a kid. Now I just hear Regina King.
Bomani had a good post about it on his blog, bomanijones.com
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