Peace and Spirituality: The Boondocks and Navigating Media Perceptions Associated with Black Masculinity

By Collier, Brian W., Jr. | Journal of Pan African Studies, November 2016 | Go to article overview

Peace and Spirituality: The Boondocks and Navigating Media Perceptions Associated with Black Masculinity


Collier, Brian W., Jr., Journal of Pan African Studies


Within academic research, specifically educational research, research published that constructs or examines maleness of masculinity has typically been monolithic. Within the Boondocks the author sought to challenge many of the traditional narrative surrounding both black maleness and the communities in which they operate. The narrative proposed in the text includes and extends past stereotypical issues that many African American males endure. One primary purpose of this article is to offer counter arguments to the negative conversations that surround the Boondocks comic and animated series. Considering most arguments about the text stem from the negative images and language critics find in the series. Furthermore, the conversations surrounding anything positive or hopeful, as it pertains to being a black male, are summarily omitted or restructured as a metanarrative by those who have power. This can be visibly recognized in the media when we look at movement like "Black Live Matter." Moreover, there is an explicit need to examine critical texts and research that seek to use this media text like the Boondocks as an explicit form of curriculum or pedagogical tool. The need for culturally relevant knowledge, pedagogies, practices and text in schools is vitally important.

Although The Boondocks are typically understood and critiqued as a Black Nationalist text, the animated series was examined through the lens of critical spirituality and Black Masculinity. An argument has been made that the animated series can be understood and used as a curriculum text to further understand the discourse of maleness and masculinity. This curriculum text has the potential to be used in both traditional education settings and nontraditional atmospheres. The significance of conversations like this are far-reaching and allows for a more inclusive way of exploring the media text. It also provides room for one to examine how critical pedagogy and critical spirituality are visible in the Boondocks and when the animated series is viewed as a form of curriculum.

Within the analysis if the research, a discourse analysis offered the best method of analysis because it is openly recognized as a process that the studies language (Gee, 2010). More specifically, the explicit usage critical discourse analysis (CDA) tenets made the understanding of both cultural and historical context more accessible. CDA "primarily studies the way social power abuse, dominance, and inequality are enacted, reproduced and resisted by text and talk in the social and political context" (Van Dijk, p. 352). Two Specific guiding questions within this study were: how does the language of the Boondocks make African American male experiences with spirituality significant or not and in what ways, and second, what is the ideological effect of examining the Boondocks animated series through the lens of critical spirituality?

The analysis stemming from the CDA research offers a different outlook on both spirituality and black masculinity. The ultimate goal within this analysis structure was to seek out and give a counter narrative to the narrative surrounding African American media images.

Centering the Study: The Boondocks Animated Series

Aaron McGruder created the Boondocks comic strip in 1999 and it eventually flourished into an animated series in 2005. The comic strip and animated series were designed and illustrated to mimic the manga/ anime style of comic book artistry. The style of choice may be ironic or purposeful, but it is very apropos because this satirical comic in no way resembles any traditional aspects found in American comic strips. This is supported by the fact that African American involvement in American popular culture has historically been stereotypical and overtly racist. Neither the comic strip nor the television show is in an "American" style.

The comic strip and animated series is composed of three main characters, Huey, Riley, and Granddad. …

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