My first recap for this weeks episode of “The Boondocks”, “Stinkmeaner Strikes Back,” was a bit of a mess. A blow-by-blow recap of what happened, I didn’t put in much in the way of commentary because… I was scared. I admit it. Although I lobbied for the gig, the actual task of recapping “The Boondocks” is daunting because it’s a smart, funny show which draws a lot of fire for its routine use of the n-word, among other things. I like to think that I am sharp enough to know and to remember that the show performs cutting critiques on race and class, and I try not to worry too much that other viewers may just be taking the program at face value. If I believe I am laughing for the right reasons, I’d better make sure I reach out and engage those folks who may be laughing for the wrong ones.
At the same time, there’s nothing that makes me feel entitled to watch this show. I’m naturally attracted to any show, good or bad (whatever those words mean when applied to television), that is funny, engaging, and wants to engage in a discourse on race that doesn’t involve “very special episodes” or token characters like the ones often found on mainstream network television.
But what’s right and what’s wrong here? It’s hard to know where to begin, but here is what happens: the Freemans are set upon by the evil spirit of Colonel Stinkmeaner, the mean old man whom Granddad Robert killed accidentally in season one. The Colonel, having thrived on hate in life, is far too evil even for hell, and is sent back to Earth by the devil himself. Stinkmeaner’s spirit makes itself at home in the body of Tom DuBois, instigating bouts of meaningless violence and attacking the Freemans so that they might return to hell with him as his quarry. It takes some advice from the ghost of Ghostface Killah (yes, I know he’s not dead, so that one confused me, too) and a misguided exorcism led by everybody’s favorite Black white supremacist Uncle Ruckus to restore Tom’s spirit to his body, and finish off Stinkmeaner for good. While all this is going on, Granddad is trolling the internet for dates, though not with much success.
What I’ve left out is that each instance of the violence, as instigated by Stinkmeaner/Tom, was described as an example of what was called “a nigga moment”: “a moment where ignorance overwhelms the mind of an otherwise logical Negro male, causing him to act in an illogical, self-destructive manner, i.e. like a nigga.” I cringed every time I heard the phrase, but I didn’t stop watching. But was I accepting the premise of such a phenomenon? Do I believe that all Black men are susceptible to times of ignorance so profound that it clouds their judgement and causes them to act in a self-destructive manner? Of course not, and that’s why I thought the show was funny. It’s that line between the ridicule and stereotype, the gap between the sacred and the profane, on which “The Boondocks” is found. It knows what’s sacred, but is not afraid to use some humor to show its audience that it’s smart enough to know the difference.
Race, Culture, and Identity in a Colorstruck World