The Boondocks is one of the most impactful American made anime ever. While it does not always fall into tropes, the show is drawn as a traditional anime. Despite the Japanese influence, its content is entirely American. Between discussions of culture and race, the show traverses some of the most difficult subjects around. The United States is clearly at a crossroads, so the show is returning to add its voice to the discussion. Returning with its unique sense of social commentary, The Boondocks is being reborn. Before getting into the reboot, here’s some background on the show and its impact.
The Boondocks Creation and Initial Run
The Boondocks got its start off TV. On the website Hitlist, Aaron McGruder began uploading a comic strip of the characters found in the show. Later, the comic would move to The Source, a traditionally hip hop focused online publication. Once established on the new site, McGruder began pitching the idea of a syndicated comic strip in newspapers. In 1999, a syndicated strip began in the newspaper. While this started, McGruder looked into a TV show.
McGruder reached out to film producer Reginald Hudlin, who once ran BET for a brief period of time in the 2000s. The concept of the show mirrored the comic strip, and would feature the same characters. Selling the show to the Fox Network, they immediately found that the program would be tough to make appropriate for network television. Given the gravity of the issues at hand, the language used, and the themes of the show’s satirical view of these topics, Fox was unable to close a deal with McGruder. Hudlin stayed an executive producer when Mike Lazzo, president of Adult Swim, reached out about the show. Lazzo also thought the show was not right for network, but because they had dulled it down too much. For that reason, Lazzo ordered 15 episodes for the first season and gave McGruder full reign.
The series and the comic strip kept a loose connection, but eventually synched up in the final year of the strip. During the making of Season 1 of the Boondocks TV show, the comic strip was put on hold. Then, in November of 2006, the comic strip was cancelled. This left more room for the show to be the main focus. Asheru, an underground hip hop artist wrote the theme for the show. The program began airing in a 4:3 ratio for more square televisions, which were popular at the time. This was rare for Adult Swim, but they wished the show to be seen as a more regular type of show, akin to the Fox Animated programs that air on Sundays. In the show’s third season, the program moved to a 16:9 high definition aspect and resolution.
Show Setting and Basic Plot
The Boondocks takes place in the fictional suburb of Woodcrest. This neighborhood is mostly white, affluent, and incredibly peaceful. Very few issues seem to exist to the mostly white residents, but that’s because they all live in a bubble. There are a number of influences on the makeup of Woodcrest. A major influence of the suburb is Chicago’s South Side.
The similarity of Woodcrest and the real life suburb Crestwood are clear. Also, the first season featured Chicago landmarks like the Sears Tower, Michigan Avenue buildings, and Grant Park. Plus, a body of water similar to Lake Michigan is shown, as well as a train that resembles the “L” in Chicago. The show even mentions a legal trail of R. Kelly, which took place in Chicago. A character who wants to go mentions that the trial is only 40 miles away, which would place the suburb just outside Chicago city limits.
There are some who believe the show is actually based on Columbia, Maryland. McGruder spent his childhood in Columbia, where his father worked for the National Transportation Safety Board. The area codes in the show are also for the Baltimore area. In a later episode in the series, the family flew to Chicago, insinuating that they do not live near it at all. Like The Simpsons, there are many references to multiple places that exist in real life. For that reason, it is likely a mix of a few real places, with some other creative aspects.
Main Characters in the Boondocks
To prep for the new reboot, let’s go over the characters central to the show.
Huey is the older brother of the two Freeman brothers central to the show. He is 10 years old, and voiced by Regina King, who actually also voices the younger Freeman. In almost every case, Huey is the voice of reason and what is right. The moral compass of the family, Huey is always using his voice to speak out for what is moral. A very intelligent child, Huey dives heavily into left-wing social causes and political movements.
He is completely enamored with the injustices of the world. Believing it is his job to fight, he often promotes and voices his support for causes in Woodcrest. He loves his passions, but his brother and grandfather consistently tell him he’s dumb or wrong. They believe his opinions to be ridiculous in most cases, and undermine him at every turn of his interests. His grandfather especially believes he should not try to be more than he is.
Often critical of hip hop culture and its use in mainstream media, Huey is considered a domestic terrorist by his white neighbors. He’s upset constantly by the glamorization of wealth, spending money, and other rap tropes featured in music and movies. He almost never smiles, and is incredibly serious about his concerns. He also loves martial arts, and it is here where a lot of anime influences come in.
Riley is Huey’s younger brother, 8 years old, and also voiced by Regina King. He is, at heart, a rebellious follower of hip hop culture. He’s incredibly charming, and an all around good kid. Unfortunately, his cleverness gets him in some trouble. Artistically gifted, he is a more creative soul than Huey. His ideals are almost all centered around Gangster Rap, and the things that make rappers cool to him. This includes spending money, getting girls, being rebellious, and not caring about what others think. When he realizes that hip hop culture is destructive, he still believes it is the best way to live, and more importantly, most fun. Most of Riley’s stories revolve around rap or something he looks up to. That usually includes rappers, gangsters, and people who embody hip hop culture. More often than not, his grandfather supports him.
Riley is always trying to be tough. He’s still only 8 though, and that results in him being softer and more innocent in times of distress. Unlike Riley, he is not a fan of martial arts. Rather, he enjoys street fighting and the more wild side of combat. The two Freeman brothers are very different, and both even more different still than their grandfather.
Robert “Grandad” Freeman
Voiced by John Witherspoon, Robert Freeman is “Grandad” to Riley and Huey Freeman. He is the legal guardian of the boys and always tries to control them to keep them safe. Unfortunately, he pushes his worldview on his grandkids, causing a lot of spouts. Most arguments are between Grandad and Huey. He cares about nothing else in the world more than his grandkids. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t get frustrated with them. In fact, funnier moments of the show are Grandad getting so angry at them that he explodes verbally. He gets all worked up, and yells at them endlessly. Grandad doesn’t like their sarcasm and confidence. He believes it will be their downfall.
A running joke in the show is that Grandad’s age is unknown. He’s certainly old, but it is never explicitly stated how old. Grandad gets in a lot of his own misadventures. A lot of his adventures include women, some of whom are a little on the wild side. Not in a good way, either. He’s often the pursuit of women out for a different motive, including money, danger, or trouble. Grandad also always seems to be a proponent of corporal punishment, ranging the gammit of Three Stooges style physical violence. He’s known for being very quick to grab a belt for whipping. Back in his younger days though, he was also just as passionate about civil rights as Huey.
Uncle Ruckus is the embodiment of a response to civil rights and progressive politics. Voiced by Gary Anthony Williams, Uncle Ruckus is visibly and socially difficult. He looks deranged, and has a total hatred for black culture. Because of the problems black people have experienced in America, Uncle Ruckus believes God has willed this reality. His belief is that you should rebuke your blackness, and you can be forgiven. This stereotype of self-hating black people is not new, and dates back to post-Antebellum where some freed men and women would act as if being black was bad. Uncle Ruckus has one glass eye from being beaten by his father, and it never seems to be in the right placement of his head.
He constantly tells people that he is 50.07% white, and talks down on black people. He goes so far to wish they were still slaves. Uncle Ruckus is a renounceable character, but points out some points that Huey can use to argue for progressive movements.
Themes in The Boondocks
The main themes of the show, as you can guess, are based on race and society. Huey is always pointing out flaws in the system. Riley and Granddad, however, are more willing to accept that black people just deal with struggles. While Huey fights, Riley accepts the flaws of society and leans more towards being a gangsta as a response to the system.
With a lot of commentary on celebrities, there is also a major theme of power and money. With black celebrities at the heart of some of the most iconic episodes, the conversation is interesting between Huey and Riley. Huey sees a few instances of successful black people as a deterrent from criticizing the system. Riley, on the other hand, sees this as a sign that black people are fine. Uncle Ruckus, of course, thinks no black people should be famous. The variations in characters and opinions makes for a great method of commentary on some of the most contentious social issues.
The Boondocks End and Attempted Spin-Off
The Boondocks started in 2005 and carried on for four seasons that ran until 2014. The large gaps in seasons, as well as spread out airings, kept it on air for 9 years. When the show ended, a live action film starring Uncle Ruckus almost got footing. McGruder hoped to use Kickstarter to raise $200,000 for the film but the project never got off the ground. Now, McGruder looks to reboot the series with a slightly new art style and approach.
Looking to the Boondocks Reboot
The Boondocks reboot is going to be a different take on the show. Sony is reviving the series, and it will return in an animated style. McGruder has shown art samples of the new rebooted characters, who are slightly touched up. The general anime style is still there, however. The new style is actually leaning into a more anime look, with more drastic eyes and colors. For that reason, anime fans who have not seen The Boondocks should look into the reboot. For now, you can watch the show on Hulu and Netflix to catch up on what you may have missed.
The Boondocks is an iconic program for American anime, and its return is highly anticipated. Take time to catch up on the show now before the program returns bigger and badder than ever. Keep an eye on Comic Years as we continue to follow updates on the show’s new format and art style.
Taylor loves to play video games in his spare time. He has two degrees in Political Communication and wrote his thesis on Marxism and the exploitation of college athletes. In his spare time, he loves spending time with his wife and two Toy Australian Sheppards. He’s always got headphones in, and he’s a diehard Cubs fan.