The Boondocks has been generating controversy through comic strips and television for years, becoming one of the more notable animated series to do so. Aaron McGruder’s tight cast has been through three seasons now, and although some big changes have occurred since the first season the show’s central themes have stayed consistent, except for perhaps raw ambition, which has seen quite an increase.
Throughout the first season, the vibe given off by The Boondocks is subdued; Huey Freeman’s methodical narration guides us through small family conflicts, political concepts he views important, and his own small lapse in sanity. Long pans across Woodcrest suburbs accompany his narration. The pacing is relaxed, similar to his environment. Struggles against social constructs and creative barriers give off a quietly intellectual feel, all part of McGruder’s collection of satirical elements. Recurring songs like Booty Butt Cheeks are played on show radio stations constantly (and to hilarious effect), and other recurring elements like Granddad’s classic happy song has everyone feeling right at home for most episodes. Regina King’s voice acting across the freeman brothers is flawless; both of them sound great, and although I wasn’t happy with Riley’s change between the first and second seasons, the characters are all voiced optimally, with many different guest stars spicing up the audio.
There are a lot of changes in The Boondocks as time passes; from the first season, it is hard to foresee fight scenes becoming an important piece of the later seasons. When both fight scene length and animation quality go up from the second season on, the martial arts known by central characters comes into play quite often, bringing along with it numerous references to Shaw Brothers productions and other inspirations, like Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo. Such a homage to the style of the fighting animation in the mentioned anime titles is always welcome, given its honest attempt at quality visuals. The fights do look great for the most part, although often there is a bit of a clunky feel to the methodical step-by-step fighting approach when compared to the greats. The third season’s animation is very high quality, especially apparent in “The Red Ball,” where a Samurai Champloo-style kickball match has Huey flying through the air and stopping DBZ-like orbs of power with his bare hands.
Beyond the animation, the vibe of the show also changes from the first season to the second. Immediately a change in pace is notable, departing from the first season’s slower, subdued nature to a more frenetic Family Guy-like speed, complete with a couple of flashbacks to absurd situations for the sake of a quick joke. This change was initially jarring, but after adjusting to the style of the show and the newly increased level of absurdity a la Curb Your Enthusiasm, it’s easy to see the most important pieces of the show remain consistent. Especially impressive is the lengthy campaign against BET, where as Huey slowly starts to starve while on a strike against the channel, a glimpse of BET executives reveals them to be supervillains, although seeing Martin Luther King, Jr. lecturing the black community was also quite a shocking spectacle to behold. Throughout all of McGruder’s offensive content, the ideals which are assigned value are mostly liberal and perhaps even old-fashioned at times, which could be the obvious reactionary step taken in response to many of the cultural tendencies that are repeatedly panned.
Overall, although the show’s quality seems to dip quite often, The Boondocks is definitely worth watching, and contains some truly iconic recurring jokes and fight scenes, as well as a very memorable cast of characters with some fantastic voice acting and celebrity appearances. Unfortunately, there are a lot of duller moments and a number of jokes that fall flat, but it’s a great and honest attempt which always displays the hard work behind it.