Aaron McGruder of "The Boondocks" and Tyler Perry of "Meet the Browns" and TBS' "House of Payne" are unlikely allies, but they have a common link. Both are the key creative forces behind some of Turner Broadcasting's popular hits.
Still, executives for the broadcaster, which owns both TBS and the Cartoon Network (home to "Boondocks"), might be wise not to sit the two men together at the same table during the next company picnic.
The latest episode of "The Boondocks," the satirical animated TV series that airs on the Cartoon Network's Adult Swim slate, takes brutal aim at Perry and his brand, which blends melodrama, raucous comedy and religious themes. Coming under intense ridicule is Perry's portrayal of Madea, the gun-toting, foul-mouthed grandmother at the center of many of his films.
In "Pause," an episode written by McGruder and executive producer Rodney Barnes that aired Sunday, a thinly disguised version of Perry named Winston Jerome is positioned as a closeted, cross-dressing cult leader whose love of the Christian faith is a mask for his true sexuality. Though the character bears little physical or vocal resemblance to Perry, the reference is obvious to those familiar with Perry's work. The dancing Ma Duke is a clear parody of Madea.
The Jerome character wears a pink sweater, is surrounded by bare-chested muscular men and constantly proclaims his love for Jesus even as he attempts to seduce Granddad ( John Witherspoon), the guardian of the two boys, Huey and Riley Freeman, at the center of the series. The fame-hungry Granddad is trying out for a part in Jerome's new play, "Ma Duke Finds Herself a Man."
Near the end of the episode, Jerome bluntly asks Granddad for sex; the old man responds, "Do you mean to tell me that this whole cross-dressing Christian cult crap is just so you can sleep with men?" "Uh, pretty much, yeah," says Jerome.
The episode marks one of the sharpest public criticisms of Perry. Huey Freeman calls the script for "Ma Duke" "terrible." The Perry brand has also been blasted by some critics and entertainers such as Spike Lee, who say Perry's projects perpetuate negative stereotypes, and present a narrow view of African American life.
McGruder and executives for Turner and Adult Swim declined to comment on the episode. Representatives for Perry did not return phone calls.
"The Boondocks" is the latest example of an animated series pushing the envelope on satire further than most live-action series would dare. The creators of the animated "South Park" came under fire recently by a radical Islamic group after an episode depicted the prophet Muhammad in a bear costume.
This is not the first time McGruder and his series have flirted with controversy. The acidic tone of this episode recalled two 2008 installments in which McGruder blasted one of his frequent targets, BET, lampooning what he called the network's harmful negative imagery and stereotypes that work as a "destructive" force within African American culture. Those episodes were never broadcast after executives from BET complained and threatened legal action.