Glitches: The Ballad of Ebony Brown

12 Jul

Black Thought & Questlove in Prospect Park 7.11.2010 (Photo Credit: Laylah Amatullah Barrayn)

Kool G Rap’s “Men at Work” concluded The Roots’ Sunday evening set in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park.  In the swelter, a paunchy Black Thought perspired through the rap standard while his legendary crew capered Pip-like in the background. A master of breath control, Black Thought expelled not a pant and it was an exhausting exercise. The Roots are serious showmen and I can’t say that I wasn’t entertained but going to a hip hop concert and hearing that repeated declamation “Men at Work”  prickled as a reminder that for too many “Men at Work” remains hip hop’s definition.

I still soared: rapped all the lines to “The Next Movement” and imitated Greg Nice’s spry wop atop a metal folding chair during he and Smooth B’s impromptu encore performance.  It was only when I had made my way from my old borough to my Harlem digs did my shoulder’s shrink. I cued up a DVR recording of the latest episode of the animated series “The Boondocks” titled “The Lovely Ebony Brown.” It began with the grandfather, Robert Freeman, committing Facebook hara-kiri (deactivation) because of some misadventures in dating or in his words “batshit crazy bitches.” His black male workout buds, Uncle Ruckus and Tom DuBois, took the opportunity to offer relationship council on the next morning’s jog. Uncle Ruckus, a self-hating character whose hyperbole dangerously dovetails with prevailing stereotype, unleashed a diatribe against women like me less than three minutes into the episode. Here are a few choice excerpts:

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

“Black women don’t want to be happy.”

“A black woman’s body is the temple of doom.”

“Black women don’t jog. That way they don’t sweat out all them industrial strength toxic avenger chemicals they use to straighten out their hair.”

Forgive me for not LOLing.

"The Lovely Ebony Brown"

The episode proceeds with Robert crossing paths with a young buxom black woman jogger, the episode’s namesake, in contradistinction from Ruckus’ broad indictment (although per the comment section of the Onion AV Club’s episode review, there is some debate about whether black women jog). In fact, the whole episode Ebony Brown absorbs the insults, brushes off the enmity and proves herself the exception to the cabal of angry ugly unfit broke black woman monsters roaming so much of the world’s rampant imagination. Her “perfect” physique (not too Serena Williams), complexion (not too Serena Williams), credit, childlessness, lack of a criminal record are topped by perpetual good humor in the face of all manner of foolishness and on her list of accomplishments is discovering the cure for a devastating disease. In bed with the old flabby Robert, Ebony acquiesces to his preference for lights-off lovemaking by purring “Whatever you like.” (Recall that in 1988, “Whatever you like,” was a deal breaker #akeem #zamunda)

Robert eventually bungles their relationship with his own insecurity and Ebony lets him down oh so easy after he tracks her down in Malaysia delivering aid to typhoon victims, “You look exhausted and stressed and, I don’t know, I don’t want to have this effect on you. You don’t look happy.” Robert returns to his Woodcrest home where Uncle Ruckus, converted by Ebony’s cherubic ways, seeks her out to propose. Robert reactivates his Facebook account with renewed faith in select sepia segments of the opposite sex.

This black woman character’s transformative influence on the ornery Robert and Ruckus offered little levity to my viewing experience. The episode’s whole premise landed as “how does it feel to be a problem?” And Ebony’s superhuman contours, eventually begrudgingly appreciated, reinforce the stratospheric bar that has to be met for black women to break even. It takes so much more for us to be in the black, in life and in imagination, than it does for our other sisters. But that’s not what struck a nerve, it was Ruckus’s opening sermon on our inhumanity. Even in jest, it’s tired. It’s centuries overplayed. The record has long since been worn down. I want to be able to turn on the TV and not hear so much disparagement directed exclusively at us. It’s a downer. How am I to thwart the angry black woman stereotype when television puts me in a sour mood?! (Right now NBC’s “Community” is doing it for me a long with reruns of “Seinfeld”-Kramer be damned-and “The Bernie Mac Show”).

The novelist and poet Paul Beatty once wrote, “not being ticklish, I see laughter as a learned response and not a reflexive one.” Reflecting on his own developing sense of humor, Beatty recalled being the butt of the first joke, a jibe about the darkness of his complexion, he’d ever heard.  I’m the butt of many of the jokes in the television and film I watch.  It’s difficult to laugh from that crappy station although not for “The Boondocks” miraculous Ebony Brown who giggles after being called a wildebeest by Uncle Ruckus at dinner with Robert and then picks up the check. Aaron McGruder is a sharp, if sometimey, satirist but I conserved my chuckles last night. The episode prickled as a reminder that the joke is disproportionately on black women. The skin we’re in.

28 Responses to “Glitches: The Ballad of Ebony Brown”

  1. marpessa July 13, 2010 at 7:58 AM #

    Bold and insightful!

  2. Zakiyyah Ali July 13, 2010 at 8:22 AM #

    Jalylah, I enjoyed reading every ounce of this post—you are so right, the jokes are always on us, but we will share the last laugh–not as a learned response either—but rather as a mechanism to keep from crying at those fools who have earned nothing more than pity for the way they continuously dehumanize Black women and ultimately destroy Black Girls. I DON’T WATCH the boondocks, NEVER HAVE, NEVER WILL.

    Keep writing and shining. Ordinary can be extrordinary at any time—we don’t have to be superhuman, we just have to BE.

  3. Sean G July 13, 2010 at 8:47 AM #

    My Take on The Ebony Brown episode. First I loved it. 1st reason. It was the proper counterbalance to the Attack of The Killer Kung-Fu Wolf Bitch episode last season.

    Second. It spoke to a lot of black men. That it isn’t always the woman’s fault.
    First we have to examine the three main characters of the Freeman family. Only one of them is actually old enough to date. Since Riley is the wanna be gangsta, Grandpa is the crotchity old values old schools method person and Huey is the wise one in this show. Every other male character is gonna do something stupid at one point or another. Since Grandpa Freeman is the only one looking for love he is the only one that can date. First lets’ look t th ebeginning of the episode. Grandpa’s lying on myspace, facebook, etc. a reflection of how many peopel lie to themselves in order to justify what they want. In robert’s case, that special lady.
    and of course the odl agge as soon as you stop looking fo rlove love pops up. in comes Ms. Ebony Brown.

    Ok..let’s look at Ebony Brown. She is SUPPOSE to bear the “perfect body, complexion, etc.” towards Robert. He is everything that what the general populace is being told to want. She is the blonde haired, blue eyed pouty lipped white women in sistah equivalent form.

    She is educated, giving, runs a nonprofit organization and everything else good. She even sees humor in what Uncle Ruckus sez and sees through his anger. I would b so bold to say that she is living the way of an awakened Buddhist.
    She even had Ruckus Sprung. which sez a lot about the woman. She never said anything negative to anybody. As a Buddhist myself she was on point. In fact I am married to a wonderful woman just like her.
    Ebony Brown represents the woman that is attainable and visible when a man puts away childish lists and their own lies. He couldn’t handle her because he couldn’t handle himself.
    She is the many women out there that men can see if they stop looking for the girls on girls gone wild and smooth magazine. That’s what it said. It said to me keep your childish things and you will get childish accessories. Put down the childish things, thoughts and behavior and you are left with enough room for a full length mirror to look at ourselves and hopefully someone else to look at the mirror together.

  4. jalylah July 13, 2010 at 10:12 AM #


    Thanks for the good words!


    Thanks! I’m a relative newbie to the show although I was a follower of the comic strip. I hear earlier seasons were better than this one. I’d recommend checking it out a few times. McGruder is talented he just has some blind spots and as Dave Chappelle said of himself on Oprah after quitting his show, succumbs to his “inner coon.”

    There are so many talented black men in media that do great disservice to black women due to their own issues, e.g., Chris Rock, Spike Lee, and I am fans of them both. Tyler Perry is not worth engaging but I will since he was the subject of another Boondocks episode. it is telling that McGruder’s take down of Perry couldn’t get beyond the closet. Perry’s is problematic not because he is closeted but because he is a INEPT FILMMAKER by every measure and because he has taken transvestite minstrel shtick and served it up as the authentic black female experience manipulating the black public, particularly black faith communities, desperate for their own image on the screen along the way.

    Sean G,

    I haven’t seen the Attack of The Killer Kung-Fu Wolf Bitch episode. I will check out. Thanks. I hear you on what you read as the lesson or intent of the episode. I wanted to highlight the impact and a viewership fatigue. That said, Ebony Brown is not a real woman. She is one dimensional and is nothing to aspire to. Women have to have the right to express displeasure. We can call shenanigans. Men do without judgement. I linked Coming to America as alternate example of comic media. “Whatever you like” is not what healthy whole people want in a partner. Akeem’s journey to Queens exemplified that. And Coming to America remains one of my favorite films.

  5. taeh July 13, 2010 at 12:52 PM #

    i enjoyed this piece sis, it was nice to hear another opinion on this episode. Briefly the thought crossed my mind to write a post about it on my blog but i didn’t so i was intrigued when I saw someone had done that here. This episode had a profound effect on me, but unlike yours it was mostly a positive one. I am a woman first and foremost and the diatribe at the beginning of the episode did sting,I found myself kind of wincing a little bit but that is reality. That’s how black men do us, and let me make it clear that it’s not ALL black men I’m talking about but you know theres a good amount that fall into this category. To me this whole episode was kind of beautiful to watch. In my eyes Lovely Ebony Brown was a representation of all of us, black women, who we are at our very core. She was intelligent, independent, beautiful, and poised…as are we. Sure her character might have been a little over-the-top on the too good to be true factor but it is a cartoon after all. I believe that she was Aaron McGruder’s personification of the truth about black women, and she made a fool out of all the men around her. She defied every stereotype they tried to throw at her, dodged all of Ruckus’s salty comments and did it all without even batting an eyelash, hence smashing the ‘accomplished but angry sista’ stereotype. I found it very poignant at the end when Ruckus of all people, the same one that said the key to happiness was the elimination of black women from your life, bust down Grandads door with the intention of asking her to be his wife. In an allegorical sense I found the message real heavy. That’s the truth about black women; a black woman who knows the truth about herself, her true inherent beauty and worth is truly a sight to behold, a force to be reckoned with,a force that no man in his right mind could or would deny…especially a black man. We are all “Ebony Browns” as far as I’m concerned, and Grandad and Ruckus represent the two distinct types of men who have been brainwashed into believing we don’t exist. You’ve got the uncle tom who oozes ignorance and self-hatred from every pore on his body and the well-do-to average joe, seeking but weary and leery at the same time. At the end as both men sat on the stoop and thought about the beautiful black goddess they had the pleasure of knowing the only thing I think they ever agreed on was the fact that she sure was something…… something…..”

    • ashoncrawley July 13, 2010 at 1:17 PM #

      hmph…i wish i would’ve seen this before i replied. said a lot better than i could’ve….and a lot shorter…lol

  6. ashoncrawley July 13, 2010 at 1:09 PM #

    thanks jalylah for your post. i’m responding, in the hopes of furthering dialogue. i watched the episode and very much enjoyed it, and i’m sure my gender has as much to do with the response to it as what i deemed its insistent hilarity. i also realize, though, that knowledge is not only cerebral, that knowledge is emotional as well. that to say that while i can cognitively get the notions of gender incongruence and understand it, because i am male-identified and male-bodied, there is an emotional type of knowledge that i just can’t get, though i’m willing to approach. i am not interested in saying that emotional knowledge is more base than cognitive…rather, i think the two inform each other. as such, my emotional response to the episode was divergent and informed my cognitive response to it…and vice versa. that was a very long-winded way to set up the fact that while i stand in solidarity with you, i got something very, very different from the episode.

    i think your attention to Uncle Ruckus’s rhetoric is important…i think it’s just as important to give attention to Uncle Ruckus as a character who says all of those ridiculous things about black women. and it is also important to note that even given all the vitriol he spews about black women, he still “fell in love” and wanted to marry Ebony Brown…i mean, of any word that can be used to describe Ruckus, “happy” is not one of them, though he touts the idea that the elimination of black women is the key to happiness. i think the characters come to stand in for all of the ridiculous rhetoric – occurring between men – *about* black women.

    one of the ongoing critiques of The Boondocks series has been that there are few, if no, “positive representations of black women” on the show. i think McGruder writes the show for a masculinist, sexist, patriarchal, overwhelmingly male-identified/male-bodied audience. so the introduction of Ebony Brown was, i think, to critique this year as the “year of the (pathological) black woman” as put forth by folks like Steve Harvey, Sherri Shepherd, Tom Joyner, etc. one of the constant refrains about black women this year has been about the lack of this population to find “good” black men, how they should pander to the thoughts, ideologies, desires, wishes and libidinal drives of black men. they should also be perfect: perfect bodies, perfect hair, perfect jobs, perfect smiles, perfect responses to questions and inquiries. there was – in the episode as both Huey and Riley noted – “nothing wrong with her,” which was a surprise to all of the men, given the ways in which black women are generally vilified in the media.

    and STILL, Grandpa fucked that relationship up. he fucked it up because of his ridiculous posturing and pandering to his friend Ruckus and his grandson Riley. i think one of the things McGruder was trying to put forth is that the problematics in black heterosexual relationships have a *lot* less to do with the seemingly pathological/professional/perfect black woman than it does with the rhetorics of black men in relationship with each other. these rhetorics are of the Steve Harveys and the Tom Joyners…they are not “experts” regarding life or relationships, yet they are the ones who influence Grandpa’s movements the most. so even when “perfect” comes along, this dude lacked the capacity to handle it…she didn’t even blame him for being old, non-professional, nonworking etc…and STILL, he fucked it up.

    i *think* this episode is a punch in the gut to all these dudes who keep “blaming” black women for the woes in heterosexual erotic/romantic relationships. it’s also to say that they prolly wouldn’t know “perfect” even if she ran up to him in the park. it’s to extend bell hooks’s work that says that sexism has harmful effects on men as well as women. dare i say that this episode “animates” (quite literally) at least *some* of the concerns Crunktastic and commenters discussed in the “Dating While Feminist” post a few days ago…

  7. B@dr July 13, 2010 at 6:26 PM #

    whats the name of the slow song that plays throughout the episode? (at the park and bed room scene) i’m entranced by how smooth it is and would love to purchase it please help me out!!

  8. MB July 13, 2010 at 7:16 PM #

    Here Here JBeezy!! I love what you do in the post and your quick but thorough reads of tyler and aaron in the comments!!

    I really feel you on the tired and continuously negative depiction of black women on television. I think I ran a term by you many moons ago, “misogynoir”, to capture the very particular brand of hatred directed at black women in American visual & popular culture.

    What this episode signals to me is that even in the dystopia of the Boondocks, where there is at least Huey to hold it down as the lone voice of reason, there’s no room for a regular/perfect black woman on more than one episode. In typical fashion, one episode out of three seasons is supposed to hit the reset button for McGruder’s otherwise disparaging or non-representations of black women.

    And again why, especially in a dystopia, like the Boondocks, do black women still have to be super human to get some recognition? It’s Claire Huxtable all over again, black woman perfection and instead of the law partner 3 language speaking mom we get the Lovely Ebony Brown. Being the butt of jokes to prove my humanity through my unflappability, no sir, I just don’t like it.

    • Sean G July 13, 2010 at 7:27 PM #

      as soon as I fin out I’ll let ya know and hopefully vice versa. I think it’s a Blacksheep beat. not sure.

  9. Sean G July 13, 2010 at 7:44 PM #

    @MB I think you are missing 2 critical things about the representation of adult women in The Boondocks series. Since Robert (granddad) could not meet a decent female in the series because he has bad luck with women (I think he is just hung up on image and not enough on substance) Let’s look at an episode that shows that. Not the one where he was dating a prostitute and not even knowing it even though everybody else saw it and he ignored the signs. That ws in season one. Or the fact that he messed up a good friendship over a women which was pointed out by his niece named Cookie. Robert didn’t even know the girls name but he was upset over a girl that he wanted to talk to but his friend mo beat to the punch. a woman that he was planning to talk to for about 3 months. hey…you slow you blow as my grandfatehr use to say.

    Now we could have maybe Huey having a crush on a teacher that is intelligent. But then again Huey doesn’t smile…ever…

    One of the things about this series is that since this is allegedly the last season. Myabe McGruder is tryin to tie up loose ends. Maybe he wanted to do this since the Slim Thug Letter.
    But if you notice. almost every negative female on the show with more than three lines has been affected by a male.
    Crystal (like the Champagne) was a product of A Pimp Named Slick Back and other things. Luna was abused by many men. Unfortunately she killed herself.

    The dynamics of presenting something positive and educational to the general mass audience of the target viewers which seem to be black men and hitting them upside the head with the truth isn’t easy. there has got to be a lot of filler. I think a lot of guys changed up their myspace pages to be a bit more honest. and if they can be mroe honest in themselves then maybe then can see the truth. That there are a lot mroe Ebony browns out there. btu if you tell a lot of trifling brothas hangin out on the corner they wouldn’t even bother. That medicine gotta taste like candy to them.

  10. MB July 13, 2010 at 8:37 PM #

    @ Sean G- Yeah I think that’s part of the problem I have with the Boondocks. Black women only exist in relation to black men. They serve no purpose unless there’s a male referent.

    And I think you missed my point. I know the Boondocks is a dystopia. I don’t expect positive images. But even in a dystopia Ebony Brown isn’t real and black women shouldn’t have to be perfect like her for men to see their humanity. We are’t medicine and too much candy isn’t good for you 🙂

    you think after watching this episode of the Boondocks dudes changed their profiles?

    • ashoncrawley July 13, 2010 at 11:20 PM #

      well…i think the episode was pretty blatant when Ebony Brown talked about how Grandpa (granddad?) only meets “characters,” how everyone was a stereotype of sorts, how everyone was satirical…

      so like, while Ebony Brown isn’t real, she also pointed out how *nobody* on the show is “real”…and i appreciated that. as one comment on one of the blogs pointed out, she “broke the fourth wall” and spoke directly to viewers, even if directed and Grandpa/dad…

      and i think dudes who saw the TP episode have been more reticent about using “pause” and “no homo” (at least from the ones i know who used to use it ALLLLLL of the time)…i’m not sure about this particular episode, tho…

      • Sean G July 13, 2010 at 11:28 PM #

        Personally, I say no hetero.

    • Sean G July 13, 2010 at 11:40 PM #

      I don’t think she is perfect. If she had natural hair…I would be more inclined to say she was closer to perfect. But that’s me and one of my things. I don’t think you can make REALLY add a permanent or reoccurring positive character to the boondocks thats’ female. White people are afraid of losing their sassy black female side kick friend with the neck roll and diva snaps of her press-on nails.
      Bald Black men are still scary for white people and women with natural hair are either wise black women that are psychic or musicians that entertain the crowd in a neo-soul dive.
      There has got to be a new show. A new one should be made. Hopefully not as god awful as the show Girlfriends became.

  11. Sean G July 13, 2010 at 9:19 PM #

    @MB one thing that may have been lost on a lot of the other watchers both die hard fans and new comers alike. She has a striking resemblance to Dorthy Dandrige. Robert always had a thing for Dorthy Dandrige. When he fought in WWII his plane was named Dorthy. His car is named Dorthy so it had to appear to ROBERT more than anybody to be the ideal woman.

    Do black women get …nay…do omen in general get objectified and misrepresented? absolutely.
    Never will I doubt that.
    Do I think a lot of men changed their myspace page? I think some did. I committed facebook harekari a month ago and it feels great. though I do feel like I am on rehab because everything has a facebook connect. So annoying. But that is another story.
    The point of the thing was to make men especially black men think about themselves and reflect. I personally would love to see more shows about women. I LOVE Hot in Cleveland and yet Girlfriends…not so much. In Girlfriends it was difficult to determine the moral center character in the group. It was like everybody was looney in one way or another. Even the token dude was sad.

    I would pay good money to see a show like the boondocks from a woman’s perspective. Social and political viewpoints just like that. Like How a black woman has to be a sidekick or a pop start to be an actress in Hollywood.

    Did anyone else notice that there was no black actresses in the secret of bees? Only musicians. Alicia Keys, Queen Latifah, and Jennifer Hudson. But White Women actors…yeah…plenty of them. Just Wright starred Common and Queen Latifah. Why can’t we find a black male actor that didn’t have a record deal? WHy does a sister have to have a demo tape on auditions for theatre?
    I barely seen any Latin…maybe once in awhile. I haven’t seen a Jennifer Lopez (dancer, musician, pseudo actress) without her husband in it that her love interest was a person of color. Can anybody name one? No Not Selina. Selina NEVER counts…EVER.
    an Asian women sometimes, but usually the wife of a white guy. Anyone ever see an asian american couple or a positve asian guy that isn’t a kung fu expert, doctor, or immigrant? Pretty in Pink anybody? and ever since Northern Exposure went off the air I havent seen a Native American woman at all. (First Nation I think the term is now) on TV. That would be funny, invoke tangential learning, and be from a woman’s point of view.

    Winston Churchill once said: “I am always ready to learn although I do not always like being taught.” A lot of people learned something whether they liked it or not. More importantly it got them to ask questions.

    You know I wanna see more black women with natural hair and they be seen as sexy. I want to see the plus size girl being the sassy “blanche” character. Younger men picking up older women as a norm not an anomaly to be reset to zero at the end of the show. I want to see a cop drama with a Korean woman and a Black woman in L. A. weeks before the riots and see how they relate before , during and after the L.A. Riots. Even if it’s only on youtube. I want to see a black woman saying that the “Down Low Man” is a media generated Myth and that there is nothing wrong with a bisexual black man. I want to see black men tell his friends no rap music with negative lyrics in his house at the beginning of the show. I want to see a show with more than 4 black characters not be called “A black show” But ti’s gonna take time and compromise and listening and learning and of course patience.

  12. Simon July 13, 2010 at 10:22 PM #

    @ Jalylah & MB–Great insighful posts.

    I didn’t see the-Lovely Ebony Brown- epsiode. In fact, I don’t like McGruder’s Boondocks cartoon. Serious media talent, particularly, Black female consultants were imperative from the outset, for the cartoon have any saliency. The comic strip was far better in my opinion. Furthermore, I’m not surprised by the misogny directed at Black women by McGruder. He reminds of me of, Spike Lee at times. Moreover, to consistently attack Black women, speaks volumes about some Black men and their patriarchal inhumanity.

    Black women don’t have to perfect, just be themselves. Sadly, some Black men are too fucking ignorant to comprehend.

    • ashoncrawley July 14, 2010 at 8:28 AM #

      “Black women don’t have to be perfect, just be themselves.” I totally agree. And that’s exactly what this episode was trying to put forth…

  13. jalylah July 14, 2010 at 12:16 AM #


    The episode broke the fourth wall a few times and I loved how self referential it was during that exchange between Robert and Ebony about “episodes.”

    @MB you are succinctly on point as ever!

  14. jalylah July 14, 2010 at 10:29 AM #

    ““Black women don’t have to be perfect, just be themselves.” I totally agree. And that’s exactly what this episode was trying to put forth…”

    Ashon, that’s incorrect and a misreading of the show. Ebony Brown is not “herself” she is not any self!!!! She is PERFECT and ACCOMMODATING and SUPERHUMAN. These are characters, but frailty is a feature of every other character on the Boondocks except EB.

    If that episode was not about gender but race (peace to Valerie Smith) this might be more clear to you. If Rob & Ruckus were over the top frail funny white characters in search of a new best black bud, the ballyhooed cool black guy, one who told jokes all the time, brushed off racist epithets, contorted all aspects of his self to be liked and accepted (assimilating sometimes; cooning when necessary), his character would be a problem. Were Rob & Ruckus white women in search of a perfect Black man generally docile but virile and threatening in the bedroom who they could other sexually this episode would be a problem.

    Let’s compare Halle Berry and Angeline Jolie is the popular imagination. Halle Berry is dogged by deficiency in a way that Angelina will NEVER be because our expectations for Black women are stratospheric. (see what I was saying in my accounting metaphor) Both are sexy, gorgeous, slim actress with some dissolved marriages in their wake. But Halle, the media tells us is insecure, doesn’t like sex, clings etc. Angelina is just her idiosyncratic sexy self. The only critique she gets is for being a homewrecker or dressing her daughter like a boy but the deficiency is not about her core but about a behavior that thwarts prevailing social mores.

    • ashoncrawley July 14, 2010 at 12:36 PM #

      whoops. if my language previous has made it seem like i thought i had the “right” reading of the episode, i apologize. i’m intrigued by how we’re reading the episode differently but definitely ain’t tryin to assert that my reading is the only or correct one…

      that said, i still think we need to keep in mind that The Boondocks is a contained show, and that the episode has a beginning and ending. that to say it may be fair in some ways to read The Boondocks longitudinally but at other times, we may do longitudinal readings more justice by reading one episode first. so the way i’m reading this one episode is as a necessary critique of sexism, patriarchy and stereotype that animates the conversation *between* these black men about (all) black women. the commentary offered up between Uncle Ruckus, Granddad, DuBois and Riley were all about how black women are utter failures, how black women could never live up to those mens’ standards of beauty, health, class, education, professionalism. these are the SAME conversations that have been taking place this year (but certainly have not started there) with the Steve Harveys, Tom Joyners, et al. ridiculous? certainly. do they happen? certainly.

      so i totally agree with you that EB is not a real self but the perfection she “represents” also ushers in with it a critique of the ideologies of these men.

      and…i guess i sorta disagree with the if this were “not about gender but race” assessment. i mean, on the one hand, the episode is about gender and race together, how they articulate and recalibrate each other, about how there is no understanding of gender without race. Uncle Ruckus’s rant was all about the articulation of race AND gender together in some very problematic ways. EB was the critique of that problematic rant by showing the cracks and fissures of the ways in which he articulated those concerns.

      and the comparison you give of two white dudes wanting a cool/cooning friend is just…very different. and like, if Rob and Ruckus were two white women in search of a man, i would still ask the same questions about the efficacy of language with and against the characters that speak them. archie bunker was racist as hell…as a character. he said some really fucked up, hilarious things about black folks. but his character was written as a CRITIQUE of those things that he said, they were necessarily hyperbolic statements in order to critique the most nuanced forms of racism. Ruckus serves a similar rhetorical/character function. if Huey had been saying that shit, ok…then we’d have a much different conversation. but Ruckus is that dude that nobody listens to anyway…

      and wait…if this were about gender (only), why ain’t nobody sayin much about the ways DuBois’s wife is depicted in the show? she is an ongoing, recurring character…

      • jalylah July 14, 2010 at 2:20 PM #

        I completely mangled my Valerie Smith shout out. Her book took the title Not just race, Not just gender as a point of entry to talk about Black women. My point being transpose the circumstances of the show to a figure other than black women and you get a different response.

    • Sean G July 14, 2010 at 2:08 PM #

      I will be first to admit that I am not familiar with many of the expectations of women much less black women. Would love to learn more. Hopefully I will. That being said, I agree with Jalylah with the disagreement of Ashon’s reading of the show. I can’t disagree with him. That’s what he saw and I can not say someone else’s perspective is wrong. I think we already estlabished that Ebony Brown was not a real person. in fact none of them are real. Every character is an exaggeration and parody of set stereotypes and given personas. One of the more difficult things about critiquing this particular episode is that it isn’t a filler episode. It has roots from past episodes. But that horse I think has been beaten. What message did I get out of being a black american of 35 years of age? Many ( I say many because no one should ever say all or you because that is just wrong for many reasons) black men complain about not finding any good women but when stripped of any excuses and blames about the woman then who else do we have to look at but ourselves. To see that we ourselves have been wrong in speech, thought, and action. Robert starts off lying in the first sentence. He sez with obvious photoshop photos saying that he is a astrophysicist, soccer star and former UFC champion. In other episodes he said other outlandish stuff. His lies and deciet attracted the woe that he asked for. By not being honest he gets the results. Domincan Drug Queen, A woman that tries to kidnap his grandson, and a woman that tries to take some of his organs only to be thwarted by his grandkids. He even sez he doesn’t blame himself he blames all of you and you being women Question: How many of you have found the partner of your dreams only to talk yourself out of it and push them away? How many of us looked for validating of our false thought from friends?

      00:06:32 >> Huey: What’s the problem?
      00:06:33 >> Granddad: She’s too good for me.
      00:06:34 >> Huey: Is that what she said?
      00:06:36 >> Granddad: No, she said she likes and accepts me for who I am.
      00:06:38 >> Huey: So, what’s the problem?
      00:06:39 >> Granddad: She doesn’t know the real me.
      00:06:41 No one normal can love the real me.
      00:06:42 Have to do something drastic before I screw it up.
      00:06:44 I should try to be someone totally different — you know, like tyrese or chris brown, someone who’s not a dorky old man.
      00:06:49 >> Riley: Yep. makes sense.
      00:06:50 >> Granddad: And I shouldn’t tell her how much I like her.
      00:06:52 Women like the chase, don’t they?
      00:06:53 >> Riley: Yep.
      00:06:54 >> Granddad: Soon as she thinks she’s got me, she’s gonna move on to another old man to satisfy her sick old-man fetish.
      00:06:58 >> Riley: Nah, she probably just got a young nigga on the side.
      00:07:01 >> Granddad: Another man?
      00:07:02 with all these young men with good blood pressures running around.
      00:07:05 And he’s probably buff, too.
      00:07:07 >> Riley: Yep,realbuff.
      00:07:08 >> Granddad: Like tyrese buff?
      00:07:09 >> Riley: Nah, like 50 cent buff.
      00:07:11 >> Granddad: Oh, no!
      00:07:12 He probably spend all his time in the gym getting strong!
      00:07:14 I bet she thinks of him every day, even when she’s with me.
      00:07:17 >> Riley:ESPECIALLYWHEN SHE With you.
      00:07:19 >> Huey: Granddad, this is silly.
      00:07:20 She obviously likes you.
      00:07:21 Just relax and be yourself.
      00:07:23 >> Granddad: Myself? nah.
      00:07:24 That’ll never work.

      Every guy including myself has done what grandpa has done. This was dishing our own dirt as men.
      and huey sez it perfectly.
      “Maybe your problem is that YOU pick crazy ones. But you can’t hold that against every women you meet. Don’t you always complain about women that can’t let go of their baggage? Don’t be a hypocrite grandad.”

  15. Andrew July 15, 2010 at 1:09 AM #

    How about turning the television off and stop expecting the one-sided perspective of media to be the representative of your self image and focus on your individual life.

    Caring at all about how the media portrays a people denotes that you care what other people think which in itself is the core distraction for any type of person from actual self realization and self love.

    It’s going to require black people to stop being so focused on how they are represented by the very institutions that have always been in place to exploit them and their interest(regardless of the race of the writers,producers etc…) and get focused on the real issues which are personal self development of which from there one can start to get a real grip on this life thing.

    Long story short, Turn off the television because the television was never intended to project truth of representation it was intended to serve a one-sided power structure whose motive is control and profit. You watching it, weather you agree with what you see or not, has served that structures desired outcome by default of you watching it at all.

    • crunktastic July 15, 2010 at 7:28 AM #

      Andrew, the notion that self-development and critical engagement with structures of representation are mutually exclusive activities is wholly inaccurate. The reality is that we live in a media-driven society, and it would be irresponsible of us not to engage those representations critically. Perhaps, we can adjust our expectations, but as Frederick Douglass said moons ago, “power concedes nothing without a demand.” So we should not capitulate to these structures of power by accepting the notion that they won’t change. Moreover, our engagement using the web and the blogosphere as modes of critical engagement, I think represents a creative form of resistance to the dominant forms of representation.

      • ashoncrawley July 15, 2010 at 7:39 AM #

        you’re so eloquent, crunktastic…

        i mean, i was just gonna say something like “…and not watching tv is kinda boring”

  16. frank.madhart July 15, 2010 at 9:14 AM #

    Blogger and et. al
    While the many analyses on Ebony Brown bare truth, each present a piece of the puzzle at the expense of the whole.

    Ebony Brown is not perfect nor are the characters she is surrounded by; including Huey. Ebony Brown is a caricature of pretty miss sunshine. She finds herself constantly serving the needs of others, particularly their imagination, thereby making altruism a self effacing act.

    To give Ebony Brown an issue as I have relegates her to the doldrums of her antithesis but that is the point. We are all complex beings and our strengths and flaws are not static but dynamic. They are not innate but are proved and tested based on the circumstances we are faced with.

    Ebony Brown finds a cure for which her ‘supposed’ community knows nothing of. She is ‘saved’ by the white woman whose grandmother she has saved. Even Ebony cannot save herself from being a Mammie. She is unable to explain what it is she really does. Exercise is more than personal health it is a rouse for middle upper class gentility. She leaves America and all its social ills to help in a Typhoon that even locals are detached from. She embraces Rukus’s wit to cloud his overtly racists rhetoric. Ebony Brown acquiesces to her environment much like each character of the series.

    What the episode reinforces for me is that our maladies are ours as much as it is the environment we find ourselves in. Ebony cannot be perfect in the melee that is The Boondocks. That expectation is ludicrous. The Ebony we know is simply making the best of a given situation she finds herself in. She is serving and evidently thriving in an environment which does not have her best interest at heart. The best we can hope is that in the quest for community she and her family can find space to loving challenge the issues that prevent continued maturity.

  17. Kristia July 21, 2010 at 8:09 PM #

    Great writing on this blog. I wanted to connect, I don’t know how our blogs didn’t know of each other long ago…

    take care,

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: