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I Wanted Better From The Boondocks

November 20, 2007

Hi everyone! It’s been a while.

Quick update: I haven’t posted for a while since I’ve been busy moving to Japan for a year on a Fulbright Fellowship, and I just got Internet access in the apartment. I have, however, had two more articles up at the Escapist (on Ambrosia Software and Mixed Martial Arts, respectively) as well as an article at Cerise Magazine called “Another Rape In Cyberspace”. Anyway, look forward to more updates coming, probably on the same infrequent basis it’s been on when I actually updated this. 

(Spoilers Ahead)

 This post isn’t actually on video games, but bear with me. No, I’m going to spend a moment to talk about one of my favorite TV shows, the Boondocks, which entered in its much-anticipated second season a few weeks ago. I’ve been addicted to the show since the first season, and during the year-and-a-half long break between the first and second season I’ve probably watched each episode at least five times, so it should go without saying that I’ve been waiting with bated breath for the second season to show up. However, in addition to the brilliant racial commentary, I’ve been curious to see how the show would handle gender. The first season left me kind of hanging on that respect – at best, it was an all-men show (out of the main characters, mixed-race Jazmine and her white mother Sarah are the only recurring female characters), and at worst, it shows women – particularly black women – as “hoes”, obnoxious ghetto-fabulous club-goers, and…not much else, really. While I adore the racial material, and I appreciate that the stereotypical images that show up in the Boondocks are part of McGruder’s project, I have to say, it’s really unfortunate that we haven’t seen more well-rounded representation of women. Yes, virtually every black man character in the Boondocks has some racialized character flaw – Tom and his, well, whiteness, Riley and his gangsta fetishization, the entire character of Uncle Ruckus – but when they stick around, they become endeared to us nonetheless. 

Sadly, the women haven’t done any better in season two. Sarah gets a larger role in one episode (previously she was known for making peach cobbler that looks like vomit, and not a lot else), where she basically falls apart from fandom upon meeting Usher during her and Tom’s anniversary dinner, and gets bonus points for being firm with Tom, but that’s about it – considering the episode’s major struggle focused on her, she didn’t get a whole lot of screen time. For black women, we have, well, several of A Pimp Named Slickback’s ‘bitches’ (which gets dropped a whole lot more often in this episode, incidentally), and we have Luna from the most recent episode, a kung-fu master who has been scarred from growing up in an abusive household and too many relationships with abusive men. I had hopes for her as a recurring character – she has an interesting character flaw and very apparent strength – but instead she just went batshit insane for the whole episode, and then comes around at the very end, deciding to take responsibility for herself. Except then she commits suicide by explosion in the Freemans’ driveway. Come on, people! What could it possibly take to get us a female character that isn’t a one-off? We’re creeping dangerously into misogyny, here.

pat m. 

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8 comments

  1. I love Boondocks for how radical it is in critiquing racism. But I can’t turn off how uncomfortable the sexism in the show makes me. I haven’t seen the second season, but I was really upset by the rape jokes when Tom was arrested.

    Challenging racism and sexism too often at odds with each other, as if we can’t do both.


  2. fuck dude i remember you emailing me a while back saying you were coming back to japan. i just couldn’t find the email when i remembered the reply to you.

    email me when you get this! man, i could have invited you to a fucking amazing rock show tonight man.

    do you have a cell phone yet? i think i still have your old address saved in my phone lol lol


  3. Hey, where in Japan are you? If it’s anywhere near Nagoya or Osaka we should meet up or something 🙂


  4. THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! Finally someone I can agree with 100%! Don’t you know that I sent a note to this dude (on his MySpace, which I think wasn’t a good idea) about this same issue. I gave him all the examples I could use in regards to his portrayal of women in The Boondocks.

    Even though I like this cartoon, look forward to seeing it every Monday night on Adult Swim and even support it, it deeply bothers me how he portrays women in the cartoon. And don’t forget this is the same Black man who insulted Condoleeza Rice by accusing her of being “lesbian”.

    I personally do not know this man and should not completely judge him, but judging by what he portrays I would say that this man must have been scorned deeply by women in his life. Either that or he is a misogynistic, chauvinistic pig. It is hard to watch a cartoon that I like when I know the creator will more than likely not show any respect for me.

    It really hurts me the way so many Black man treat us or view so. So why must it be a man that is brilliant and actually sending out messages to the Black community in order to better it. Maybe he only like Black men, I dunno. LOL!


  5. The ironic thing is that both Huey and Riley are voiced by a woman…


  6. I couldn’t agree more with your perception of Boondocks’ take on women.

    As a professional animator, I have been impressed by its visual quality. However, the Luna episode left me with a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach.

    At best, her abuse at the hands of her ex is trivialized, at worst, it’s portrayed as a source of humor. And her suicide was horrific.

    It seems the show’s creator cannot create a strong female character without portraying her as unstable. While I can still appreciate the show’s animation, this episode left me feeling sadly disillusioned


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