HBO Max looks to reboot popular cartoon “The Boondocks”

By Qur’an Hansford

In 2004, writer and cartoonist Aaron McGruger debuted the American sitcom “The Boondocks,” which is based on the satirical comic strip of the same name. The show follows the adventures of two black boys, Riley and Huey Freeman, who experience a culture clash when they move from southside Chicago to the “boondocks” to live with their grandfather.

The show touched on the multiple components of black pop culture, including “The Trial of Robert Kelly” (second episode, first season), “The Invasion of the Katrinians” (ninth episode, second season) and the election of former President Barack Obama (first episode, third season). The Boondocks also made several unforseen predictions that unexpectedly came true, like “The Kentucky Fried Chicken Flu” (13th episode, third season) about the fried chicken craze and how it relates to the recent Popeyes’ chicken sandwich phenomenon.

Associate Professor of Communication Sheena Howard wrote her dissertation on The Boondocks (the comic book), enjoying the political and social commentary the strip offered.

“‘The Boondocks,’ historically, is very significant. ‘The Boondocks’ animated show was edgy, controversial and, at times, offensive. I think it was impactful in that it enjoyed a crossover audience, racially but focused on the life of a black family, headed by a grandfather,” said Howard.

“The Boondocks” brought something new and relatable to television. The raw coverage of early 2000s pop culture and the exposure of stereotypical dynamics in black culture highlighted on TV was important to see and refreshing to connect to.

“It was about a black family and it used very specific African-American cultural dynamics. Doing this, especially in the early 2000’s, usually makes it hard for a show to succeed. The show included African-American vernacular English, black style and aesthetic, as well as a needed shared cultural foundation in order to really get some of the jokes. Some of it was universal, but some of it was very black American centered. To me, this made the show unique. Also, the art style in which the series is drawn is influenced by manga and anime, which makes it special. The blend of African American cultural dynamics and the influence of manga and anime was visually pleasing and interesting,” said Howard.

HBO announced “The Boondocks” will return to television in 2020 which has sparked a social media debate about whether the show will uphold its satirical reputation. One side of the debate believes that in today’s climate the public has become more “sensitive” and “The Boondocks” may have a harder time succeeding in 2019.

“We live in a time period, where it’s no longer funny or cool to make fun of those who are marginalized, that song and dance has long gone. Comedians and comedy-based shows need to be funny, without the marginalized being the butt of the joke. The show would have to adapt in that specific area, if it wants to do well,” said Howard. “I think [writer] Aaron McGruder has proven that he can adapt and adjust to the times and modern social-political issues. He did it with ‘The Boondocks’comic strip, pumping out cultural and politically relevant content weekly.”

“Watching the show is so relatable, especially if you grew up in the hood or know someone who grew up in the hood. I love seeing characters that look like me, sometimes act like me and are freely expressing their different opinions. For the reboot I want to see the Popeyes’ chicken sandwich come to life, all of Trump’s presidency and their take on today’s reality shows,” said sophomore communication studies major Rikiyah Mixson.

The reason “The Boondocks” has done so well in the past is because of their objectiveness on controversial topics. The writers did an amazing job telling all sides of mainstream, contentious issues. The show’s goal was to make fun of real people that many of us have known or come in contact with. Its accurate use of satire is what drew its audience in and is what is driving it to make a comeback in 2020.

The new series from the original creator Aaron McGruder will have 24 episodes and launch in fall 2020 with a 50-minute special.

All 55 episodes of the original series will also be available on the direct-to-consumer offering at launch.

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