Alright guys. Hey guys. Look: I know we haven’t reviewed any Rick and Morty, That’s not for lack of desire, it’s for lack of time, alright guys? You know what I mean when I say, when I say I haven’t had any time? Yeah, while you guys have been bleep bloopin your blip blops, I’ve been busy working, and being a parent, and, like, dealing with a sick toddler, AND a sick wife. You know what that’s like? Yeah. That’s what I thought.
So, when I say that I just finished — just. finished. — the season two finale and couldn’t help but write something about it, you know how serious it is. And because this is Rick and Morty, and it’s a grown up cartoon for grown up people, I’ve gotta invoke the principles behind this gif:
That means if I spoil it, you’ve gotta put on your big boy (or girl, I don’t discriminate) plague mask and deal with it. Alright? Good.
So, my theory of Rick and Morty is that it’s a philosophical pessimism tragicomedy space opera. Always has been, always will be. And if you don’t know what I mean by “philosophical pessimism,” go watch True Detective (just the first season? Apparently?) and get yourself educated. Jesus. I can’t be responsible for every little fragment of your life.
The problem with philosophical pessimism is that it isn’t really fit for human consumption. The only ways we have to deal with it are to detach from reality in a psychotic way, drink ourselves into a stupor, or recognize that we only have a limited amount of time and space while we hurdle through this stupid universe, and your best bet is to try to game the system while you’re here. The problem, though, is as living creatures, our very cells and chemicals predispose us toward wanting to live, and admiring life. See that baby? Here, have some dopamine, says our brain. Oh, you liked those strawberries did you? Here’s some dopamine. Yeah, you like how running three times a week lowers your bad cholesterol and prevents heart disease? Dopamine. On the house. Our brain is a life chemical pusher, and our bodies are junkies.
We see all this in Rick Sanchez. And we see it all culminate.
The episode centers around this.
Bird Person’s wedding, in which he gets shot by his bride, Tammy, who turns out to be working for the Galactic Federation. They don’t like Rick, or Bird Person, or most of the people at the wedding, and the hunt is on. But Rick knows, all things being equal, the universe is an equally horrible place no matter where you go, but he doesn’t want to get caught. Three worlds sport the kind of life they want, but they have their own issues. The first one:
And I don’t even have to communicate to you the dangers of a cob based planet.
The second, which speaks for itself:
The planet they end up occupying? I mean, it’s not terrible, but they did hunt the pig to extinction for breakfast.
And that’s where Rick’s self serving pessimism hits the wall. The only way for his family to be happy is for him to be absent. So that’s what he becomes.
And then that music? Damn, girl.
So what do you think happens next, huh? Oooooeeee!
My prediction is a definitive and nearly irreversible schism between Jerry and his family as the rest of the family attempts to rescue Rick. And Jerry? Since he’s all about that positive reinforcement and he just got a job (an intergalactic government job even), and he’s going to feel the need to be loyal to the alpha dogs in his world. OOOOOEEEEE! Gonna be family versus family you think? Huh? OOOOOOEEEEE! Wubalubdubdubs!
I’ve been trying to get my faith back in The Boondocks lately by trying to watch and comprehend the last two episodes, “Good Times” and “Breaking Granddad.” Like i said in my last review, I feel that this iconic show is suffering a slight fall from grace, slowly tipping off the pedestal that it has once stood upon. These McGruder-less episodes at least are enough to get a little chuckle out of me, but when the show ends, I feel like questioning why it happened at all in the first place..
The last two episodes seemed to follow an actual storyline, something I haven’t ever seen The Boondocks do before. This gave me a decent excuse to procrastinate writing for a little bit (don’t tell my editor) [Editor’s note: yeah, smooth move, Jojo]. The show normally jumps into the plot like any other adult cartoon and takes off from there. This is a rather interesting approach, bringing a different flavor to the mix.
Episode two of the fourth season, “Good Times,” was all about Robert Freeman’s the fall from wealth. Having lost all his money due to poor financial education and a scheme from adjustable mortgage rates, he has found himself in a substantial amount of debt. Robert is forced to get a car wash job – already hinting at a Breaking Bad-like plot satire – under Uncle Ruckus (no relation), rent out his house to unruly guests (including guest star Eddie Griffith) while sleeping in the garage and even getting a loan from Mr. Wuncler’s mobster son. That family is no good; this episode marks the first appearance of Ed Wuncler II, and while he looks like a nicer guy than either his dad, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree here. He tricks Granddad (not like that was a challenge) into signing a loan with 150% APR, and then offers them a way out of the millions of dollars of debt by quite literally selling themselves into slavery.
I was at least pleased to see some valid social commentary in “Good Times,” as the mortgage bubble bursting is getting the full satirical treatment from The Boondocks. When banks shoveled out high-interest, entrapping home loans to the uneducated, millions of families lost their homes. The show does a decent job of showing how imposing banks were and portrays their willingness to exploit the uneducated for monetary gain. It was only a taste of instant vintage Boondocks, though, as the show took it from a point of reflection and turned it into the butt of a poor joke – something that Aaron McGruder had a skill of avoiding.
Next, in the third episode, “Breaking Granddad,” the Freemans are suffering from the events of “Good Times.” Robert decides to go out on a date to take his mind off things, but as he gets ready to go, realizes that he has no pomade for his hair – or whatever hair the old man has left. After going on his pointless venture, he finds a substance in the garage that has the texture for hair gel and proceeds to using it. Well, turns out Huey was planning to use this “gel,” a highly explosive substance, to bomb the Wuncler’s residence to gain back their freedom. The substance has an unexpected side effect; it also grows and perms kinky hair over night.
Robert and Riley decide to box it up, sell it and reap the benefits. They eventually start getting successful in their endeavors and are bought out by a black hair “business” woman, Boss Wilona. Turns out she is actually a gang leader who is interested in the product to distribute. The product is later banned and becomes an illegal controlled substance, but the business woman insists on selling it. Eventually they beg Huey, the one who was against this scheme the entire time, to give them the ingredients to make it. He finally breaks and shows them how but they have to go to the dessert, with an RV to make this illegal substance. They meet with Boss, she double-crosses them and forces them to make more. Heis……er I mean Robert, cleverly escape the van and get away. They then walk home and that is the end, cue credits.
While “Good Times” presented was was a ghost of The Boondocks‘ former glory as a socio-poltically conscious show, “Breaking Granddad” was a lot more colorful and kind of reinforced the two part series kind of resurrecting the poltergeist of an episode.
Overall I still find this season lacking what made The Boondocks what it is, the hidden message. The Breaking Bad parody episode was much more bad and broken then it was Boondocks, missing the level commentary if could have hit pertaining to the black woman community and its self-esteem issues with hair. As you know hair perm has a massive amount of chemicals that should not even touch skin, but apparently a majority of black women would risk this in order to have that long, beautiful Euro type hair that is all over TV and movies.
The episode, although slightly informative, kind of reminded me of every other adult cartoon out there, choose a piece of highly popular pop culture and base elements of the episode on it for more views. I don’t entirely prefer this tactic or I’m just a little sick of it as I see it all the time. Setbacks aside, this is no reason to give up on the season and I’m in it for the long run. VIVA LA Boondocks Season 4… I guess.
Last Monday marked the return of The Boondocks, the controversial adult cartoon, created by Aaron McGruder. Originally a comic strip in the funny side of the newspaper, this popular series grew into a critically acclaimed animated TV show that ran from 2005-2010. The story revolves around the Freeman family, an African American family comprised of a grandfather Robert Freeman, the caretaker of his two grandsons, Huey and Riley Freeman two trouble making kids, that move into a predominately Caucasian, suburban neighborhood called Woodbury from their home in Chicago.
Like the comic strip that inspired it, The Boondocks’ real identity lies within the many underlying issues of society addressed in each episode, especially those pertaining to the African-American community. Despite its serious undertones, viewers of all races, largely due to its entertaining and light-hearted nature, have generally acclaimed it. Despite the three and a half-year long hiatus between seasons, fans’ interest has not diminished. Not too long ago, word of the fourth season and the return of crazy, racist/sexist and political humor made its way around the internets – but there was a catch. The creative mind of the original creator would not be returning with it. As I heard of this news, I instantly began to question the direction of the show. Would it be as entertaining? Would there be a subtle message behind the episodes that normally goes over the heads of the viewers? Honestly, it unnerved me a bit, but I still was excited for what will be the final season of the show.
The Season 4 debut, “Pretty Boy Flizzy,” begins with Tom Dubois, the “frumpy everyman” lawyer having marital issues with his wife, Sarah. The problem is that Tom cannot take charge and is to soft in the way he handles his everyday life. He is then kicked out of the house for the inability to pretty much be, you know, a douche (yeah, kinda made me wanna facepalm my face into the back of my head). He retreats to the Freeman residence to as he has nowhere else to go, but they are less than willing to be a shoulder to cry on. They turn off the lights, shut down the electronics and pretended to be absent from the house. A crying Tom decides to sleep on the welcome mat of their front door and slowly drifts off to sleep.
The next day, Tom goes to work and is hired to defend a famous singer/rapper “bad boy” out of his self-inflicted predicament (he robs a bank). Flizzy is depicted as a satire of musicians, primarily singer Chris Brown, who act out in a destructive manner for attention – I’m sure we’ve all heard the stories by now (thanks World Star Hip-Hop). Tom decides to not handle this case as he sees no point in protecting someone the he knows actually did the crime and obviously did not care of his fate legally. Mr. Flizzy then identifies Tom as dull and weak – a person that can be stepped on without fighting back. Flizzy then negotiates that if he teaches Tom how to be a stand up guy, Tom has to defend him in court. Tom agrees to the terms and is thrown into a cliche sitcom plot line. He goes home and tells his wife of who he was defending, which is to her excitement and Tom then accuses her of wanting to have sexual relations with him. These accusations lead to him being kicked out of his house once again. Later he spends the day being tutored on how to be a bad boy and how to “truly” treat women.
Tom then brings Flizzy home for dinner even though the Freemans warn Tom of the songs he makes pertaining to stealing wives and sleeping with them, notably “I Will Do Your Wife” and “White Wife Booty.” That night at dinner, Sarah drinks herself stupid and begins flirting with Flizzy. Angered, Tom then threatened to leave her and storms his way out of the house. The following day, Tom decides to go over the security cameras at the scene of the robbery for the case. To his surprise notices the entire thing is staged dun Dun DUUUUN!!!!! Tomthen confronts his thuggish client as to why he staged the robbery and he learns that he does this so he can keep his relevance in the music industry since the only people that gain attention, or seem to, always cause trouble, which is the key to fame and a woman’s heart. Flizzy then, after being grilled by Tom, acts a fool telling Tom that he is going to take his family away. This aggravates Tom and then he proceeds to clocking Flizzy right in his jaw. Uncle Ruckus then comes to the rescue and tackles Flizzy making a citizens arrest. Flizzy, bruised face and broken, is taken away by the valiant Ruckus; he looks at Tom and winks at him, indicating that this was all in his plan to make Tom seem tougher. The entire ordeal arouses Sarah reigniting there lust-less marriage.
Yup….that’s pretty much it. Roll credits and begin the flute solo music. Now, I was not entirely impressed by this new episode, I don’t know if it was bias of the absence of McGruder, but something seemed off. The animation was familiar, and the all-star voice-acting cast returned. Even the special guest star power was there as Michael B Jordan (The Wire, Fruitvale Station, That Awkward Moment, Fantastic Four) stole the show as Pretty Boy Flizzy. Really though, the episode “Pretty Boy Flizzy” came off as rather pedestrian. It was simply not the episode we had been waiting years for. More than anything, it served as a rehashing of the Season 2 episode “Tom, Sarah and Usher.”
There didn’t really seem to be a message either. Maybe the message was women who go for the bad boys or celebrities are desperate for attention, but none of these seemed relevant to the bigger-picture issues that The Boondocks targeted years ago. I mean, Boondocks arguably single-handedly dismantled BET (as it was). I’ve heard from many people that a lot comedy is comprised of deep philosophical points put into layman’s terms which shows like The Boondocks had a knack for, but that element has been painfully missing – dating back to the mundane third season – and I was left feeling empty when the credits started rolling. Don’t get it twisted; this definitely does not mean that one episode has turned me off from watching the rest of the season.
The second episode from Season 4 of The Boondocks airs tonight. Join us at we get ready for “Good Times” as Granddad’s money mismanagement lands him in hot water with the bank. There have been a lot of crazy social mishaps in America since the curtains closed on Season 3, and the housing collapse was one I’m happy to see be on The Boondocks’ hit-list. I still have my fingers crossed for an Ed Wuncler III cameo, and there’s some Breaking Bad-inspired hustle coming this season that I can’t wait to see.
In this consumer-based industry, it can be easy to forget the years of hard work that the people in the business put in. Behind every panel, it takes a skilled writer, artist, inker and colorist to make the product complete. Hush Comics’ weekly article “Respect My Craft” will dive into the history of these comic book greats that will hopefully give a new perspective on how the men and women behind the pen (or stylus) contribute to the collective awesome-ness of comic books, or at least give you a reason to invest in their work.
Name: Aaron McGruder
Profession: Writer & Artist
NotableWork: The Boondocks
“When I pass, speak freely of my shortcomings and my flaws. Learn from them, for I’ll have no ego to injure.” – Aaron McGruder
Before he was the stone that the builder refused, Huey Freeman was just a figment of Aaron McGruder’s imagination. Similar to his characters in “The Boondocks,” McGruder hailed from the South Side of Chicago and moved to a predominantly white town as a young boy. His stay in Columbia, Maryland, a suburb of Baltimore, gave him a good look at race relationships in America. A young McGruder found his identity through Hip-Hop, Star Wars and comic strips, inspiring him to draw comics.
During his college career at the University of Maryland, McGruder was a cartoonist for a student-run newspaper called The Diamondback, which published the very first “Boondocks”strip in December 1996. Aaron was getting paid more than double what the other cartoonists were being compensated, a whopping $30/strip. The Boondocks began as a campus cartoon strip, and after only a couple issues, sky-rocketed to fame after it appeared in Hip-Hop based magazine, The Source. Soon after, the series was picked up by the Universal Press Syndicate, joining the company of such legendary comics as “Garfield”and “Calvin & Hobbes,” in December of 1998. It was a quick rise to fame, as McGruder was only in his mid-twenties, and a well-deserved one.
McGruder used the characters in“The Boondocks” to create a sort of yin-yang in Black culture: Huey Freeman, the Afro-centric philosopher and freedom fighter (named appropriately after revolutionary Black Panther Huey Newton), as well as Riley Freeman, the radical wannabe-thug, and Grand-dad Freeman, who represents the old-school mentality. With them, McGruder wrote an ensemble cast with various cultural and political backgrounds. Using different relatable social situations, “The Boondocks” painted a hyperbolic, yet accurate, picture of what it’s like for many minorities living in white communities.
McGruder began to publish trade-paperbacks of The Boondocks., the first of which was named Because I Know You Don’t Read the Newspaper. McGruder had begin to focus on writing, and hired artist Jennifer Seng to help with the art in 2003. The series became so popular that, by 2004, over 300 major newspapers nation-wide were publishing “The Boondocks”. One of the aspects that made the series so beloved was McGruder’s tendency to speak freely when it came to socio-political issues.
From 9/11 conspiracy theories that outwardly criticized President Bush to attacking BET (Black Entertainment Television), nobody was safe from being called out. And as “The Boondocks” garnered more and more attention, McGruder got more and more liberal with his messages. Not all agreed with McGruder’s approach to such touchy subjects, though, as many black and white critics felt that he was trying to provoke racial tension instead of commenting on it. It could be that those who were harsh against McGruder just couldn’t understand the satirical nature of his work, but whatever the issue, the controversy just kept getting louder and louder.
After almost a decade of written features, Aaron McGruder began to pitch the idea of an animated television sitcom of The Boondocks. However, the shocking subject material made it difficult for the series to be picked up by network television. Luckily for us, Cartoon Network picked it up in 2005 and put it in their Adult Swim time-slot. This would prove to be a match made in White Heaven, as it gave him the freedom he needed to tell even the most controversial of stories.
Throughout The Boondocks‘ initial three-season run from 2005-2010, McGruder wrote episodes that satirically ripped into everybody: R. Kelly, BET, and even Santa Claus weren’t safe from criticism. Taking up twenty plus minutes per show also allowed McGruder to include a much deeper cast, which consisted of some hilarious guest spots, and was bursting at the seams with social commentary. To boot, a lot of the show’s content was somewhat based off the strip, expanding on funny moments and making them funny episodes. The anime-inspired fight scenes were also amazing, as McGruder clearly had some Samurai Champloo inspiration. More over, what made the series so relatable is that it felt so natural. The character archetypes all interacted how you would expect, but was written so well that you never really knew what crazy thing would happen next.
What I really loved about how McGruder wrote The Boondocks is how it never felt like it had an agenda; it just asked really good questions that made readers/viewers think. We could laugh at the stereotypes or see the sad satire of American culture for what it was – it really depended on how the consumer absorbed the material. To this day, “The Boondocks” comic strip remains the only comic series picked up by the Universal Press Syndicate that has a black creator or a mostly black cast. It’s an award-winning and fan-favorite television show that serves as a cracked mirror for lack & American culture that we know we want to do better than what is portrayed.
For better or worse, after the run of nearly ten years, McGruder’s “Boondocks” has pointed out a lot of the flaws in how mainstream media portrays African-Americans, while criticizing African-Americans for exploiting those flaws. In the same way Dwayne McDuffie used Milestone Media to build up the positive black image, Aaron McGruder used “The Boondocks” to tear down the negative black image. Thus, I can define Aaron McGruder in three words: “Maaaaaan, F*** BET”
Checked out his bibliography and still want more? Check these books out:
BIG news here everybody; it looks as though The Boondocks will be returning for a fourth season, debuting April 21st, 2014, after an almost four-year hiatus.
Birth of A Nation is a graphic novel about what it would be like if East St. Louis (dubbed Blackland) were to secede from the nation. This is “All Black Everything” in it’s truest incarnation. McGruder co-wrote this book along with Reginald Hudlin (Who is the Black Panther? review coming soon!).
McGruder also was on writing duties for Red Tails, a film about the Tuskegee Airmen. It was a little too Hollywood for my taste, but it’s worth a shot if you’re interested.
How Much Does Hush Comics Love Aaron McGruder?
Aaron McGruder has a special place in my heart. A big part of my late-teens were spent watching and reading The Boondocks. McGruder’s work did more than entertain me; it educated me. His rise to stardom was so quick, the gravity of his accomplishments may slip by casual fans. More importantly, he shared his message with no filter – from the return of Dr. Martin Luthor King Jr. to white privilege to fried chicken shortages, McGruder was never afraid to talk about the serious issues.