Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Adult Swim "retires" episodes of Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Boondocks due to "cultural sensitivities"

L to R: Aqua Teen Hunger Force (YouTube) and The Boondocks (YouTube)
L to R: Aqua Teen Hunger Force (YouTube) and The Boondocks (YouTube)
Graphic: The A.V. Club (In-House Art)

Very little gets past Redittors. A recent example of this happened recently when a few users shared that they were having trouble finding season six episode of Adult Swim’s Aqua Teen Hunger Force from 2009, “Shake Like Me.” Others noted that they couldn’t locate season three episode of The Boondocks, The Story Of Jimmy Rebel.” But don’t worry. According to The Daily Beast, reps from Adult Swim want to assure everyone that these episodes are “permanently retired” on a nice farm with a big, grassy lawn, where they can frolic with the other episodes of television that have been deemed culturally insensitive.

Advertisement

The two missing episodes in question share a common thread: They both relied on anti-Black ideology for chuckles, as is the case with a lot of past comedy (sometimes for satirical purposes, sometimes due to a lack of creativity and just being good old fashion racists). In “Shake Like Me”—a title that signals John Howard Griffin’s Black Like Me, Shake is bitten by a radioactive Black man and turns “stereotypically” Black, complete with darkened skin, big lips, a chain, and an afro. Aaron McGruder’s The Boondocks featured the character Uncle Ruckus, a self-hating Black man who proudly spewed gross, racist rhetoric throughout the entirety of the series. But in “The Story Of Jimmy Rebel,” he links with an equally proud racist country star who sets his overt anti-Blackness to music, which goes a smidge too far, apparently.

Both were considered perfectly acceptable when they originally aired, but now that the entertainment industry is continuing to (kind of) contend with its racist roots, they’re being quietly removed in between platform onboarding with no plans to return to the masses. “When Adult Swim transitions series to a new platform, we determine what episodes are selected through creative and cultural filters and our standards and practices policies,” an Adult Swim rep told The Daily Beast. “Oftentimes these decisions are made in collaboration with the show’s creators.”

Advertisement

An episode of the network’s stop animation series The Shivering Truth was also remove— sorry, “temporarily rested”—due to “current sensitivities.” In “Ogled Inklings,” a pregnant woman gives birth to a cop, who is then referred to as a “dirty pig.” It was previously available on Adult Swim’s site and, as of now, is slated to return with the series officially debuts on HBO Max.

Adult Swim joins the likes of Community, 30 Rock, It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, and others that wish to merely sweep their penchant for racist humor under the rug rather than examine why they found that particular well of comedy so enticing in the first place. There are definitely other ways to show support for the Black community, like hiring and commissioning Black creatives, donating regularly to community initiatives geared towards Black liberation, or, again, seriously and loudly acknowledging how this brand of humor has potentially caused some harm and sharing how you plan to improve your creative process in the future. All of that would be exponentially better than just hoping that folks forget that these episodes ever existed. 

Looking for ways to advocate for Black lives? Check out this list of resources by our sister site Lifehacker for ways to get involved.

Advertisement

Share This Story

Get our newsletter