Black Dynamite Season 2 – Roots: The White Album Review

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Posted October 14, 2014 by Kierra Prince in Nerdy Bits

At New York Comic Con, attendees of one of the Adult Swim panels lucked out and got to see the first episode from season 2 of Black Dynamite in full. I don’t think any of us were fully prepared for what we were about to see.

Season 1 of Black Dynamite gave us the characters we loved from the movie and placed them in an animated universe where anything was possible. It was funny, bizarre, and had a healthy dose of social commentary. But while shows like The Boondocks have always been more about the social commentary, Black Dynamite was fine with being a little more of a wild animated show that presented us with out-of-this world ideas such as Michael Jackson being an alien.

So where does this first episode stack up? Fans of The Boondocks will be happy to hear that Black Dynamite takes the social commentary to a degree that I don’t think we’ve ever seen present on Adult Swim, and its platform really lets it present heavy handed issues in ways that are hard-hitting while still clearly being satire.

Episode 1, titled “Roots: The White Album” begins with Black Dynamite and crew overseeing the debut of a new Martin Luther King Jr. statue in honor of Black History Month. And as everyone heads to the nearby diner to eat and watch Roots, they begin the commentary early on. The show gives us a really good look into how odd it is that black history is regulated to a singular month, that there’s certainly some joy to take in recognizing black achievements, and also, as Black Dynamite himself says, that it’s a bit messed up that black people only celebrate their history and achievements during a month gifted to them by “the white man”.

And as Roots begins, the anger sets in. While giving us a pretty funny rendition of the infamous Toby scene, we also get the idea presented to us of how frustrating it is than most of black history is regulated to slavery and is even then sort of whitewashed and given the Hollywood treatment. Why is Roots made and celebrated yet movies about other black figures often never make it to screen? And when the people begin asking if slavery was actually that bad, and was actually even worse, the black community decides that it needs to enslave white people to get back at them. Yes, you read that right.

While this is certainly a hell of a heavy episode, Black Dynamite‘s platform manages to give it just enough fantasy elements to take it over-the-top in a way that The Boondocks never could because that show is too firmly rooted in reality to make such a serious topic be funny (which was part of the problem of Season 4 of The Boondocks).

One of the things that really cemented in my mind during the episode was how, even in an animated setting, the idea of enslaving white people could never really by taken to the extreme that the African slave trade was in reality. Black Dynamite shows the black community chaining up white people and putting them on flatbeds, but it never touches the horrors of the packed slave ships. The white people have to pick some hilariously scattered cotton with combs for seemingly no good reason, which is a reminder that we don’t have the same economic setup that made slavery such an issue. And as the white people bemoan that they don’t have sunblock to wear or mayonnaise to eat, we get a little tongue-in-cheek poke to how Africans and their descendants were forced onto lands they knew nothing about.

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And, well, that’s kinda why the episode works. In comparison to the sort of ignorance to slavery that we’re presented with at the beginning of the episode, and even throughout, its a tough but funny reminder that slavery wasn’t simply some people being forced to work. It was an entire systematic destruction of people and their culture. You know how when 12 Years a Slave came out and some people found it hard to watch for being too graphic? Black Dynamite shows us the problem with making slavery a sort of entertainment. We’re fine with seeing slavery depicted as long as people don’t get whipped too hard, too much, and we don’t talk about the other issues. Which this episode has no problem tackling.

There’s a ton that happens throughout but the episode ends up tackling the tough issue of cultural appropriation when the slaves are freed. Despite only being slaves for what appears to be a few days or weeks, the white people end up taking on black cultural aspects because “they don’t know how to be white in a world that propagated blackness and being white was considered bad”. In all honesty, this episode does a better job of tackling that nasty piece of history than most history lessons do, and I’m so happy to see a channel like Adult Swim tackle it.

Overall, most of the jokes in here don’t really work until you see them and for such serious subject material I’m surprised it actually manages to be funny. It’s certainly going to have its group of haters, but I feel like this episode sets the scene for a show that doesn’t seem to be afraid to pull any punches. And I’m actually kind of surprised at how much it gets away with. There’s even jokes regarding a certain black leader that people love to bring up anytime racism gets discussed and an excellent running gag involving Woody Allen that almost seems to ask us why we let certain people get away with stuff if they’re rich (such as Woody Allen refusing to cast black actors in scenes in a historical Harlem).

As always, the animation is crisp and colorful and a huge delight to look it. It uses that sort of “70’s palette” of colors, browns and reds and yellows, that is perfect for its Blaxploitation theme that we first got in the film. There’s not much different between season 1 and season 2 so fans will be happy to hear that its still one of the best animations on TV.

“Roots: The Honkey Album” was an excellent first episode that I sincerely hope the rest of the series can match in humor and tone as it was essentially perfect. Action, humor, and a whole lot to say was a recipe for success that blew all of my expectations away. The first episode premiers October 18th on Adult Swim.


About the Author

Kierra Prince

Was born with a controller in her hand. Fan of all things nerdy and has a tremendous amount of love for RPG's, anime, and anything horror. She secretly wishes to be a mash-up of Catwoman and Sailor Moon.