Gentrification: The Brilliance of the Boondocks

I like The Boondocks. I enjoy the strip and the cartoon is great. Catch it on Sunday nights at 11pm on Cartoon Network when you get a chance. Last night there was an episode called the Itis. Which was about GrandDad opening a restaurant of the same name, with Mr. Wuncler (the rich white guy from the first episode). I won’t bore you with the meaning of the ‘Itis.’ I suggest asking a black friend for some clarity. While initially it appears to be the main focus of the episode I think it has a more sinister commentary behind it.

*SPOILER WARNING*

See, GrandDad cooks on Sunday and makes food rich in pig lard. Actually, that and butter all he uses to cook. So even the vegetable dishes have pork in them. People eat, get the itis and Mr. Wuncler thinks GrandDads soul food would make a good restaurant. Cool, GrandDad is excited and Huey is deeply concerned about the health of the customers. Because people are getting addicted to the food. Like drug addicted. Literally people are becoming soul food junkies and slowly but surely the neighborhood degenerates into the type of place that police take hours to get to when a crime is committed. By the end of the episode Mr. Wuncler closes down the restaurant due to a multitude of lawsuits from customers who have become unhealthy after eating themselves silly. Doesn’t seem to bad, right? GrandDad cooks unhealthy food, gets a restaurant, Huey is deeply concerned, restaurant closes to obesity complications. An episode about the dangers of an unhealthy diet. What’s so sinister about that you, might ask? The gentrification of the neighborhood. Which was mostly gentrified anyway.

Even as I type this I have to wonder if there wasn’t something even more sinister than that going on here. Let me explain. When Mr. Wuncler takes GrandDad to see the future location of their restaurant (which is currently occupied by Wuncler’s health food cafe, which he hates and the people who frequent it) he makes a comment about how he has been trying to buy the park across the street for years. However, the city refuses to sell it to him, but he keeps trying. So, when Wuncler gets Chico (one of the cooks) to order some pigs, lard and butter he tells GrandDad that he wants to go for the whole urban black thing. Cause thats what the kids are into. Now by the end of the ep Wuncler closes shop because of the lawsuits. The first of which he offers to pay the insurance deductible and the case is settled. He leaves smiling and by the last scene the Itis, as well as the rest of the shops on the street, are all rundown and boarded up. Wuncler stands looking pensive and then he turns to look across the street. And what do we find? The park (which encompassed the whole other side of the block) is fenced up and there is construction equipment and huge signs that say Wuncler Construction. Close up on Wuncler. He smirks and walks off. Fade to Black. Credits roll.

When I saw that I said, “Damn, he finally got his park.” Then it occurred to me. He did all that just to get the park. My boy had come over to watch it too and after I said that he noted, “Damn, niggas, wouldn’t even get that. Niggas, wouldn’t even have noticed what just happened on this show. Damn.”

But now I think it’s worse than that. See, gentrification implies that you’re driving people out of their communities in order to buy it up for cheap and revamp it into something more conforming to the middle class life style. For example, allowing the inner city neighborhood of a place like, oh I don’t know, Detroit, to become so rundown and dilapidated that developers come in and buy up the property for cheap (relatively speaking). Moving out the remaining residents, that got no city support in helping to build up there neighborhood, and then developing new and thriving businesses so that white people move back to the inner city and you can have Super Bowl XL in your city. Thus, the rich getting richer and so forth.

In this episode, Wuncler did something above and beyond normal gentrification. He basically came up with a plan to run an entire neighborhood, that was already very well off, into the ground. As stated in the episode he pretty much owned most of the block. All he needed was that park. And by ruining a small community he got it. Which would surely add to his net worth once he has completed whatever he had in development at the park (or the former park I should say). With luck it will be brought up again in a later episode.

Maybe I’m putting to much thought into a cartoon but considering the social commentary that seems to go into weaved into every episode, I have to wonder. I’m not even sure if there is a word for what happened. Degentrification? Regentrification? Ultragentrification? Who knows? All I know is, that is the type of shit, that goes on in real life. Right under peoples noses. And it goes completely unnoticed. If you don’t believe me do some research on the city of Detroit or Atlanta or even Downtown LA. Maybe you might see a pattern. Or maybe the Boondocks is just a funny ass show.