Written By: John Preer
It’s been a rough year for any Aaron McGruder fan out there. After waiting for news of another installment to “The Boondocks” animated series, there seemed to be light at the end of the dark tunnel that was season three.
Fans of “The Boondocks” rejoiced, but only momentarily. News that the series’ creator would not participate in the production of season four to work on an unrelated project came as a shock to many. McGruder’s absence was all too apparent throughout the latest season and the show really struggled without his unique touch.
This made me beg the question, what mystery project could McGruder be working on that was so important he’d let his brainchild fall to such a low? That show was “Black Jesus.”
Like a lot of people, the original trailer for the show that aired on Adult Swim made me cringe a little. My initial reaction was a little jaded because of my disappointment with McGruder leaving the Boondocks, as well as the seemingly offensive plot of “Black Jesus.” I asked myself why McGruder would leave such a great franchise like the Boondocks behind to work on something so terrible.
I have been a fan of McGruder since I read my first Boondocks comic strip back in fifth grade. I remember marveling at the creator’s brilliance and originality. This gave me reason to pause and I figured if McGruder saw enough potential in the “Black Jesus” concept to devote all of his attention to it, then the least I could do was give it a try.
Unlike a lot of viewers, I approached the show with an open mind. Instead of wincing at the blatant stereotypical portrayal of a minority messiah, I scanned the pilot episode for the hidden messages and subtle nuances that McGruder is known for. To my surprise there were quite a few.
People may have ulterior motives for not wanting to see Jesus played by a black man, but personal prejudices aside, the character in McGruder’s show is a quintessential Christ figure.
In the opening scene he greets a local homeless man with a heartfelt hug and gently scolds the filthy bum when he asks Jesus for winning lottery numbers. Jesus responds by reminding the man that the world is filled with people dying of famine and pestilence, and offers an alternative to the man’s materialism. “I got some kindness, I got compassion, and I got love for all mankind. You better get up on some of that, man.”
Jesus and the homeless get into a comical expletive-fueled argument immediately afterwards, but that is classic McGruder. In between the heavy use of profanity and portrayal of illegal activities, the positive message of Jesus Christ is sprinkled throughout the plot.
The more I watched the show, the more I began to really understand the concept of “Black Jesus.” If Jesus Christ were living during the 21st century, he’d probably resemble McGruder’s character. According to the Bible, Jesus Christ surrounded himself with the less fortunate, wore meager robes, and on more than one occasion enjoyed drinking alcohol with his companions.
Instead of looking at the series as a sacrilegious satire, I saw it as more of a modern interpretation of biblical events. If you can just get past the shock value of seeing Jesus smoke marijuana and drink malt liquor, you may actually find yourself laughing at the probable absurdity of it all.