By Special Correspondent Arturo R. García
Look, I don’t expect anything progressive out of Adult Swim. But when it’s good, it can be really good (“The Venture Brothers,” “Metalocalypse”) and when it’s bad it can be really bad (“Squidbillies,” “Tim And Eric”).
And then you get Sunday night’s Aqua Teen Hunger Force.
Again, I don’t expect anything, you know, intelligent out of this show. But “Shake Like Me” … well, my roommate put it best once it was done: “You didn’t need those brain cells, anyway.”
The episode started “normally” enough: for whatever reason, a construction company was dumping radioactive waste near the titular trio’s New Jersey pad. While he was complaining about it, Master Shake was bitten by an irradiated black man. At which point his tone changes to brown, an afro grows atop his head, and his pink straw grows to a disproportionate length. In no time, Shake greets people with “all heezy in the sheezy.” And he can’t swim.
See, it’s funny because he was “turning black,” and that’s what black people say and do! Get it?! LULZ
At the urge of another afro’ed character, Boxy Brown, Shake forgoes his “slave name” in favor of Mocha Shaka Khan, and sees marked improvement as both a rapper and a basketball player. It’s only thanks to a “Blackcine” cooked up by Frylock, the brains of the outfit that he’s restored to his normal ridiculous state.
Defenders of the show will point out that the episode is “okay” because Frylock is voiced by a POC, voice-actor Carey Means, and that it was “obviously” satire. My problem is, like the other instances we’ve highlighted over the past month or so, it’s not good satire. It made “Family Guy” look nuanced and thoughtful by comparison. Was there humor in Master Shake being reduced to a stereotype? Possibly. The problem was, nobody reacted to him like he was one. The show took more half-assed shots at Frylock’s liberal guilt while accepting Shake’s “blackness.”
Which, from the impression I’ve gotten over the years, is perfectly fine for what I’ve imagined to be the show’s target demo: kids who ran around quoting the “porch monkey” bit from “Clerks 2” to their black friends asking, “It’s funny, right? Isn’t it funny?” It’s not absurdist, it’s not smart, it’s not comedy. It is, as the kids say, EPIC FAIL. And to that line of comedy, only one response is appropriate: