TABOO COMEDY

Is There a Remote Chance The Boondocks‘ Jokes About Prison Rape Help The Problem?

Last week, the satirical Adult Swim cartoon The Boondocks skewered maybe-gay playwright Tyler Perry and his films’ drag persona Madea through the guise of Winston Jarome, a theater cult leader who uses Christianity and his cross-dressing stage character Ma Dukes to seduce men. Whether you like Perry and Madea’s brand of cinema or not, he’s a fair target as a (insanely wealthy) public figure; Boondocks creator Aaron McGruder, whose comic strip launched the show, satirized gay Christian hypocrisy and the cult of fame just as much as he did the allegedly gay playwright. But this week, The Boondocks focuses entirely on prison rape which might sound funny… unless you’re one of the countless prison rape victims. And you might have guessed, I set up this paragraph so it must end this way: IS THE BOONDOCKS GOING TOO FAR?!??!?

The episode presents Tom Dubois, a heterosexual lawyer who supports the LGBT community but fears getting raped in prison. To face his phobia, Tom accompanies a group of misbehaving schoolchildren into “Scared Stiff”, a penitentiary-based program where tough-talking inmates terrify youngsters with tales of prison life. It’s exactly like Scared Straight, but stiffer. The convicts basically take Chris Rock’s tossed salad routine to the extreme as they all discuss their preferred techniques for raping other men:

“I raped a few niggas myself. I didn’t really enjoy it — not that much — but it felt gooder than a motherfucker though. I didn’t let that nigga kiss me or nuttin’, but I did tear that motherfuckin’ ass up nigga, I aint gonna lie about it.”

Later, another inmate says:

“Now me, I’m more of the romantic type. I’ll still rape you, but I’ll definitely stroke your head lovingly while I do it. See? Because I want you to like it. You don’t have to like it. But I’d like you to.”

On one hand, The Boondocks has merely pulled a South Park: find a taboo topic, ram it into the ground, wait for viewer response, repeat. But McGruder’s joking leads me to wonder if he’s ever actually experienced the violation and post-traumatic horrors of prison rape himself.

It’s pretty fucked up and he deserves some of the criticism for treating atrocity with humor. But does that mean we should take prison rape completely off the comedy table? Absolutely not.

Putting aside the argument that nothing’s taboo in comedy, McGruder’s spin hits upon something more vital. It’s impossible to view things like prison rape, genocide, animal torture, and child exploitation with anything but horror and pity. Addressing these topics factually empowers us to fight against such inhumanity, but it does not alleviate the pain we feel knowing that such atrocities exist — only comedy can do that.

I’m not saying that “laughter is the best medicine.” I’m merely suggesting comedy grants us special goggles to look at the truly horrifying with something other than despair. It doesn’t condone or excuse it — The Boondocks’ rapists remain monsters — and you certainly don’t have to like it, especially if you or a loved one has lived through it. But you can’t deny the power of laughing at it either.

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30 Comments

  • KatyGirl

    I’ll admit, I laughed when that guy purposely got caught by Dateline NBC’s To Catch a Predator so he could rape Chris Hanson. It’s wrong and horrible, but being a cartoon it can be funny no matter how audacious it gets. There’s a disconnect from reality there.

  • William

    A cartoon about gay prison rape. Ugh.

  • Wyatt

    Boondocks remains one of the, if not THE, most intelligent animated show on TV today. There’s a reason it one a Pulitzer prize this year.

  • Kev C

    Nobody actually reads or watches the Boondocks except a few retards who exaggerate how great it is, but in reality, it actually sucks.

  • Pip

    @KatyGirl: Yep, Chris Hansen getting raped is pretty hilarious. I have to say though, cartoons talking about rape, and cartoons depicting rape are different things.

  • Lamar

    This is just plain wrong, I found some parts funny but not the raping parts. Suppose instead of men it was about women getting raped, and this being portrayed comically as if rape against women is something that should be made fun of. One simple easy step to help curb attitudes to rape against men is to stop it being portrayed as a great joke because it isn’t especially since more and more studies are showing that rape with male victims are far more common than rape with female victims.

  • Mike in Asheville

    Maybe Daniel Villarreal (author of post), you should ask a victim, gay or straight, just how funny getting raped is? I’m sure you can hear hysterical stories about having one’s teeth punched out to make a smoother fuck hole, oh yeah, lol lol lol! And then boost the hysterics with stories of being beaten nearly unconscious so your legs can be spread wide so a group of guys in the showers can rape you over-and-over again. Oh yeah, thats soooo fucking funny.

    Rape is NEVER funny, never ever.

  • Action Jackson

    There is nothing great about this episode. What they did was a parody of MSNBC’s Lock-Up in which the show went to the Kentucky State Penintiary and interviewed some coon by the name of Fleece Johnson. This idiot went on and on about “taking the booty.” You can see the clip on youtube.com. Just type “Lock-Up: RAW Booty!” in the search parameter.

  • jason

    Yes, prison rape is distasteful. But we also need to face it as a reality which is part of the prison scene in general. Prison isn’t meant to be a holiday. If you commit a crime and are imprisoned, you put yourself at risk in many, many ways.

  • Ponyboy

    Good ‘Ol Queerty. Missing the social commentary. The Booty Warrior is real. And the episode is a commentary about how prison rape isn’t gay. Hello the first thing those idiots listed as a riot demand was women.

    Here’s the real Booty Warrior

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W-JjldxU-pA

    It’s funny how other websites figured it out before hopping on the high horse, but the more screechy ones missed the point.

  • Jaime

    Lighten the fuck up. it’s a cartoon.

  • Revemupman

    Futher proves my point…..

    Male sexuality is stigmatized……..

    Wake up or stay asleep men!

  • David Ehrenstein

    What’s TRULY doistasteful are shows like “Lock Up” and “To Catch a Predator” — turning actual crime and punishment into entertainment. “The Boondocks” is simply taking the unacknowledged purpose of such shows to a logical conclusion.

  • jimmy

    The intro was hilarious. Chris “Handsome”! LOL!

  • Action Jackson

    The Boondocks is idiotic at its core. It saddens me that so many of you seem to be enamored with the show. It consistently flaunts homophobia as a primary theme. There is nothing entertaining or valuable about the way it rips apart gay men. I’ll never get why so many of you enjoy it so much.

  • Just Detention International

    This is an interesting question – should certain things be out of bounds for comedy? To learn more about the reality of sexual abuse behind bars, and read true stories from survivors, please visit http://www.justdetention.org – we are currently pushing the Attorney General to enact national standards which would help stop this violence.

  • QueerToday

    There is a big difference between smart social commentary with humor like this, and just stupid humor like the old 7up commercial that featured a guy bending over.

  • hephaestion

    I quit looking at Boondocks when they had a homophobic cartoon about Brokeback Mountain. Dumb and trifling.

  • Ogre Magi

    @hephaestion: I think that cartoon you are speaking of was really making fun of the grandfather’s homophobia.

  • Toysoldier

    People can satirize the situation of prison rape, but this show simply made fun of the victims of prison rape. It made light of what those boys and men experience. In other words, it was a joke at their expense. Contrast that with something like what Louis C.K. did a few years ago with sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. It was funny, but not at the expense of the boys who have been raped by priests.

  • Greg Theron

    Haha I don’t like this show. But definitely the “nightmare” part was hilarious.

  • Aee

    This episode wasn’t funny b/c rape is a serious issue. I will give credit to the show for shedding light on a serious issue. The sad part is that this episode is based on a documentary about prison.

  • greenmanTN

    I think the references to prison rape on standard Cop TV shows and other places in popular culture are far more offensive than this. How many times have you seen this scene?: Interrogation room at the police station, two cops are trying to break down the tough “perp” and one of the cops says he’s going to make sure the suspect is put in a cell with a giant guy called “Bubba” (often specifying that Bubba is black), the implication that the suspect is going to be ass-raped. Ha ha ha. At one time or another pretty much EVERY US TV crime drama (and many movies) has had a casual mention of the inevitability of prison rape.

    Casual references to prison rape, both in fictional stories and in comments about real-life people going to prison, make it pretty clear that Americans consider being raped in prison part of the legal sentence. Basically, unless it’s their ass on the line (literally) or that of a friend or family member, Americans seem to APPROVE of male-on-male prison rape. “That’s what you get!” is the attitude and it’s partly an extension of the tough-on-crime rhetoric and the ongoing competition among politicians to prove who’s toughest.

    No, prison isn’t supposed to be a comfortable place (unless you’re white and your crime was ‘white-collar’), but when exactly did we decide that male-on-male rape was such a casual matter, such a joke? When did getting raped, for men at least, become part of the punishment? People are hospitalized, they contract HIV, and some even die as an immediate consequence of prison rape. That’s a real knee-slapper, ain’t it?!

    Comedy often brings up uncomfortable topics in a way that seems to make light of them, but also sheds light on them and provokes discussion and debate. That’s why I’m less offended by this Boondocks episode than by the blase’, casual mentions of it on supposedly serious shows, based on the assumption that not only is prison rape expected, our criminal justice system WANTS it to happen.

  • Taylor Siluwé

    No. 12 · Jaime
    Lighten the fuck up. it’s a cartoon.

    It’s nice to live in a world where nothing matters. I’d like to visit sometime.

  • Dancy

    @Taylor Siluwé: I don’t think the commenter lives a world where nothing matters. I, personally, think people are way too sensitive about satire these days. I think the world should lighten up a bit. On the surface of this episode it seems like its just taking jabs at prison rape and when people see that, they instantly take to the interwebz and talk about it. There is usually a motive behind satire. We sometimes need to take a step back and realize that.

  • Taylor Siluwé

    No. 28 · Dancy

    Yes, satire can be a good thing; it can inspire thoughtful conversation. My comment was a brief answer to Jaime who succinctly said to “lighten up, it’s only a cartoon” – as if, as long as the message is animated its always, always all good.

    Prison Rape is a serious problem. Tackling it in satire should at least (IMHO) hint at some sort of solution, or, possibly (in the case of HIV and condom prohibition) some way to mitigate the tragedy.

    Conservative thought says if you prohibit condoms they’ll be no fucking. Pretty much a Nancy Reagan “just say no” solution, or an ostrich with its head in the sand. Conservatives are wise like that. Yes, tell teens “don’t have sex” and they’ll suddenly keep their hot pubescent parts to themselves. We all know how well that works.

    This is not to say that prison rapists would even use condoms if they had access to them, but none of this was even alluded to in McGruder’s satire. All it did was make light of a tragic situation, and worse, painted anal sex as the worst boogeyman imaginable. I can’t even get into the peanut-butter and jelly thing, but I will say it reminded me of a repugnant, insane Ugandan Pastor claiming gays all eat poo. Thanks McGruder, I’m sure Ssempa LOVED that episode. Those LGBT’s quivering in fear of the pending genocide of Ugandan gays thank you as well.

    If anything positive could be strained out of this deeply disturbing cesspool of an episode, it would be ‘don’t do anything which might send you to prison.’

    Satire should not only be intelligent but it should do no harm. This episode, coupled with his “Pause” boondoggle, has put Aaron McGruder squarely on my shit list.

  • Jason

    “Is There a Remote Chance The Boondocks’ Jokes About Prison Rape Might Actually Be Funny?”

    That’s a better question. What is it with this show and prison rape?
    Rape may be funny to 4chan, EDiots and other base, trite and ultimately unfunny people but it just comes off grasping, and played out to everyone else.

    In fact, most of this “intelligently written” show fails to produce a joke that doesn’t have the word “nigger” used as punctuation.

  • Jason

    @greenmanTN:

    Oh yeah, you’re totally right!
    Rape used in a context that respects the severity of the crime is so much more offensive, than using it as punchline.

    This is why you shouldn’t buy your logic at a gas station.
    Stupid people trying to sound smart, end up looking dumber than stupid people being themselves.

  • Jeffreee

    Thank u Qty for taking weeks 2 mood-erating my posts but allowing Ashley’s spammola free reign!

    Verry classy place ya gots here! When can I in-vest in your enter-prise? How many times do we need to see her spâm before it gets all kinds of remooooved?

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    Four friends of mine have been victimized by these two women, and they have stolen over $50,000 and both have disappeared. Please beware of these two fitness models, namely Enyta Romo and Nicole Rollolazo.

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