Today is the day that 49 of 50 American states set aside in memory of one of the men most deserving of the term American Hero. On that note, I want to share a brief clip with all of you who may or may not have seen it yet.
I’m not a devoted fan of Aaron McGruder’s animated series “The Boondocks,” nor the often preachy comic strip (also from McGruder) which inspired it. Let me say at least that I think the series is a tremendous improvement over the strip, as the necessities of a narrative force the characters to be rendered as three-dimensional and human as opposed to mere souding-boxes for McGruder’s political editorializing. Though consistently uneven, it has moments of genuine heart and power that are more effecting than almost anything being attempted on live-action TV.
I can also say, with total self-assuredness, that the series “peaked” in it’s first season; offering an “MLK Weekend” episode so solid, funny and utterly moving that I can’t fathom another installment of the series ever equalling it: It was not only the best I can ever imagine that “The Boondocks” will ever be, it was instantly one of the finest episodes of anything I’ve ever seen on television, period.
(Just for the sake of context, “The Boondocks” is about a pair of black grade-schoolers, one a politically-minded rebel, the other a ‘gangsta’-culture devotee, who move with their grandfather to an upscale suburb.)
The episode, titled “Return of The King,” imagines an alternate timeline where Martin Luther King was not killed by the assassin’s bullet, but merely fell into a 40-year coma. King awakes in 2001, and is at first celebrated… until his pronouncements of peace and nonviolence fall on deaf ears in a post-9/11 America. Soon his realization of how little progress has been made, in his view, since the Civil Rights heyday, coupled with he sorry state of black pop-culture, drives King to depression. Left largely unsaid, save for some subtly-seething facial expressions, is the animated King’s alarm at his people’s casual tossing-around of “The N-Word.” Until the finale…
…At the episode’s climax, lead character Huey teams with King in a last-ditch effort to get Black America back on track by forming a new political party. But when their innaugural event degenerates into a BET/Source Awards-style debacle, Dr. King has had enough, and decides to let his people know what he thinks of what they’ve done with the world he left them:
I’m not nuts about a lot of what McGruder mouths off about, in his comic or otherwise, but this one I’ll give him without reservation: Setting out to write dialogue for a resurrected MLK is ballsy to begin with; having him voice anger and dissapointment you can easily see him actually feeling as opposed to empty platitudes is damn near fearless. Mr. McGruder, take a bow.