Rhy Speaks: On The Boondocks
The Boondocks is one of those shows -- those culturally iconic things -- I could cover in various ways at length, but I’m trying to be more succinct with my thoughts and even more with my opinions. My perspective on the show has had time to develop, change, and expand since it first aired in 2005. I remember watching the first season in seventh grade, enthralled the topic of conversation at school the next morning would be a cartoon about two “suburban” black kids. Chappelle’s Show and The Boondocks were the crux of popular culture and television for my friend group in middle school and I’m quite grateful that they were. Both were smart, satirical comedies covering the irony, plight, and comedic relief of being black in (white) America.
When season one of The Boondocks premiered, I was 13 and completely naive about blackness, in nuance, in America. I did know it was funny, however, and I most identified with Huey Freeman (or so I thought) and his anti-establishment personification. Even more, I recognized some of his brother Riley’s more annoying traits in my friends -- and all of their granddad’s annoying traits in every older black person. Over 10 years later, this still holds true; I have come to appreciate The Boondocks as a cultural time capsule that has somehow remained relevant despite the fact a great deal of these episodes are over a decade old. I may be aging but the show hasn’t at all, and every time I re-watch them I appreciate the show just a little bit more, especially as I learn more about the world. Now into my mid-20s, it’s clear The Boondocks might always remain culturally and socially relevant, or at least until I’m older. Disagree? "The Trial of Robert Kelly" is the second episode the show ever produced; 12 years later, R. Kelly is still free and was recently accused of holding teenage girls captive in an Atlanta compound. Still relevant.
The show’s first episode, “The Garden Party,” just might be my favorite episode of the series, as it does a masterful job of laying the foundation for the episodes and seasons to come. “The Garden Party” introduces Huey as the show's Black political activist, Riley as a proxy for young Black Americans, Granddad as the stand-in for the "Baby Boomer" generation, and businessman Ed Wuncler I -- and, in many ways, his grandson Ed Wuncler III (R.I.P. Charlie Murphy) -- as the man. Episode one immediately throws us into this dynamic between these personifications. It discusses generational and racial nuance, all through the scope of a suburban black family invited to a rich white man’s garden tea party. From there, the series routinely explores America’s many socio-cultural mishaps, celebrity drama, and African-American life at its best and worst.
The show itself deserves all the Emmys, and let me not forget to mention the main actors: John Witherspoon as Granddad is ingenious, and nearly every one of his lines is a gold nugget of comedy, wisdom, or some old black adage that always contributes to the show’s wit; Regina King voices both Huey and Riley, and she somehow balances the characters beautifully given the differences in their traits and behaviors. These two are severely underappreciated as voice actors, as is the show overall, in general. For me, and I’d hope for everyone who’s seen the show, The Boondocks is just as essential to our culture as Chappelle’s Show or The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air or any other fondly remembered black television show. I could discuss literally every episode in length, but I’d rather you take some time and watch the series.