Critical Approaches to the Boondocks

full name / name of organization: 
Society of Cinema and Meida Studies (SCMS) Conference

Call for Papers
Critical Approaches to The Boondocks

Deadline: August 10, 2010
Notification of acceptance by: August 14, 2010

We invite conference paper submissions for a panel on Aaron McGruder's popular television cartoon, The Boondocks. In one of the most memorable moments from the series, one of the show's three central character, Huey Freeman, proclaims with quiet, angry force: "Jesus was black, Ronald Reagan was the devil, and the government lied about 9/11." As the cartoon series enters its third year on The Cartoon Network's Adult Swim lineup, the uproar around and interest in the show has never been greater; McGruder's reinvention of his once-adored comic strip has instigated a wealth of counter-criticism and discussion by disparate communities in barbershops, on Internet blogs and bulletin boards, and on college campuses. The animated series has been characterized as edgy, contemplative, riotously funny, unforgiving in its cultural cynicism, and, at times, disappointingly flat—depending on the season or individual episode. At this juncture, now that McGruder and his cast of largely self-referential (or counter-referential) characters have taken on nearly every cornerstone of black and American mass culture—from Barack Obama's presidency to BET and gangsta rap, from civil rights icons and activism to R. Kelly, and from graffiti art to inequities in public education—we would like to create a critical discourse community around several approaches to the show as an important television and media phenomenon. Particularly, we are interested in situating The Boondocks in the larger context of television history, replete with understandings of how race, animation, and satire intermingle to complicate reception. More broadly, what is the relevance of The Boondocks as social criticism, particularly within (and around) African-American communities, institutions, leaders, and popular entertainers? Is there still a need for black social criticism to appear on television? Formally speaking, how well does The Boondocks work aesthetically (sound, shading, rhythm and editing) and how does that inform its unique mode of satire? How seriously are we to take Huey Freeman as a virtual public intellectual?

Other critical approaches might include:
o The cartoon and its proximity to hip hop culture
o The contrasting representations of black masculinity (such as parallels between Uncle Ruckus/Grandpa Freeman, Huey/Riley)
o Feminist readings of the show, especially those that consider Regina King's voice acting and presence
o The Tyler Perry episode ("Pause") and the series relationship to contemporary black film
o Adaptation issues and comparative analyses of the franchise as a comic strip series
o Relationship to Postmodern theory
o Huey, McGruder, and black intellectual culture
o The show's relationship to black satire on television—i.e. The Richard Pryor Show, Dave Chappelle, etc.
o The show in the context of the history of black animation, including non-mainstream animation
o Reading The Boondocks in comparison to other irreverent, contemporary animation such as South Park, Family Guy, and The Cleveland Show
o The Boondocks as a political cartoon and its controversial commentary on 9/11 reporting, the Bush Administration, Katrina and New Orleans refugees, and the election of Barack Obama

Abstracts should be addressed to:
Drs. Michael Forbes (DePauw University) and TreaAndrea Russworm (UMass, Amherst)


**The panel is for the 2011 Society of Cinema and Media Studies annual conference in New Orleans on March 10-13. Please submit a 250 word abstract to us by 8/10/2010; we notify you by 8/14/2010 if your paper proposal is accepted.