Sunday, February 03, 2008

5078: Down In The Boondocks.


Net-Bashing ‘Boondocks’ Banned
Viral Stunt or Corporate Censorship? Episodes of Cartoon Criticizing BET Executives Are Yanked

By Claude Brodesser-akner

LOS ANGELES ( – “Now that’s a real shame when folks be throwin’ away a perfectly good white boy like that.”

It’s the memorable quote from “Better Off Dead,” the 1985 comedy starring John Cusack. Change “white” to “black,” and this week, it could just as easily refer to Huey Freeman, the central character of “The Boondocks.”

Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim has tossed away two brand new episodes of Aaron McGruder’s animated series, “The Boondocks.” The show (and the previous comic strip of the same name) has always delved fearlessly into black culture and politics through the lives of two young black siblings from inner-city Chicago who’ve moved to the suburbs with their grandfather.

In a more conservative time slot on a more conservative network, the jet streams of comedic gore and liberal use of the N-word would be enough to pull an episode. But those elements have been staples of “The Boondocks” since it began airing -- and Adult Swim’s other fare isn’t exactly known for its pristine reputation.

‘Ritual suicide’
So maybe it was the over-the-top mocking of network executives at BET. One of the scotched “Boondocks” vignettes has the young, left-leaning protagonist Huey (named after radical Huey P. Newton) telling CNN of his plans to go on a hunger strike until “all top BET executives commit Japanese ritual suicide.”

Mr. McGruder goes on to depict BET CEO Debra Lee (a Dr. Evil-inspired “Debra Lee-vil”) screaming that “the destruction of black people is not happening fast enough!” Khrushchev-like, her animated alter-ego flings a Prada shoe at a BET executive, striking him in the jugular with her heel and causing fountains of blood to erupt.

In the same episode, Lee-vil’s animated lieutenant (meant to depict BET Entertainment president -- and, awkwardly, “Boondocks” executive producer Reggie Hudlin) gleefully announces his development plans: “My Harvard education tells me that our goal should be to take all the shitty reality TV shows MTV did five years ago and make them black. Anyone who wants to see a shitty black version of an MTV reality show, well, they’ll have to come to us!”

Whether the decision to yank the episodes came at the urging of BET, “Boondocks” producer Sony Television or Cartoon Network is unclear. Mr. McGruder, BET executives Mr. Hudlin and Ms. Lee, and Cartoon Network Chief Content Officer Bob Sorcher did not respond to requests for comment by Ad Age.

But a spokesman for Cartoon Network, James Anderson, did reply via e-mail: “The two episodes you were asking about are not scheduled to air on Adult Swim. We really have no further comment but you should know that neither Turner nor Adult Swim were contacted by BET, Ms. Lee or Mr. Hudlin.”

[Read the full story here.]

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