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The Hunger Strike is a second season episode of the Adult Swim animated television series The Boondocks. It is one of two episodes from this season to take a critical shot at the network BET.

It was set to premiere on January 7, 2008, between "The Story of Thugnificent" and "Attack of the Killer Kung-Fu Wolf Bitch", but has not aired in the United States. In Canada the episode was aired on March 16, 2008, on the network Teletoon, with a disclaimer before the show stating that "the views in this program do not reflect that of Teletoon Canada or its parent companies".

This episode was originally set to be called "BET Sucks".

Plot

The episode begins inside of the BET headquarters with fictional president Debra Leevil presiding over a board meeting on how they are destroying black people. The issue of Huey Freeman is brought up, as he is shown on CNN giving a press conference stating that he is on a hunger strike and that he will not eat until there is a public apology for creating BET, the network is shut down, and all the executive board members commit Seppuku, a form of ritual Japanese suicide.

Huey joins forces with a charismatic preacher-like character named Rollo Goodlove (voiced by rapper/singer Cee-Lo) who attempts to add a flashy image to the fight against BET, lobbying for a boycott of the network. Huey initially believes this to be a good idea, a reaction to a successful rally/concert Goodlove throws. He is eventually betrayed, however, when Leevil, trying to derail the boycott, offers Goodlove a show on BET. In response, Huey ends his hunger strike, deciding there is nothing he can do to change BET himself.

Banned in America

For clarity, please visit the Wikipedia page on this episode.

There are widespread rumors that this show and a second episode ("The Uncle Ruckus Reality Show") have been banned from airing in the U.S. due to threatened litigation from BET. However, a Cartoon Network representative stated that BET had not contacted Cartoon Network regarding the episodes. This, however, does not negate the possibility that Viacom, BET's parent company, may have threatened litigation against Sony. Sony Pictures Television, which produces the series, has not issued a statement on the matter. The episodes are said to specifically attack Reggie Hudlin, BET's President of Entertainment, and Debra L. Lee, President and Chief Executive Officer of BET Holdings (parent company of BET.) Lee is portrayed as Deborah Leevil, a parody of the character Dr. Evil from the Austin Powers movies, and Hudlin is portrayed as Wedgie Rudlin, a "culturally insensitive buffoon coasting on his Ivy League education."

Ironically, Hudlin had retained an executive producer credit on The Boondocks, though this is only a contractual obligation; Hudlin has not had any involvement with the show since the first pilot was rejected by Fox. During the episode, the character Deborah Leevil relates the mission of BET within The Boondocks universe, stating:

Our leader Bob Johnson had a dream, a dream that would accomplish what hundreds of years of slavery, Jim Crow and malt liquor could not accomplish – the destruction of black people.

On the DVD release of the second season, McGruder states "I was looking for changes and improvements, and I didn’t see any." referring to BET's programming. He decided to show his frustration using satire in The Boondocks, reasoning "I didn’t see them. So I said, OK, it’s fair game."

Cultural references

  • Debra Leevil is a mixed caricature of Dr. Evil from the Austin Powers movie trilogy, along with Cruella de Vil of the One Hundred and One Dalmatians fame. : Elements including music, impulsive slaying of junior executives, and layout of the board room are all reminiscent of the Austin Powers movies, while Leevil's looks strongly mirror the latter character.
  • There are several American culture references in this episode. The documentary Rollo Goodlove makes called "BET: The High Cost of Low Standards" is a parody on the title of an anti-Wal-mart documentary entitled "Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price". It also references facts found in that documentary. Rollo Goodlove dances to Soulja Boy Tell 'Em, though not that well and doesn't seem to know all the words. The song that Rollo Goodlove sings during his protest is "Go-Go Gadget Gospel" by Gnarls Barkley.
  • At one point during the episode, a boy gets up from his couch and says "Man fuck BET! I'm gonna read a book!". This is a reference to the D'Mite satire song titled "Read a Book" which, ironically, gained its popularity by becoming an animated music video on BET.
  • At the end of the show, Huey asks Granddad for advice and says, "What do you do when you can't do nothing, but there's nothing you can do?" Granddad responds by saying, "You do what you can," which is the same advice Martin Luther King, Jr. gives Huey at the end of Return of the King.

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