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The Boondocks ended in 2014 after a 55-episode and four-season run, having achieved something that, up until then, other adult animated sitcoms hadn’t. A heartfelt commentary on society and race, it explores the interpersonal and intrapersonal relationships of the Freemans, an African-American family who move from Chicago to the predominantly white suburb of Woodcrest.
Beginning life as a cartoon strip created by Aaron McGruder, The Boondocks provides a unique perspective, exploring a variety of cultures, social classes and conflicts but through a satirical and insightful approach. Referring to the isolation from urban life that our protagonists feel, the title of the series itself provides insight into the emotions its characters feel. This dynamic continues each episode as we look at the family’s trials and tribulations as they navigate their way through their new lifestyles.
Throughout its run, the series would come under constant fire for its often radicalised portrayals of stereotypes and real-life people, as well as its constant use of language such as the N word deemed too much for such an animated series. Although, it did boast a certain shock value in places, there is no denying that the series had the correct intentions, constantly striving to represent real world issues during its time on air. McGruder, himself, defended the show as a project that challenges people to think about topics in a different way. Indeed, that is what makes this show stand out as a passionate study of black culture.
This is done through characterisation. The three main characters of Riley, Huey (both voiced by Oscar-winner Regina King) and Grandad (John Witherspoon) each have distinct personalities that reflect their ideologies, the show looking at not just their strengths but also, their flaws. That said, they act as messengers of education no matter the scenario. Each of the three show viewers different aspects of society, from Huey’s distaste of mainstream American culture to Grandad, a representation of the older generation and how they have seen the world change since their youth and struggles.
Through the interactions between the central characters and the various other elements in their environment, the show explores everything from the violence that plagues communities to the civil rights struggle. We are shown a perspective plucked from McGruder’s mind that stands tall and isn’t afraid to approach delicate subject matters. We see characters that struggle to deal with society, with each other and most importantly, with their own sense of identity. Some characters want to take a step back and let these conflicts play out and others want to take matters into their own hands and strive forwards. It is this – the levels of understanding, representation, values and progression that drive The Boondocks.
Aside from the depth of its subject matter – the series has even been used as a teaching medium in college classes thanks to its cultural significance – one could just appreciate the show too by nerding out on its gorgeous animation. Paying homages to anime like Samurai Champloo and Cowboy Bebop, The Boondocks has a style that flows beautifully throughout each episode. From the fight scenes to the anime-esque character designs, the show blends the east and west, creating something that stands out crisply from the crowd.
The Boondocks is an animated series that is unlike any other in how it portrays a culture underrepresented in the form. While generating plenty of controversy, there is no denying all the show has accomplished and perhaps can continue to on HBO Max where it’s to be rebooted with a two-season order. The series, like each of its characters, is pursuing something, in this case, education – teaching people about a world often overlooked.