The Boondocks: When McGruder’s Black Genius leaves the building

The Boondocks: When McGruder’s Black Genius leaves the building

The Boondocks
The Boondocks (Via 'Adult Swim')

WASHINGTON, April 9, 2014 – The return of the hit TV series “The Boondocks” on Adult Swim has many fans (including this writer) looking forward to yet another voyage into the crazy world of Huey, Riley, and Granddad.

The TV show heavily popularized the syndicated comic strip of the same name that served as a mirror of harsh truths, reflecting the flaws and shortcomings of modern society and culture with a candor and snark fans have grown to love for the last three seasons.

What was even more interesting in addition to the news of the show’s return in itself was the fact that its creator Aaron McGruder would not be returning with it.

The departure of McGruder, who in no way will have any involvement with the show, has dedicated Boondocks fans scratching their heads.

“But, why?” they ask. It’s the same question I asked as well.  While tuning into Adult Swim one night my eyes widened as I saw Huey’s silhouette walk across my TV screen. Unbothered, he strolled by, hands in pockets, as the world seemed to fall into chaos in the background.

Aaron Mcgruder recently issued this statement:

“I created The Boondocks two decades ago in college, did the daily comic for six years, and was showrunner on the animated series for the first three seasons. The Boondocks pretty much represents my life’s work to this point. Huey, Riley, and Granddad are not just property to me. They are my fictional blood relatives. Nothing is more painful than to leave them behind.”

As the numbers “4/21/14” flashed across the screen and I started reminiscing about all the journeys I had taken with Huey from Season 1 to Season 3.

After a quick Google search (because I use Google for just about everything that piques my curiousity) I came across information that highlighted McGruder’s departure from the beloved series. The answer to my “Why?” never came.

And to be honest, it probably won’t come for a very long time.  Rumors pointed to a disagreement between McGruder and some executives at the network, but those rumors have yet to be proven. Speculation upon speculation has been regurgitated and labeled as news with little to no facts behind it.

But one thing, actually the only solid thing, that has surfaced, is a statement McGruder released via “The Boondocks” Facebook page:

“As the world now knows, The Boondocks will be returning for a fourth season, but I will not be returning with it. I’d like to extend my gratitude to Sony and Adult Swim for three great seasons.

“I created The Boondocks two decades ago in college, did the daily comic for six years, and was showrunner on the animated series for the first three seasons. The Boondocks pretty much represents my life’s work to this point. Huey, Riley, and Granddad are not just property to me. They are my fictional blood relatives. Nothing is more painful than to leave them behind.

“To quote a great white man, ‘Hollywood is a business’. And to quote another great white man, ‘Don’t hold grudges’.

“What has never been lost on me is the enormous responsibility that came with The Boondocks – particularly the television show and it’s relatively young audience. It was important to offend, but equally important to offend for the right reasons. For three seasons I personally navigated this show through the minefields of controversy. It was not perfect. And it definitely was not quick. But it was always done with a keen sense of duty, history, culture, and love. Anything less would have been simply unacceptable.

“As for me, I’m finally putting a life of controversy and troublemaking behind me with my upcoming Adult Swim show, BLACK JESUS.”

Long before a TV show was birthed I was an odd middle-school student who found comfort in separating the comic section from the newspaper delivered to my school’s library.

My eyes skipped over the rest of the comics in search of The Boondocks. I had to read that first—the other comics could wait. In that same comic strip that McGruder created in his dorm room at the University of Maryland, a little black girl from south central Los Angeles found her voice.

She learned that it was okay to be smart and to think critically about the world around her while having a good chuckle.  Black entertainers, politicians, athletes, and especially BET were not safe from the satirical genius of McGruder.

Huey, aptly named after Huey P. Newton, was my voice of reason. He rocked a natural before it became a trend amongst black women once again. He reflected on the world around him, only coming out of his deep thoughts when his little brother Riley who was a wannabe gangsta rapper interrupted him.

I felt like those two boys from inner-city Chicago who were now transplanted to the suburbs were my friends, my brothers.

Any comment section on a story about McGruder’s departure will reveal those same sentiments among a slew of fans white, black, and brown, Republican, Democrat, or Independent, Christian, Catholic, Muslim, or atheist, young or old.

What set “The Boondocks” apart from the rest was its balance. Balance of the crazy and sometimes over-the-top portrayals of the ignorance and bowels of modern America, and the subtle sucker punch to the face that left fans with bruises of black consciousness and self-realization, so that every time you looked in the mirror you knew it had been there.

Very few shows can accomplish this, and it’s safe to say that you won’t see an animated series like “The Boondocks” anytime soon at the Emmys, proving once again that the show was a category all unto itself.

It wasn’t just there to entertain you; it had a message to deliver.

Huey, Riley, Granddad, and all the other colorful characters on the show are merely figments of our imagination.  They don’t even really exist. The viewer’s own set of ideology and idiosyncrasies make them real.

The reality is that they are not actors but cartoons. And even though they are cartoons, they are still familiar. They are reminders of people we know, used to know, and have yet to meet.

I will certainly be there on Monday, April 21 to watch.  And in that time one can only hope to see the social responsibility and biting satire that fans have come to love since the early days of the comic strip.

But with the absence of McGruder, it is quite possible that its soul and its essence, has gone with him, much like Comedy Central’s failed attempt to continue “The Chapelle Show” without Dave Chappelle.

Many fail to realize that when black genius leaves the building, only the exoskeleton remains.

Or as another fan told me, “You can expect less Huey, and more Riley.”

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Aziza Jackson
Aziza Jackson is a native Californian born in Los Angeles and raised in Los Angeles and Oakland. Equipped with her AP Stylebook, Aziza has braved the tough wilderness of rural Alabama, saving lives, and kissing babies all while writing about, advocating for, and connecting with east Alabama residents through the wonderful world of public relations and community outreach. She has served as a compelling storyteller, austere copy editor, social media guru, rigid gatekeeper, creative project manager, marketing whiz, and human encyclopedia in some special cases. She also writes for The Oakland Tribune, and in her spare time likes to write her bios in third person. Don't judge her, it's her journey. "Put it before them briefly so they will read it, clearly so they will appreciate it, picturesquely so they will remember it and, above all, accurately so they will be guided by its light." --Joseph Pulitzer