Monday, July 12, 2010

Does Aaron McGruder Hate Black Women?--"The Lovely Ebony Brown," Boondocks Season 3 Episode Reviewed

Are things really this dire in the black community? Would a beautiful young black woman have to marry an old black man to find love?

Are the tensions that great, and the divides so huge, between black men and black women? As one of my colleagues emotionally and instinctively interjects when we try to have a reasonable conversation about black professional women and their marriage prospects, "are black women in fact mules?" Are they really that unloved, unwanted, and the least desirable of all women in American society?

Let slip the dogs of war. Brother Aaron McGruder is going to be in some hot mess scalding like boiling chitterlings and the hot grits thrown at Al Green after The Lovely Ebony Brown circulates on these Internets. Trust, this episode will be talked about for years, angrily responded to, written about by the punditry, vilified by black feminists, and flamed on folks who likely didn't watch the episode in its entirety. And moreover, by folks that are preordained and have as a standing decision rule to reject any critical self-reflective exploration of black male-female relationships because The Lovely Ebony Brown does not offer a simple validation of the black women as perpetual victims meme.

Ultimately, as he demonstrated with his deconstruction of that coontastic minstrel Tyler Perry, McGruder's most recent Boondocks episode "The Lovely Ebony Brown" is one more example of him leaving it all on the dance floor and going out in style. He is a genius with uncommon honesty and insight into the dynamics of the post-Civil Rights black public. I ain't "dick riding" as the expression goes. No, I am simply acknowledging courage and uncommon smarts when I see them. Kudos to you Mr. McGruder.

As I did with the Boondocks episode "Pause," here are some thoughts, reflections, Easter Eggs, and the like:

1. What is really going on with the marriage dynamic between black men and black women? Sure, marriage markets matter and black women are more likely to marry "down." But, there seems to be a fixation and assumption that black men, and black male professionals in particular, are obsessed with marrying outside of the race. In reality, the out marriage rate for black Americans is quite low. Even among black men, the group most common to "out marry," the percentage is rather modest. We notice these outliers, the classic bogeyman pairing of the upwardly mobile black man and quasi-upward white woman that is the nightmare of some black women, precisely because it is infrequent. Thus we see the pink elephant and take it as the norm, as opposed to noticing all the gray elephants that are the most common.

Restated in different terms: most folk, the vast majority, marry within their own racial group.

Random thought: given that Asian women have the highest out marriage rates, what are the private conversations on this topic like among our Asian brothers?

So why all the fuss about interracial relationships? For some sisters (and brothers), what about investing in improving one's own self esteem as opposed to obsessing about the love partners and relationship choices made by other people?

2. The Chain of Being. This episode showed McGruder's depth and literacy once more as it repeatedly winked at the aforementioned historical artifact. This concept, born of The Atlantic Slave Trade, reached back to The Bible and its tale of The Curse of Ham to justify black enslavement. Here, in the White supremacist Colonial/Imperial imagination, a chain of being from beast to those of African decent was created where "White Europeans" were naturally on top as full citizens and human beings, and all others on the bottom. A neat arrangement if you want to conquer continents and rape, destroy, and kill "people" by the tens of millions without any guilt and with the support of the Church.

3. Slight of hand. Foreground and background. Was The Lovely Ebony Brown more of a Grandpa episode or a Ruckus episode? In favor of the latter see the following classic quotes unleashed by the Honorable Reverend Uncle Ruckus:

"Black women don't jog, that way they don't sweat out all of those industrial strength toxic avenger chemicals they use to straighten out their hair." [Extra points for the Toxic Avenger reference by the way].

"The key to happiness is to eliminate all black women from your life."

I have many favorite racial slurs. I will now add Uncle Ruckus' use of "wildebeest," and "Afro tramp," to my verbal Rolodex. Interestingly, Ruckus missed my favorite gendered racial slur: she-boon.

"I mean she was a ape but she was the prettiest ape I ever seen."

"Finally that which the darkie has done in darkness shall come to light."

"A black woman's body is the temple of doom!"

"Beneath that big soft lotioney exterior, those wide inviting hips, and that ample chocolate bosom is a savage Africanized pot boiling bone in the nose doing the monkey dance playing drums female!"

4. On relationships: Folks are generally messed up. Returning to the social commentary underlying this episode, am I the only one disturbed by the black woman in peril narrative and can't find a good black man meme that is commonly used as a mask for avoiding critical self reflection? For example, in the popular imagination all the sisters are marriageable and all the black men are raggedy, on the DL, in jail, dating white women or the like. What of the fact that many folks--men and women are not marriageable in general--and what would this do to the debate?

5. Obvious wink from the episode: the folly and stupidity of Myspace Internet celebrity status.

6. Second obvious wink from the episode: Jackie Brown.

7. On a serious note. The conversation about running, exercise, and Black women. Did you know that 80 percent of black women are overweight? How are the euphemisms of "strong black woman," "thick," the enabling behavior of such pseudo-celebrities as the Venus Hottentot wannabe Buffie the Body, and the valorizing of such folks as Monique and Precious, enabling this health crisis?

8. Inside academic, upwardly mobile, black bourgeoisie joke: Tom, resident black professional, extols the beauty and wonder of black women all the while being married to a white woman.

9. Second inside academic, upwardly mobile, black bourgeoisie joke. Grandpa's exaggerations of his participation in The Civil Rights Movement in the face of an obvious collective action problem a la Dennis Chong's book Collective Action and the Civil Rights Movement.

10. Ghetto nerd confession. In my early years I wanted to have my way with Jessica Rabbit. In my later tween years I would have devoured Lynn Minmay. My newest cartoon crush is Ebony Brown. Oh Lords of Kobol, please send her my way and I would take Miss Brown to space mountain again and again and again!

11. Moral of this most recent Boondocks episode: Be careful what you wish for, as you may get he or she and then proceed to mess said relationship up. Question: How many of you have found the partner of your dreams only to talk yourself out of it and push them away?


OhCrapIHaveACrushOnSarahPalin said...

in the popular imagination all the sisters are marriageable and all the black men are raggedy, on the DL, in jail, dating white women or the like. What of the fact that many folks--men and women are not marriageable in general--and what would this do to the debate?

800lbs in the room: this is straight-ppl anxiety.

I guess I'm among the 12-percenter never-beens not only happy to be never-been, but relieved. Not everyone is cut out for traditional marriage; not everyone has that goal. You're right to put it in gender context. There are plenty of sistas that aren't marriage material be it traditional or same-sex. Ask me, I am one, and believe me, I've gone out with a few lol.

Speaking of that, there's a corrolary/threat to the women in peril narrative: the looming social failure of lesbianism, if we cannot find a good man. As if that's amy motivator for attraction to same-sex.

But, you know, this sort of talk doesn't sell ad space on the nooz, so we're stuck with these absurd peril narratives that date back to the Harriet Jacobs Era, or whomever.

8. Inside academic, upwardly mobile, black bourgeoisie joke: Tom, resident black professional, extols the beauty and wonder of black women all the while being married to a white woman.

Ah yes, talk Black, sleep white. Who hasn't been accused of it, true or not.

Lever said...

THIS post? This post right HERE? The last straw. Are you fucking KIDDING me??!! I officially remove "We Are ... Negroes" from my saved/favorites/bookmarked blogs NOW. Good-friggin'-BYE. Your shit? STINKS.

chaunceydevega said...

@Ohcrap. Good points. I like the last pithy line.

@Lever. Can't please everyone. Why the upsetness?

gordon gartrelle said...

Chauncey, I imagine Lever didn't take too kindly to your revisiting the tired, "poor, unmarried black woman" narrative. And, I guess, taken out of context of the episode and the Ruckus character, the quotes seem unusually hateful.

I thought this was actually a shrewd move for the Boondocks.

Up to this point, Robert's romantic encounters have typically taken the following form: 1. Robert meets young, attractive woman (on the internet). 2. Woman revealed to be batshit crazy "bitch" or gold diggin "ho." 3. Robert and the kids must get rid of her. The women are always framed as the problem, and their unfitness for relationships are played for laughs.

This episode flipped the script, highlighting Robert's inability to be happy with a black woman who was so great, even Ruckus couldn't resist her.

Even though the audience should have understand from previous episodes that Robert has issues with women, it's nice to see the show be explicit about it.

TMA said...

I enjoyed the episode. It was nice to flip the script on the "Crazy/Lonely/Angry/Strong Black Woman Who Can't Get a Man Because She's Too Crazy/Lonely/Angry/Strong" theme. However, I do find it interesting that Ebony Jones was perfect. And the fact that she was so perfect ("...the prettiest chimpanzee...") made Ruckus lay aside his hatred for black women. I guess I'll know black woman have overcome when we can be as mediocre as the average "Jane Doe America" and still be considered worthy of love/a relationship/marriage. Heh.

Bash said...

The only thing that could have made this episode better would've been a satirical cameo of Steve Harvey. Great twist by making Robert represent the aging, unmarried black woman populous and Ebony Brown represent the "decent" black man. At least that's how I understood the episode.

Anonymous said...


MilesEllison said...

I think that the Boondocks is one of the best things on TV, but it says a lot (none of it good) about the level of discourse when it comes to relationships when the most intelligent commentary about that subject is on a late night cartoon.

Hobbes said...

I have yet to catch up on this season of Boondocks (eternal shame, I know), but just wanted to comment and give massive love for the Lynn Minmay comment. Keep exposing the deculture, Chauncey.

Anonymous said...

WOW. I had never heard of your blog before yesterday and have never seen an episode of the Boondocks, but your re-printing of some of the most racist "satire" against Black women in history is one of the most horrible things Black men have ever done to Black women. You, as well as whoever this Boondocks creator is, are pure.evil.

I pray that Black men like you come to destruction fast and swift.

Wow. The evil of the men of our community. Pure demons.

Anonymous said...

Gotta love how you gloss over the fact that Black women are more likely than all other races of women to marry down. You DO realize that the inverse implication of that statement is that Black men are more likely than all other races to be "golddiggers" rather than providers, right? This is such a corrosive and poisonous dynamic.

Former Boondocks Fan

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