For fans, a major revelation of Aaron MacGruder’s animated show, The Boondocks is Uncle Ruckus, the hate speech-spewing black handyman who justifies his dark skin as “vitiligo in reverse.”
Character quotes include: “I have studied a variety of wild animals, and the African male ... is the most savagely cunning. This is an opportunity to observe you n*iggas in your natural habitat and collect data.”
He says this to two little boys he’s about to babysit.
Ruckus is outlandish and offensive, and probably not someone you’d want to spend 90 minutes with. So it’s curious that MacGruder would float the idea of a live action Ruckus feature film. Equally interesting is that it might get made: , it’s being funded through Kickstarter, and has about 30 hours left to reach its $200,000 goal. The significance of this (potential) film and its grassroots funding illustrates an interesting intersection of American racial discourse and popular culture.
The Boondocks began as a newspaper comic strip in the late ‘90s, and faced constant censorship for its biting political humor and blunt treatment of racial topics. When MacGruder adapted it for TV, his palette expanded: the shift in medium and audience meant he could use profanity and take on more controversial issues. Since then, episodes have satirically dealt with subjects ranging from R. Kelly's child porn trial to gay rappers and prison rape.
MacGruder’s first foray into feature films was co-writing Red Tails, which by most estimates couldn’t be more strikingly diverged from what many consider his artistic “voice.” The Uncle Ruckus film, then, is an opportunity to put a more personally definitive stamp on a feature.
Case in point: The prominent image on the Kickstarter page is Ruckus standing Patton-style in front of a Confederate flag. Those who know the character know this encapsulates him perfectly: He’s a phenotypically black man who identifies as white, and hates black people with a passion. Promotional incentives for backers include the “Glenn Beck Special,” which grants those who pledge $45 a phone call from Ruckus himself, and other prizes bearing names like “J. Edgar Hoover” and “Robert E. Lee.”
With this in mind, it makes sense that the film has no studio backers. Aside from the “touchy” subject matter, the character has little name recognition outside of Boondocks fandom, which is likely insufficient for a studio to roll the dice on.
But more importantly, in an era when open and honest discussion about race is hard to come by, it seems Uncle Ruckus is just what America needs. Whether his story gets told or not is a matter for fans to decide, and will speak to how badly we want this film.
Aaron MacGruder is a proven and talented satiric voice, and we know this project will be far from just one offensive joke after another. Like The Boondocks, the Ruckus movie would deal with racial topics that the American public is hesitant to openly discuss. So for the sake of open discourse, I hope MacGruder gets the money to make it happen.