BET vs. Boondocks

By Jonathan Adams Jun 11, 2008

Aaron McGruder, creator of The Boondocks, first gained notoriety for his searingly political syndicated comic strip. Then, McGruder left newspapers and put his strip in motion turning Boondocks into an Adult Swim animated television series by the same name. From the strip’s inception, McGruder never shied away from controversy, but television has given the cartoonist a larger audience and even more criticism. First, the satire came under fire from Al Sharpton, who was outraged by an episode in which Martin Luther King uses the N-word. Now, the fight is with BET. Episodes including negative portrayals of BET executives definitely struck a nerve and were pulled before airing.

Chairman and chief executive Debra L. Lee, who succeeded the network’s founder, Robert Johnson, is shown as Debra Leevil, patterned after “Dr. Evil” in the “Austin Powers” films. Leevil declares in a staff meeting: “Our leader Bob Johnson had a dream, a dream that would accomplish what hundreds of years of slavery, Jim Crow and malt liquor could not accomplish — the destruction of black people.” And BET president of Entertainment Reginald Hudlin is depicted as Wedgie Rudlin, a culturally insensitive buffoon coasting on his Ivy League education. The DVD release features stinging commentary from McGruder and Barnes about the episodes, which are uncut. In the introduction, McGruder said he went after BET because network executives, in his view, failed to elevate the network’s standards, something Hudlin had pointedly promised to do when joining the network three years ago.

However, news that the episodes will appear on the second season DVD suggests the feud between Turner-owned Cartoon Network and Viacom-owned BET will not end soon. Viewers, specifically within the Black community, have been disappointed with BET’s programming for years. Especially after scrapping their news programming, many argue that BET only reinforces the stereotypes the channel was created to rebuff. Are there any arguing that McGruder and "The Boondocks" went too far?