Monday, February 9, 2009

Buy your own damn fries.

Unlike Brandon Soderberg, I am not a serious comic book reader. I suspect those of you who skim my blog from time to time aren't either. That said, I have always loved the daily comic strips that came in the newspaper. Back when I was younger, instead of reading the news to see what was happening with the Thunder or news of actual importance, I'd read the entire comics page. This did lead to a small (and in hindsight, bizarre) obsession with "Dilbert" and "Robotman," now known as "Monty." Now that I think about it, I haven't the slightest clue what drew me to those two. But I digress. I don't think I have to tell you that there weren't many daily comic strips about non-white/animal/Prince Valiant people, and there still are not. Sure, there is "Curtis" and "Jump Start" and possibly a few others that I wasn't exposed to. But "Curtis" wasn't in my local paper, and the concerns of "Jump Start" were too beyond me; I didn't have kids, and I was too old to relate to the younger characters in that strip. Luckily for me, "The Boondocks" made it to the Trenton Times when I was thirteen.

In order to explain why I loved this strip/show so much, I have to share a bit of my own background. As the name of the blog suggests, I was born and raised for a time in Trenton, New Jersey. Due to circumstances out of my control, my family moved to a nearby suburb where my brother and I (or my brother and me) spent the remainder of my childhood. If you know anything about the premise of "The Boondocks," then you can imagine why this strip was right up my alley. I am nowhere near as angry with white people or frustrated with black people as Aaron McGruder, but when you're one of two black people in your neighborhood over the age of ten, it's refreshing to know that there is someone out there who struggled with some of the same issues as you. Like the imcomparable Riley, my younger brother was also a bit of a fool, used to be obsessed with rap to the point that it distorted his worldview, and thought that I take everything way too seriously. To be honest, the character I have the most in common with, and miss now that the strip is a TV show, is Michael Ceasar. Part nerd, part rap lover, and optimistic most of the time seems more like me than a revolutionary 10 year-old. Besides, he is the character responsible for the greatest story arc in the comic's run.

I don't want Ceasar's exclusion to be any sort of main critical point about what is missing from the show now. I am so happy Uncle Ruckus exists in this cast of characters, he's provided so many great jokes. I would like to see more of Jazmine, if only to laugh at her. Whenever the third season starts airing, I hope there's an episode with her talking about her bi-racial new hero, the President... or Halle Berry or Alicia Keys. Taking the strip to TV also lets McGruder indulge a bit to our benefit (like Charlie Murphy, Samuel L. Jackson and any number of rappers helping with voices) and fleshes out the world he created just a little bit more.

There are a host of issues I could bring up with this show, from its sometimes disagreeable politics, its treatment of rappers as insecure homo thugs, and R. Kelly. But I thought I would just share why I love this show so much. I thought about having some songs you could download at the end of the post, but McGruder's a pretty straight ahead rap purist, so it'd be a wasted effort. You can really check most episodes for some reference to the kind of music he likes, whether through the soundtrack or in the script (the "Dwyck" reference in the lemonade stand episode). You may also want to check out Boondocks Bootleg. It has short clips on the typical haircuts of black men, an "Ask John Witherspoon" segment and the "Negro News Brief." It's kind of hit or miss, but worth checking out nonetheless.

In somewhat related news, these audio clips are kind of great.


quan said...

were you also the freestyle champion of woodcrest when growing up?

bding7 said...

i've always thought i have an awkward voice for rapping, so i tried to stay away from freestyle circles. besides the line "i leave your brain sticky when i come through your ears," which i came up with years ago, i've never been able to put anything nearing a freestyle together.

but, my brother used to have this digital DJ thing (like a proto Serato) called DM2, and he'd make beats. i would rap to them sometimes. as you might imagine, my 12/13 year-old ass sounded silly. however, at least i had the sense not to sing over the beats, like my brother failed at doing.

Anonymous said...

"i leave your brain sticky when i come through your ears,"

i'm assuming you followed the sticky brain and ear remark up with some reference about killing wack emcees on wax.

I've never actually read the boondocks on paper. I've seen a few strips online, but they all seemed much more heavy on the social criticism tip than on humour. I just assumed that the tv show made a few concessions (or did it just lighten up a bit more?) to gain a wider audience with a few cheap/easier laughs. but i'm not complaining coz i like a lot of that stuff. like kat williams playing a pimp named slickback.

You think they'd do better sticking to some of the comic strip's storylines?

bding7 said...

i'm assuming you followed the sticky brain and ear remark up with some reference about killing wack emcees on wax.

great idea, it's a shame i was never able to put those two ideas together. i'm sure i came up with some other ones, but there were never any couplets i can look back now on and say i am proud of.

the strip was heavy on social criticism/satire than humor. i'm also glad they lightened it up for the show, it would have gotten repetitive and tedious to watch Aaron McGruder complain from week to week. in terms of the storylines question, i think the show is fine as is, i just want Ceasar back. preferably voiced by dave chappelle.

tray said...

The Boondocks is pretty much literally the only great post-1995 comic strip. Now that that's gone, the only thing I read are the Peanuts reruns.

bding7 said...

i can barely think of any comics that came out post-'95 tray, but maybe that's just how mediocre they all are.

tray said...

I mean, not even just comics that came out post-95, comics that continued to be printed post-95.