I cringed as I watched “The Boondocks’” Season 4 premiere. It was the first season without the direction of Aaron McGruder, the author of The Boondocks comic, who served as the animated TV show’s executive producer during its first three seasons. Without McGruder, I watched in utter terror as my fears for the show’s future were realized: Yep, they Chappelle’d it.
Chappelle’d (Sha-pelled) v. — The corporate whitewashing of a successful and thought provoking black comedy. Its replacement, while bearing the same name and image, is stripped of any and all social commentary and left as a shell of its predecessor, usually opting to instead fuel negative stereotypes that offend, and in some cases retard the audience it was originally meant to enlighten.
“Ah well” I thought, “another one bites the dust.” It would be at least five years before I would find another show to satisfy my politically incorrect, brutally honest, sometimes offensive sense of humor. Adult Swim gave it a fair shot. I mean, they gave us three GOOD Boondocks seasons and one severely slept on season of “Black Dynamite.” It was fun while it lasted, but the run was over. Unless …
I kept hearing whispers … or rather the Internet’s closest equivalent to whispers, about a new show McGruder was doing called “Black Jesus.” Some were saying it was a part of his deal for leaving The Boondocks, but to me, it didn’t matter. There was a glimmer of hope! The title was definitely an attention-grabber but I wasn’t sure if the reference to my Lord and Savior dimmed or brightened said glimmer. “Patience is a virtue,” I figured.
Then the trailer dropped. It sent a shockwave through the blogosphere (and this my friends, is an actual word). The website AllHipHop even sent McGruder an open letter pleading for him to remember his original inspiration behind The Boondocks; they hoped McGruder wouldn’t steer this new generation wrong.
I mean, it got so serious, it made it to like, 500 people’s Facebook/Instagram/Twitter accounts. There was a pledge (these are becoming quite the rave in 2014) to boycott “Black Jesus.” Their slogan? “I play about alotta things, but I don’t play ‘bout my Jesus.”
To be honest, I too felt something about the trailer. Clips of Jesus drinking, smoking and cursing … maybe that goes too far. I mean, I drink, smoke and curse … but not my Jesus.
Yet still, I held my tongue, choosing not to pass judgment until I had seen the show with my own eyes.
The series premiered on Aug. 7. Since then, I have been in front of the TV on Thursday nights (sometimes Friday mornings) to watch the misadventures of Black Jesus and his band of urban friends.
The social commentary that made The Boondocks so popular is all but absent in McGruder’s new show. It is replaced with themes that are actually Christian in nature. Forgiveness, loving thy enemy, honesty, serving the needy and faith are recurring topics throughout the show. I was pleasantly surprised to say the least.
I was equally and unpleasantly surprised by the growing criticism of the show since its debut. “Blasphemous” is what they called it. I personally find the level of backlash particularly perturbing, especially given Christianity’s history with depictions of Christ.
If there is this much backlash over “Black Jesus,” then their should be an equal amount of protests over every portrait of Cesare Borgia in every church, chapel, cemetery etc. Don’t know who Cesare Borgia is? Look him up and tell me who he reminds you of.
For those not at a computer, here’s a quick history lesson: Cesare Borgia was the illegitimate son of Pope Alexander VI. When daddy was running for the papacy, Cesare did all of his dirty work. His list of atrocities includes, but is not limited to, killing his brother and sleeping with his sister. Once Alexander had successfully gained the papacy, it is suggested he ordered all artists to depict Christ in his son’s image. Keep that in mind the next time you see Jesus on a stained glass window or above your grandmother’s dinner table.
What really grinds my gears, however, is that most of the “Black Jesus” backlash is coming from the black Christian community. You mean to tell me that we are more comfortable with an image of Christ based off of a murderous, incestuous psychopath but cannot accept an image of Christ that relates to our everyday lives?
There have been several films that took liberties with and in some cases completely changed stories in the Bible. The black community wasn’t outraged by “The Last Temptation of Christ,” or “The Passion of The Christ,” or “Noah” … so why “Black Jesus?”
It is a show that has no claims of biblical correctness, so what’s the big deal? Not to mention the fact that idolatry is forbidden by The Good Book.
I personally don’t see Jesus Christ on the screen. Rather, I see actor Slink Johnson portraying Jesus. But that’s besides the point, I suppose. My Thursday nights now have a void.
After the 10th episode, “Black Jesus” stopped airing new episodes, which means one of two things. Either the season has ended, or the protests have reached the point where the show has been pulled. If it’s the latter, I will be pissed.
The self-righteous do-gooders would have been successful in pulling one of the most decent programs off television. The sad thing is, a good number of these people will be tuned in to trash like “Love and Hip-Hop” or “Scandal,” shows that depict everything Christianity is supposed to be against, whose debauchery has no silver lining or positive message and depicts black people in the most negative light possible. It’s just as hypocritical as the Pharisees.
The point is, Aaron McGruder was (is) undoubtedly trying to some good with “Black Jesus.” Is it perfect? No. But who is?
“Let he who is without sin cast the first stone”.
And I hope “Black Jesus” clocks every hater across the head with one … out of unconditional love, of course.
Clyde Foster is a freelance writer living in Mobile.