The creator of a subversive animated series about a black family negotiating racial politics in the Obama Age gets his show hijacked by greedy network execs who masquerade its return as the real deal.
Sounds like the kind of conspiratorial plot that would make for a perfect episode of "The Boondocks." But it may be closer to fact than fiction. As word continues to spread among its cult-like fanbase that cartoonist/satirist Aaron McGruder won't be behind his show's recently announced return in April, it may be hard for Sony Pictures Entertainment, which produces the series, and Atlanta-based Adult Swim, which airs it, to avoid looking like the boogeymen-that-be.
The Root was the first to report last week that new updates on "The Boondocks" Facebook page hyping the fourth season had been posted without McGruder's consent. "Just found out someone has hijacked THE BOONDOCKS Facebook page," read a Facebook message from Aaron McGruder on March 16. "This was done without my permission and I have absolutely no control over the content being posted." He followed with subsequent updates decrying more ghost posts.
As speculation swelled, McGruder posted a new Facebook update yesterday that suggested all was well. He even expressed "gratitude" to Sony and Adult Swim for three seasons of "The Boondocks." While admitting that he wouldn't be returning as a writer/producer on the new season, he seemed to allude to contractual obligations that left him powerless, yet at peace, over the fate of his former creation.
"To quote a great white man, "Hollywood is a business," the post reads. "And to quote another great white man, "Don't hold grudges."
McGruder goes on to talk about the "keen sense of duty, history, culture, and love" with which he produced "The Boondocks," first as a daily newspaper comic for six years and then as an animated series for three seasons. McGruder, who was notoriously slow at cranking out new seasons, admits that "nothing is more painful than to leave them behind."
For three seasons, McGruder excelled at holding up a mirror up to black America's internal contradictions with comical plots that imagined Dr. King's disappointment were he to return from the dead, dissected hip-hop's hypersexuality with recurring character/undercover homo thug Gangstalicious, and skewered Black Entertainment Television for selling out its own culture in an allegedly banned episode. The show's loudest critics were often self-appointed leaders of the black community who often became victims of the show's targeted commentary through thinly-veiled portrayals.
Like "Chappelle's Show" minus Dave Chapelle or "In Living Color" minus the Wayans, it's easy to imagine how "The Boondocks" in the wrong hands could devolve into gratuitous n-words and controversy without the critical context that fueled such classic episodes.
Episode 11 of season 2, titled "The S-word," featured Cee-Lo as the voice of the fictitious Rev. Rollo Goodlove going head-to-head against an unmasked version of real-life ultraconservative Ann Coulter in a raging debate over appropriate usage of the n-word that left everyone dripping with guilt:
Sony issued a press release earlier this week confirming the upcoming fourth season "was produced without the involvement of Aaron McGruder, when a mutually agreeable production schedule could not be determined." But McGruder's official passing-of-the-baton notice was also laced with a nudge that producers uphold the original mission of his social satire.
Like his beloved characters, 10-year-old militant Huey Freeman and his thugged-out little brother Riley Freeman and their civil rights-era granddad, fans have responded accordingly with straight-no-chaser critiques of supposed intentions to co-opt the show's edge.
"First Dave Chappelle now Aaron McGruder...damn can we keep one of our shows?!?! When Hollywood can't pimp you anymore, they spit you out!!!" reads one Facebook comment on McGruder's last post. Another commenter speculates: "He signed a contract & didn't know what he signed I'm guessing. Remember he didn't know the show was coming back on until they hijacked his page. Black people please read what you sign your name on. This show will now be Coonish and no lessons will be taught."
But maybe there's a silver lining.
McGruder's Facebook post ends with a shout-out to his new live-action show, currently in production, called "Black Jesus," in which the biblical figure resides in modern-day Compton, California. And get this: It will also air on Adult Swim. Which means all of this could either be a well-concocted plan, with McGruder's participation, to hype both series or a case of the creator playing nice in order to get his new satire on the small screen.
Guess we'll have to tune in to Adult Swim on April 21, when the new season of "The Boondocks" debuts, to see.
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