“The Boondocks: culturally insensitive or genius satire?”


Oh the things I would do to look that badass, just in my own skin

Cartoons, anime and racism; bizarre combination of things if you ask me, not impossible, but not ordinary, definitely not something you come across every day, not stuff you mix like coffee, sugar and cream, but I’m going to try and do exactly that. Today’s subject is The Boondocks (I just heard a collective groan, I know bear with me here), seriously, as seriously as we can take The Boondocks we will look at them and their relationship with cartoons and follow up with; are cartoons more culturally diverse or does anime lack cultural diversity?

Fuck Sephiroth! This is what a real bad guy looks like

If you have seen the cartoon “The Boondocks” give me a “N*gga please!”  To those of you who don’t know what “The Boondocks” cartoon is all about here is a quick rundown. The cartoon is an American made product by Aaron McGruder, originally starting out as a comic strip in a newspaper at Aaron McGruder’s alma mater, The University of Maryland. The carton is about two African-American boys growing up in Chicago being raised by their grandfather, throughout the cartoon the two young boys, as young as they are, look at the American culture and inter-racial relation, more specifically African-Americans interacting with the rest of America. Now usually in a cartoon we can find 3 very simple elements that associate themselves with a story, a protagonist, an antagonist and some moral conflict/issue. “The Boondocks” lacks the first two, which leads me to this claim, “The Boondocks” isn’t a real cartoon; it’s an animated biopic of the American society and the way they see their darker counterparts. This is in no way an insult to “The Boondocks”, this is a compliment; this ‘cartoon’ has brought an impact to society which no other American or Canadian cartoon could do. I have a ten year old sister, I basically have raised her because of the age difference between us and I have seen some of the cartoons she watches now and the cartoons she used to watch, then I though back to some of the cartoons I used to watch and one thought came to mind “It has always been the same filtered good-guys-always-win lack of real life crap!” I mean other than maybe Transformers (and its successors), Reboot, Thundercats and Voltron; I can never ever seen to remember the bad guys or immoral being show as a victor in some sorts. Back to the point though, “The Boondocks” not great for kids to improve their vocabulary but can give them some interesting insight into what life is really like for some people out there and how badly they are treated, none of this “Let’s all work together and be friends together!” crap.

This is what the REAL Eyeshield21 looks like

Now that I am done praising Aaron McGruder and his very artistic creation “The Boondocks”, I would like to proceed to the next question I opened this discussion with, “Are cartoons more culturally diverse or does anime lack cultural diversity?” Now I am a man that is very diverse in culture, I AM CANADIAN! We are not ignorant to other peoples’ cultures, to follow up I am in the process of learning Japanese and Korean, I am also very appreciative of the French influence on my country’s history (Not necessarily appreciative of the Francophone’s actions), did I mention I read a lot of manga and watch a lot of anime; So as I ask this question and proceed to analyze this question, do not question the diversity of my knowledge stupidly. Let’s start with cartoons: most of the time their protagonists are not even human, we mainly see animals being portrayed as protagonists because they are cute and soft, have no (known) evil intentions and don’t want to hurt people. That is why you usually do not see an influx of robot or human protagonists because the aforementioned criminals usually come with some negative perspective associated with them. On the other hand with animes in general, talking animals do not have a majority appearance to begin with as side extras let alone as main features, human usually take that role. Now why is that? To be frank I cannot say I have they answer just yet, but let’s dig a little deeper into animes (If you want to doubt what I have seen go here, don’t ask about the user name just go —> http://myanimelist.net/animelist/LionelLeonhart). Now usually in anime, with or without reason, the main characters are Japanese, now I figured this would be done so that the Japanese viewers could feels some kind of connection with the character, which is cool because that would mean you are making some pretty cool shit if you can connect with the audience by artificial means, but someone explain to me why in a manga (and its anime adaptation) like Eyeshield21 the main character must be Japanese. To clarify my point of frustration, Eyeshield21 is a manga about American Football, I repeat American Football: 11 men at least 230 lbs running head on to kill the person holding the football, do note most of these men are big and black, this does not sound like the type of environment a Japanese person would be in, but never the less a 5’3” Japanese high school student is the star of this manga. Prince of Tennis comes to mind as well, when the number one tennis player in the world at the time of the manga’s creation is Lleyton Hewitt, how the hell is the main character of a tennis anime still Japanese. So what is going on here, are American cartoons creators more open or do Japanese manga/anime creators lack cultural diversity?

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4 thoughts on ““The Boondocks: culturally insensitive or genius satire?”

  1. This may just be my opinion, and it goes without reason, but most Japanese anime that are set in Japan have a mostly Japanese cast because they’re JAPANESE. Like Eyeshield 21 and Prince of Tennis star Japanese people playing American or Western sports because…. it’s about Japanese people playing Japanese sports. There are popular Basketball anime out there that also star Japanese people.

    To me, that’s just a big deal. Not a lot of black folk in Japan, so why should anyone else star in their shows? What’s much more of a problem to me is why, In Japanese anime, do Japanese and generally Asian people look white.

    That happens all the time in anime. Usually the only asian-looking Asian characters in Anime are villains. The good guys, or regular people, look white. Many times it goes beyond how the characters are drawn to their facial features: How many blonde-haired “Japanese” characters are there in Anime? Naruto’s a prime example.

  2. Another thing that bothers me about lack of diversity in anime is in video where they’re set in a place that’s not homogenius. Like Final Fantasy. There’s no reason why there shouldn’t be more black characters in Final Fantasy games, or most JRPGs that aren’t set in Japan, and yet…. white washed.

    1. The reason for that whole no black characters in ff games is the same reason why there are so few in animes dude. the characters in final fantasy are designed by a japanese guy with an anime artistic style and japanese sensibilities. even if the games arent set in japan, theyre still created with a japanese mindset. thats why the characters always are designed with at least a vaguely anime feel, thats why the stories are told the way they are (and why they can seem kinda stilted to american audiences) and although its not right, thats why theres never more than a token black character in these jrpgs. its something that should change but it wont until the sensibilities of the people making these games does.

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