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 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
  • AyoItzDaPreacher

    I’m glad you’re at least going to tune in. Some people won’t even give it a chance. In my opinion the quality in the show’s story arc per episode has severely dropped and morphed into something unrecognizable. In season 1, the idea was simple, yet powerful- to give the viewer an inside look at the thoughts of an African American, 10 year old boy trying to make sense of the world; a world he had seen the best and the worst of. The narrative from Huey was influential, each story was powerful and thriving with purpose. What if MLK returned? Why do pop stars get away with blatant crimes? Is prayer circumstantial, or does it hold real power? These questions and others were addressed masterfully, with a cast of characters that were unforgettable. The symphonic continuity between story, character, and Huey reached award winning heights
    Things changed a little bit in season 2. It seemed the show was reaching for more gags and laughs than in the first season, sacrificing the enlightenment it offered in the first. It had its reflective moments (Gangstalicious pt2), and of all 3 seasons, it had the animation I preferred most. But the focus shifted away from Huey and his narrative and went instead to more unimportant characters, like Tom. The shows purpose was took a hit, but was still thoughtful and entertaining
    Season 3 was a nose dive. The strong narrative offered by Huey in season one had completely disappeared. Huey suddenly knew Kung-Fu he could only dream about in season 1. The secret agent, who was only meant to be a figment of a 10 year olds overactive imagination, is now suddenly real and gives Huey info on attacks. And finally, they made Huey, a 10 year old, a domestic terrorist. I had to get a spatula to scrape my eyebrows off the ceiling. The show that had reached such insightful heights in its first season, had suddenly become an afro-anime of the Cleveland show. There were few points that made me chuckle, but many of the jokes were so insensitive and outdated they only made me sigh.
    Season 4 offers improvement. Judging by the black and white 30 second spot, this season looks incredible. Plus adding the fact that Adult Swim slapped a 20 million dollar budget onto this new season (400k-900k on each episode, depending voice cast used, whether the soundtrack for the episode was composed or digitally made, and intensity of fight scenes) and contracted the same animation studio that did the award winning Nickelodeon anime, The Legend of Korra. Plus because they met a deadline for once, the shows content won’t seem outdated. But judging from the 2 minute spot, its going to be more of Season 3. But who knows.

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