Fixing ‘The Boondocks” Huey Freeman Problem

I, like a lot of people of my generation, am excited that The Boondocks is returning because it remains one of the sharpest examples of satire in modern pop culture. And I’m excited to see what cultural moments from the last four years (since Season Three aired) Aaron McGruder will work into the show.

UPDATE 3/28/14: Apparently, McGruder is no longer involved with the show and was not involved in the creation of the upcoming 4th season. I wrote this before that information was available. I hope he still owns the rights. Read his explanation here.

But the one thing I really want him to do is recognize that there’s a problem at the center of the show: Huey Freeman.

Huey, by virtue of being the show’s most passive, reactive character, has all but receded into the background in favor of the more flamboyant active characters like Riley and Uncle Ruckus. This, despite the fact that he’s ostensibly the lead character (e.g. the trailer above).

In the strips, that was sort of the point since the satire in the strips was always deeply rooted in Huey’s observations about the world around him (particularly his brother and the people in Woodcrest). But The Boondocks TV show is different, as Aaron McGruder has found by building out the world around Riley (with the addition of Ed Wuncler III, Gin Rummy, Gangstalicious, and Thugnificent) and Granddad (Uncle Ruckus and the DuBois family).

But Huey is frequently adrift in episodes where he’s not the protagonist (especially Riley-centric stories) and damn near silent in ones where he’s the driving force (i.e. “It’s a Black President, Huey Freeman”).

If Huey is to regain the power he had in the strips and truly move to the forefront of the show, McGruder has to build out the world around Huey as well.

And there’s a way to do this:

Michael Caesar

Michael Caesar has to be written into the show.

In short, Huey needs a foil. He needs an equal who sees the world in some similar ways but responds differently. Someone Huey can talk to and bounce his theories and frustrations off of. Someone who will actually listen even if he comes to different conclusions.

The only person who can play that role is Caesar because he empathizes with Huey’s exasperation with the world, but isn’t the “domestic terrorist” that Huey is. He’s the guy who can tell Huey that “I agree with you, playa. But you know that ain’t happenin, right?”

It’s really quite simple: you learn more about characters from watching how they interact and respond to the people around them. Since the show isn’t using Cindy (whom McGruder has unwisely chosen to have voiced as if she’s a real black girl, versus the delusional white girl tryna be down that she is in the comics) well, or much, at all, Caesar is the last, best choice to help turn Huey into a fuller character and puts him effectively back in the driver’s seat of the show.

About tlewisisdope

I write. I live in DC.
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3 Responses to Fixing ‘The Boondocks” Huey Freeman Problem

  1. Ryan S. says:

    I agree with pretty much everything about this post. Only minor discrepancy is that I’m pretty sure Cindy IS voiced as a delusional white-girl who wants be down. She doesn’t “sound Black” at all, i.e. “Ballin”, and ESPECIALLY “The Fundraiser” and “The Story of Gangstalicious: Part 2”. I feel like McGruder uses her more as a complimentary character to Riley than anything else, and the main foil for Huey has been, ironically, Jasmine Dubois. I’d love to see Caesar integrated more into the series or someone to bring out more of Huey.

    • tlewisisdope says:

      You may be right, but she doesn’t sound like how I pictured her to sound. Whereas Jasmine sounds like a lil girl, Cindy sounds grown and blacker.

  2. mssdarling says:

    Excellent observations and great suggestions; I also believe he should go back to writing the comic strips

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