Category Archives: Journalism

Writing on all things concerned with culture and lifestyle

Inspired By: Stylish Thoughts…

I’ve been thinking about style a lot of lately, possibly because I have been shopping excessively and going out at just as much – requiring the styling of many new ensembles for many different events, locations and situations. When I studied fashion two years ago I was lucky enough to truly discover exactly what it is exactly that beguiles me about fashion. Beyond the delight I find in dressing and dressing up, what I am so curious about and so deeply intrigued by is simple…it’s style. STYLE! That simple one syllable word that has such a weighty significance in terms of self expression. We all know the famous fashion quote ‘Fashion fades, style is eternal…’ But do we truly know how to define it? We know it when we see it -‘That’s stylish, she’s stylish, he’s got style etc.’

We all generally tend to have a universal understanding of who and what is stylish, hence why the world covets and henceforth creates style icons. And style icons vary from classic and sharp Victoria Beckham, to masters of the glam rock chic Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen, preened to perfection and always neat Olivia Palermo  or forever casual and cool in a leather jacket, skinny jeans and boots combo Kate Moss.

But asides from using the word to identify a form of dressing, Classic, Casual, Trendy, Sporty etc, what constitutes as style and how can we identify what it looks like?

I like to define style as fashion’s cousin, her much cooler cousin and a trend is fashion’s sister, possibly even twin sister. Without going too deeply into semiology and linguistics, fashion is the object – the signified and the trend is formed by the signifiers, in this case the consumers (us), who with our consumption of said object  eventually make the object fashionable or/ and trendy.

Style, I refer to as fashion’s cooler cousin because it’s more expressive and offers more of a personal communication. If we could all afford to wear runway looks straight off the catwalk of the season’s most coveted look, regardless of how fashionable and on trend it might be, we’d all look like clones, or the alternative terminology, fashion victims. Style is not the possession of, or the monetary strength to, own and dress in fashionable items.  Style is the dance between conforming and rejecting, between being predictable, ironic and unexpected.

We can all wear a runway look and be fashionable, but  we’d have no credit to take for our ability to dress, because the look has already been packaged and parceled by another stylist. In fact, the only thing we might express dressed head to toe in a runway look is our undying love for fashion and our ability to keep up with its capricious nature. Ask Anna Dello Russo, Fashion Editor and Creative Director at Vogue Japan, who’ll tell you ‘I don’t want to be cool, I want to be fashion’. I have never seen a woman wear so many runway looks, in fact so fashionable is the passionate fashionista that she has been described by Helmut Newton as a ‘Fashion maniac’.  Anna might be considered ironically cool, like wearing nineties patterned  Moschino in the twenty first century or a black woman wearing a t-shirt that reads ‘Blondes have more fun,’ but too much irony or too much of one thing is never good.

So, back to this dance of conforming and rejecting. Style is a personal interpretation of the signified object – the fashion item, it’s the way in which we  choose to hangout with fashion’s sister, the signifiers, the masses that form the trends and its how we choose to reject it, by refusing to wear it, altering it or manipulate it. A white shirt might be fashionable, neatly buttoned down and tucked into a pair of jeans, we conform to the trend by wearing the white shirt, but we reject it by tucking only the front of the shirt into our jeans and leaving the back out, wearing the first three buttons undone or placing a statement necklace around the collar and so on and so forth.

In my humble opinion, ‘styling’ is the way in which we manipulate fashion. The most stylish of people in my belief are those that always have their eye on fashion but have the ability to manipulate, to innovate, to be unexpected but respectable, ironic and predictable and know exactly when to conform and when to reject.  Style is formed once we develop a particular method towards the way in which we approach dress, over a period of time this will form a motif which eventually becomes our own unique style.

Here’s to some of my personal style icons at the moment…

Carrie Bradshaw Sex and the City

Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the City movie wearing pink cut out dress and black studded belt.

Carrie Bradshaw

Carrie Bradshaw – Sex and the City

Victoria Beckham wearing DVB Jeans

Victoria Beckham wearing DVB Jeans

Victoria Beckham

Victoria Beckham dressed in grey

Rihanna dressed in pink and orange

Rihanna dressed in pink and orange

Olivia Palermo in pink

Olivia Palermo wearing pink lace at the Valentino Couture at Hôtel Salomon de Rothschild

Olivia Palermo in black and navy blue

Olivia Palermo in black leather peplum top and navy blue shorts with pointed wedges

Kourtney Kardashian casual in flats

Kourtney Kardashian casual in flats

Kourtney Kardashian

Kourtney Kardashian dressed in blue patterned dress

Kim Kardashian wearing black and grey

Kim Kardashian wearing staple skinny jeans, heels and waterfall jacket. Dressed in black and grey.

Kim Kardashian dressed in leggings and longline blazer

Kim Kardashian dressed in leggings and longline blazer with statement necklace

Kourtney Kardashian dressed casually in flats

Kourtney Kardashian dressed casually in flats and brown hat

Be charmed, stay inspired! x

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Inspired by my Marrakech Wardrobe!

Inspired by my Marrakech Wardrobe, the SS2012 trends, Carrie Bradshaw  and the Sex and the City 2 wardrobe…

Easy Breezy...

Up until three or four blog posts ago I had been slightly reluctant to post photos of myself on Charms of a Dandizette – I suppose because this blog isn’t really about what I look like. Having said that, as well as being concerned about fashion,  Charms of a Dandizette is also about my personal style. So, I thought my next Marrakech inspired post, this one,  should be about my wardrobe approach to my week in the Moroccan city.

I set myself a little fashion task for my trip, which was to implement as many of the season’s trends into my holiday wardrobe as financially, physically and tastefully possible. So neatly packed away in my powder pink Marrakech suitcase was a white Broderie Anglaise top, of course inspired by Marc Jacobs’ sweetly designed spring summer 2012 Louis Vuitton collection. Bravely I purchased three bra-lets, borrowed from the midriff baring trend that filtered across the catwalk’s of Italian fashion houses, from Dolce and Gabbana and Prada, to Versace and Miu Miu. I say ‘bravely’, because I didn’t do not even one sit up or even attempt to decrease my calorie consumption in preparation for midrif baring – but c’est la vie! My bra-lets were cleverly selected to nod towards several trends; a mint green bra-let  lends itself toward the sherbet pastel colours currently being donned all over the high street, most commonly in the form of skinny jeans. And a scarf print bra-let, the pattern taking inspiration from the ancestral Versace patterns, which D and G also took inspiration from for their ss2012 collection, which saw tiny skirts and makeshift bra tops appear very 90s Versace.

I did a significant amount of research into appropriate dress for a Marrakech visit, to find out what was suitable to wear in this particular Muslim country. Of course, a lot of the information I found online was conflicting – some sites advised to cover shoulders, others said cover legs and others said you could wear whatever you liked. I thought best to cover my legs – I suppose because of my belief that legs are a far more overtly sexual than arms.

I took most of my inspiration from Carrie Bradshaw’s wardrobe in Sex and the City 2 and invested in lots of jewellery, even more eyeliner and lots of long flowing skirts and dresses in beautiful materials. The wonderful thing about billowing floor length dresses and skirts is, I felt no pressure whatsoever to wear heels and therefore I never – not once – the entire holiday. I stress this, because this is somewhat of a revelation for me! I packed two pairs of heels and didn’t remove either of them from their shoe bags. The other wonderful thing about length is, when worn in beautiful materials, it’s instantly glamorous! So with the glamour volume turned up, heels probably would have been overkill! Yes, me, the queen of bling can even identify overkill!

So for my discovery of overkill, for my week in flat shoes, for my courage to don a bra-let and for my time in Marrakech  I feel proud!

So, here’s some snaps of the Marrakech wardrobe!

AZAR in Marrakech

At Azar in Marrakech, wearing a black open back strappy top from Zara and patterned skirt from River Island

At the Palais Charhamane Marrakech

At the Palais Charhamane Marrakech wearing black Miss Selfridge skirt and medallion scarf print crop top from Topshop

Le Jardin Majorelle - YSL Love Post Cards Marrakech

At Le Jardin Majorelle in Marrakech wearing my mum’s Broderie Anglais button back top from Next (this top is 30 years old!) Floral shorts from H and M

Atlas Medina Resort and Spa Marrakech

At the Atlas Medina Resort and Spa Marrakech, wearing pleated Primark maxi dress, woven clutch bag from Primark and earrings from Primark too! (Good old Primark!)

Atlas Medina Resort and Spa Marrakech

At the Atlas Medina Resort and Spa Marrakech, wearing royal blue Topshop dress and enamel peacock chain from H and M.

Sahara at Atlas Medina Resort and Spa Marrakech

I am sure my sister won’t want to be on my blog..but she looks so nice I had to put this pic in. She’s wearing peach sheer trousers from Forever 21, bangle from H and M and watch by  Michael Kors Watch

Gueliz Marrakech

Wearing royal blue dress from Topshop in Gueliz. This is a great picture! I love the striking blue and the whimsicality of the dress against the city…

Make everything in life inspirational! Be charmed, stay inspired! x

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Inspired by: YSL and Le Jardin Majorelle

Yves Saint Laurent and Le Jardin Majorelle

Set right in the heart of this Moroccan city is an aperture where a secret garden lives and breathes. Painted azure blue walls and pillars are luminous, peering between the greenness of vegetation, the greenness of a giant pond where lily pads float heavenly and evoke a sense of serenity and calm. The only threat posed in Le Jardin Majorelle, if any, is the frightful size of the immense cactus needles.

Yves Saint Laurentand Pierre Berge, once Yves’ partner, friend, business partner and co-founder of the Yves Saint Laurent Couture House, purchased and restored the Jardin Majorelle in 1980. The land was initially acquired by french painter Jacques Majorelle, who settled in Morocco and opened up the garden to the public in 1947. Jacques Majorelle was in an unfortunate car accident which led to him returning back to France. The garden grew unkempt and overgrown, however Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Berge began a long process which would nurture it back to life.

The designer asked that he have his ashes scattered at Le Jardin Majorelle on his passing. Yves passed on the 6th June 2008 and as requested his ashes reside in Le Jardin Majorelle. After visiting the garden, I can understand why the designer loved it so much.

Yves Saint Laurent and the Love Post Cards

I am particularly aware of how long  it’s been since I’ve written anything particularly fashion concerned, so I thought it would be best to begin the recollection of my holiday in Marrakech with photos of the Jardin Majorelle…Fashionistas might refer to this magnificent garden as the Yves Saint Laurent memorial gardens.

Admittedly I was completely ignorant to this garden and its connection to the fashion designer whom I personally adore  for his championing of the sultry Le Smoking tuxedo jacket for women in the sixties and his androgynous designs.

My sister, an illustrator, and I felt as though we had stumbled upon a treasure hidden in the thick of towering cacti of the Jardin Majorelle when we found the significant collection of Love post cards illustrated by Yves Saint Laurent himself being showcased right here in the gardens!

What followed was a frenzy of both of us trying to take as many photos as possible of the illustrated posters. Unfortunately I had left my trusty bridge camera back home in London so I was very much dependent on my iPhone for picture taking.

Yves Saint Laurent would send his personally illustrated Love post cards out to his close friends and clients of the fashion house every year as a New Years greeting.

A small shop just opposite where the Yves Saint Laurent post cards are showcased sells copies of the cards for you to purchase, amongst some great YSL coffee table books and magazines featuring the designer. I purchased two of the Love post cards for my fashion illustration feature wall which I have been building on for the past year or so. Once the post cards are framed I will proudly add them to my wall!

Here’s to spreading the love at Le Jardin Majorelle…

More Marrakech photos on the way…

Be charmed Stay Inspired! x

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Inspired by Paris…J’adore Paris

J’adore Paris

Inspired by a recent visit to Paris…

It’s been a while Dandies and I am feeling somewhat guilty for the length of time that I have been away from my much loved and treasured blog. In my absence I have celebrated my birthday, been to Paris, started reading a new book, which has managed to crawl beneath my skin and has claimed me entirely (indeed I am reading Fifty Shades of Grey), have begun to write my own novel with more urgency than I have the past few years that I have been writing it (yes, I said years!) and have just returned from Marrakech Morrocco!

So, I suppose I should start with Paris…

There are so many reasons that I adore Paris. I generally tend to love cities, but there’s something about this beautiful city that agrees with me so well. The first time I went to Paris I met a French woman at the Cuban Compagnie Cafe in Bastille, she spent a while talking to me and my friends about Paris and London. She said there is something very special about the relationship and connection between Paris and London…this was around the time that Marie Claire had coined those with dual lives split between Paris and London, ever so aptly, the Par – Dons. Paris is a very feminine city and London, its counterpart, is male, she said. Now looking back on her observation and having visited Paris twice since then with her notion in mind,  it seems that her observation explains my affection to Paris so accurately.

Paris, romantic, whimsical and introspective seems to speak to the writer within me…that is me and that I aspire to be. It paints pictures of Fitzgerald, Hemmingway and the expatriate art set that flocked to the city to seek romance, escapism and material for their novels. It illustrates the many fantastic articles I have read about Azzedine Alaia (his clothes I am still not rich enough to afford) and his rise to success ( a tale I can imagine would make a beautiful film) and his unique atelier on the rue du Moussy in Paris. Possibly the only piece of architecture I have ever really looked at and found breathtakingly beautiful resides in Paris…the looming presence of the Notre Dame. The thought of talking hours away in a tiny cafe facing the street and watching the passersby is such a simple yet fruitful pastime and the chicness I could admire forever.  I love Paris for its civility, it’s sophistication, its simplicity, its style –  it’s overall voyeuristic nature and henceforth, its understanding of humanity.

Champagne on the Eurostar

First glass of champagne on the Eurostar

Ayesha Charles headed to Paris

Enroute to Paris wearing my favourite shirt of the minute from Zara

Gare du Nord Paris

Gare du Nord from the hotel balcony

Gare du Nord Paris

Rue De Saint Quentin Paris

Rue De Saint Quentin Paris

Rue De Saint Quentin Paris from the hotel balcony

Notre Dame Cathedral Paris

Notre Dame Cathedral Paris

The Notre Dame de Paris
*sigh* The city of love….Love Birds at the Notre Dame de Paris

The flower gardens surrounding the Notre Dame de Paris

So proud of myself for taking this pic of Gemma at the flower gardens surrounding the Notre Dame de Paris!

Notre Dame Cathedral Paris
Notre Dame Cathedral Paris

Ayesha at the Notre Dame Cathedral Paris

It’s ME at the Notre Dame de Paris..

Mmmmm…C’est si bon!

(more Paris pics on the way)

…Paris J’adore! x

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J’adore Paris…Part 2

Le Moulin Rouge

The next time I visit Paris it will be to watch the Moulin Rouge show!

Pigalle Paris

Pigalle ParisPigalle Paris

A Bus stop on La Rue de Clichy

Moulin Rouge Quartier Pigalle

Moulin Rouge Quartier Pigalle

Pigalle Paris

Bastille Paris

Bastille Paris – My favourite spot!

A rainy night in Paris, taken from the hotel balcony

From the hotel balcony again – I loved it out here!

There’s no such thing as a weekend without cocktails…

Till next time Paris! x

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Fashion Illustration: A Brush With Fantasy

A Brush with Fantasy

It would seem that the fantastical world of fashion illustration is a world that has sadly been forgotten. In the Golden Age of fashion illustration, illustrated magazine covers charmed the readers into their sensational visions, but today these symbols of fashion and fantasy barely make the pages of the magazines. Platform celebrates the wonderful and sadly forgotten world of fashion illustration.   

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There is a delightful and indescribable emotion evoked by the spectacle of beautifully dreamy and fabulously glamorous fashion illustrations. A glance at the visions of David Downton, Jean Phillipe Delhomme or Gladys Perint Palmer is instantly breathtaking. The contrast of whimsical brushstrokes juxtaposed against the accuracy of the garment’s design makes the impact of this art form almost haunting. Many find themselves lost in the illustrator’s world of colour, technique, style and imagination. The illustrated Vogue covers of the golden age have a collector’s value and are beginning to find their homes in frames displayed on the walls of fashion and art aficionados. It’s a wonder why these tokens of art, fashion and fantasy no longer grace the pages of the magazine covers and pages the way they once used to.

There was a time when the world of fashion moved a little slower and the rapid turnaround of fashion design, production and the associated media happened over a lengthier period. Today collections are created to deadlines, fashion bloggers and journalists go toe to toe to relay the latest stories and have a number of media platforms to choose from to access the public in the quickest form. Fashion resides in a breakneck world and those not on its heels risk losing their relevance. It was only inevitable that the presence of fashion illustrations in our glossies would grow scarce after the development of the click and snap nature of photography.

‘Illustration is still extremely popular with designers and the public alike,’ says David Downton, ‘but remains generally under the wire.’ What a treat it would be today to purchase a magazine that only featured fashion illustration. No doubt this would be a magazine that would sit proudly on the coffee tables of fashion lovers amongst the Valentino and Vogue collectors books, but it seems almost impossible to imagine that magazines with purely illustrated images ever existed.

During the Golden Age of fashion illustration, Vogue publisher Condé Montrose Nast was the custodian for illustration, he invested in a team of Vogue illustrators that would illustrate every Vogue cover from 1910 till the beginning of world war two. Condé Nast’s admiration of fashion illustration was enthused by La Gazette du Bon Ton, the French fashion, lifestyle and beauty magazine published from 1912 – 1925. The French publication centred itself around the creation of fashion illustration and employed some of the best illustrators of the art deco era, Paul Iribe, Gearges Lepape and Pierre Brissaud to name a few. Each edition would feature ten illustrated couture designs, seven of which were the illustrations of couture designs and the remaining three, which allowed the illustrators to envisage and illustrate their own designs merely to excercise and display their own illustrative minds.

Many of La Gazette du Bon Ton’s illustrators worked on the covers at Vogue including Helen Dryden and George Wolf Plank, but the end of La Gazete soon rendered these artists without a place to execute their fashion fantasies on the page. Nast required illustrators to portray the garments in their most realist form in order to provide the reader with the most accurate vision of the design, while the illustrators naturally longed to implement their artistic freedom. Sadly, fashion illustration began to contradict its very existence, a world that seemed to survive off the imagination, fantasy and art desired the utmost realism and truth.

Carl Erickson and Rene Bouet were illustrative pioneers for creating illustrations for which realism was the essence, it was not long before the two set the bar for this fashion illustration form. Inevitably Edward Steichen’s colour photograph in 1932 would provide the industry with exactly what it wanted. By 1936 Vogue sales proved that the photographic images that replaced the illustrations on the covers sold more copies. 

Since the golden age of fashion illustration its presence in the fashion publication has fluctuated. The works of the Puerto Rican major fashion illustrator, Antonio Lopez became a fixture in Vogue and other high fashion magazines throughout the sixties and seventies, even though both decades were particularly dominated by photography.  During this period magazines such as Honey (the first British magazine to feature black models), Jackie and Petticoat all featured fashion illustration, nevertheless, on the whole the art form struggled in and didn’t see its next surge till the eighties. An advert illustrated by Jean-Philippe Delhomme for Barneys New York inspired an enthusiasm around the medium once again, La Mode en Peinture 1982, Condé Nast’s Vanity 1981 and Visionaire 1991 created opportunities for a new generation of fashion illustrators.

Today the presence of the fashion illustration is out of the ordinary and merely peppers the pages of the fashion magazines – what was once the super glue of the magazine is now barely a garnish, decorating the white spaces of magazine editorial. On the upside of this, the fashion illustrator of today is no longer constricted to the magazine and works in a number of different mediums. Gladys Perint Palmer, a Central Saint Martins graduate and one of the last students of Muriel Pemberton, the inventor of fashion education, says, ‘depending on the illustrators style depends where they will find their work.’ Gladys is the proof in the pudding that fashion illustration, even though it isn’t celebrated in the fashion publication, is indeed still sought after. ‘I am on a heavily impending deadline,’ she says, ‘I am currently working on a book titled From Eve to Yves. There is plenty of work. I am swamped.’

Albeit, it is a shame these little slices of art are absent from the fashion magazines, but at least the occasional glimpse, in an ad campaign or on the cover of a book, is a moment that remains just as special and fantastical as the last.

My favourite blogging illustrators: Jean Philippe Delhomme, The Uknown Hipster unknownhipster.com, Kelly Smith, Birdy and Me  and Garance Dore

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Inspired by: The Boondocks Season 4

Welcome to The Boondocks

Huey Freeman from The Boondocks

Huey Freeman from The Boondocks

Amongst the myriad of skilfully and intricately animated graphic novels and witty comic strips there is one that seems to literally be tearing the American public apart with its social satire on race relations in America.  Regardless of the constant disapproval, censorship, hate mail and rebuttal the comic generates, it is an undying success and continues to prevail.

On the second of May 2010, the pioneering and revolutionary comic strip, The Boondocks aired the first episode of the third season on American TV channel, Adult Swim. The return of the show after a two and a half year break was heavily awaited amongst fans and just as much dreaded by those opposing. The opening titles read ‘an episode that takes us back to the election of our nation’s first black president…’ The episode acted as a documentary that explored the power of the electoral campaign amidst Woodcrest (fictional town) residence. The German interviewer of the episode remarkably took the voice of Werner Herzog (the German film director and screenwriter whose films often feature superheroes with unattainable dreams, this collaboration sat in perfect alignment with the episode.

‘It was a veritable loaded gun (as many Boondocks episodes are), aimed at blasting the hype that surrounded Obama’s presidential win in 2008,’ says Tom Surette, staff writer for TV.com. The disapproval and enthusiasm that would surround this episode was as exciting as the show itself. Moments after the show broadcasted Facebook patrons, bloggers and online writers began a whirlwind of deliberation. Many fans thought it to be the best episode yet, while others felt it was too critical of Obama. The political cartoonist and creator of The Boondocks, McGruder had done it again, provoking the thoughts, confronting the situations and creating the debates that nobody really wants to explore – at least not in the eye of the public. The Boondocks may very well be guilty of documenting the most honest cultural and political analysis of the presidential electoral campaign and its impact on American society to date.

Thirty five year old Aaron McGruder created The Boondocks in 1996 while attending the University of Maryland where he studied African American Studies and where the initial Boondocks comic was published, in the university’s student newspaper, The Diamondbacks. The Boondocks is set in a fictional middle class, white suburban town named Woodcrest, centralised around the Freeman family; Huey aged ten, Riley aged eight and their grandfather, Robert Freeman. Huey and Riley have moved to white suburbia from Southside Chicago to live with their grandfather, where they attend a ‘very strict and very white oppressive’ school named, aptly, J Edgar Hoover (1) – this is where the strip begins.

The show satires prominent events and figures in American society against the back drop of black socio politics; George W. Bush, Barack Obama, Condoleezza Rice, Lil’ Wayne, R. Kelly and Martin Luther King are to name a few of the famous figures McGruder has lampooned. He approaches delicate and controversial issues like Hurricane Katrina, Nine Eleven, the rape trial of R. Kelly and the ambiguity of use of the ‘N’ word. Many of the impressionable and ignorant characters use the ‘N’ word, and in selective episodes such as the Jimmy Rebel episode, so excessively it is hilarious (ashamedly so, maybe). Mike Lee Richmond, political radio talk show host at 90.1fm and a general fan of the comic, known for broadcasting shows that discuss many of the prominent Boondocks episodes says, ‘I have no issue with him using the word or explaining why he does so*. Satire is a comical reflection of what the writer sees in society, he is clearly pointing out our loss of self. He’s not trying to entertain us all the time, he is trying to send the message that we are losing what we fought so hard to gain.’ It is important to note that when the characters swear in the cartoon, these are always bleeped out – this technique emphasises McGruder’s reasoning of the use of the N word.

Like The Boondocks, McGruder was born into a middle class family in Chicago, at age six Aaron and the McGruders, consisting of Aaron, his parents and older brother Dedric, who also works as a political cartoonist, moved to middle class suburban town Columbia, Maryland, where McGruder was the student of what he describes as a ‘very strict, very, very white school.’ He says the two years spent at this particular school were ‘the most oppressive years of my life.’ Evidently the two oppressive years at McGruder’s school failed to coerce him into a silence, in fact it has provided stimulus for material that has created what may cautiously be considered a genius comic strip, which speaks as loudly and clearly, with all the political belligerence and integrity of Aaron McGruder.

Before the end of 1999 McGruder secured a syndication deal which was ultimately the beginning of his fame, success and notoriety. Since then The Boondocks has emerged in over three hundred American newspapers, most of which the comic has appeared daily. Due to the comics nature newspaper editors frequently discontinued and postponed printing it. Nevertheless the newspaper medium acted as platform for McGruder to reach a much broader and varied audience and has since been adapted into the cartoon series. This has inevitably allowed the cartoon to be accessed globally across a number of video streaming sites, including Youtube.

In view of the success of The Boondocks, McGruder has become a bit of a personality, associated with both black and white public, political and celebrity figures. He is repeatedly invited to lecture at universities, which are renowned to sell out, he has been awarded the Chairman Award at the NAACP Image Awards and The Boondocks was the winner of the 66th Peabody award in 2007, for an episode which envisages the awakening of Martin Luther King. McGruder has become a celebrity in the light of the impact of his work and since his recognition has attended Hugh Hefner’s birthday party at the grotto and P.Diddy’s infamous MTV after parties. The cartoon features the voices of Samuel L Jackson, Snoop Dogg, Mos Def and Busta Rhymes and is celebrated in the lyrics of conscious Hip Hop artists. It is important to note that the recognition and celebrity status McGruder may have acquired is a consequence of the quality, the intelligence and the artistic vision and conviction of his work and not vice versa. It is also important to note the rise of McGruder and the success of The Boondocks is not because the American public are enthusiastic about his work, many of the American public are somewhat adverse to McGruder, his views and or The Boondocks – but his work and the intellectual brain behind it is indisputable excellence and can evoke a strong aversion.

But what is it that makes The Boondocks such a powerful piece of art and McGruder such a powerful artist?

For those that are yet to watch The Boondocks, the Black President episode epitomises the essence of the cartoon and shows the true talent of McGruder at its best. The brilliance of McGruder is not the political events that he explores but the characters he has created and how he aligns them perfectly to each and every event; The Boondocks, although dealing with conflict ridden situations, manages to tell an astute and entirely candid discourse. ‘Aaron McGruder’s overall portrayal of black people in American culture is very parallel. Notice the things such as uncle ruckus, the self hating black man that is there to specifically point out all the faults of the black culture. Huey, who is there to show that there are some people in the culture that are willing to believe in blacks and are hopeful that something will smack the people upside their head and make them realize what is truly important in black culture, I can go on about the other common characters but I’ll leave it there,’ Mike Lee says. Of course, it is to be noted that the narrator of the cartoon and protagonist of the comic is Huey Freeman, Aaron McGruder’s alter ego – who often summarises and concludes the impact of various current affairs and their influences on society and the Woodcrest residents. Excluding this, through the perspective of very diverse and dynamic characters that represent various social characteristics, the reader or audience is able to view circumstances in their entirety, as opposed to just McGruder’s perspective.  There are many characters in the comic that are just as influential to the cartoon, who communicate vital elements of whatever the subject matter maybe just as effectively and authentically that completely conflict with Aaron McGruder and his alter ego’s political alignment.

Huey Freeman, possibly the most intelligent, socially and politically aware ten year old is introduced in the First Black President episode as a ‘Domestic Terrorist.’ Aside from his neighbour, District Attorney Tom DuBois, Huey may be the only black character that does not use the word Nigga on tap. Throughout the cartoon and comic strip Huey has a constant frown and hasn’t smiled once thus far. He is known for his conspiracy theories, his political convictions, his disdain for rap culture, capitalism, Black Entertainment TV AKA BET, which Huey has redubbed Black Exploitation TV and is tired of celebrating Martin Luther King, ‘as though he were the only black person to ever do any good.’ McGruder and Huey are also known for their disdain for Condoleezza Rice, so much so that McGruder writes her into a strip where Huey links her single status to the war on terrorism. Huey deliberates, ‘maybe if there was a man in the world who Condoleezza truly loved, she wouldn’t be so hell-bent to destroy it.’ McGruder has previously said on TV show, America’s Black Forum TV, ‘I don’t like Condoleezza Rice because of her politics. I don’t like Condoleezza Rice because she’s part of this oil cabal that’s now in the White House. I don’t like her because she’s a murderer. You know, I’m not bound by the rules of a politician or journalist. So, you know, when I say, “She’s a murderer,” it’s because she’s a murderer, and that’s all that’s necessary for me to make those statements.’

Both Huey and McGruder are in McGruders own words, ‘Cautiously pessimistic’ about Obama’s presidency, he says, ‘I believe the Federal Reserve Bank, the Military Industrial Complex, and the massive corporate interests that run this country have more power than our new President. I hope I am wrong.’ In reflection of this, in The Black President episode Huey merely sits in the background watching his fellow black people campaigning for Obama, his silence is due to the fact that, ‘Nobody listens’. His lack of excitement for the black president baffles the interviewer and irks black Woodcrest residents so much so that they try to attack him. What McGruder documents in this episode is the unfortunate truth, this electoral campaign was in fact more a racial protest, more so than it was a political campaign.

‘When McCain played on Obama’s inexperience in government, people started playing the race card. The whole election was racially charged and racially fueled. People who were against Obama’s policies were either labelled racists, or uncle toms from the black perspective of things… it’s sad really, but McGruder really pulled it off nicely,’ says Mike Lee. Mike Lee believes his political views correlate with McGruder’s, he felt that McGruder documented the impact of the electoral campaign with complete accuracy, ‘Spot on,’ he says, ‘he did an excellent job showing that no one was paying any attention to what Obama was saying or rather, not saying, in regards to his policies.’

Nevertheless beyond all the excitement around McGruder’s political approach to creativity or his creative approach to politics many black media figures struggle to accept the concept as intelligent entertainment, for many the show has materialised as a degradation of black people and the cartoon and McGruder generate a following divided by conflicting views. The nature of The Boondocks isn’t entirely dissimilar to the creator’s infamous and highly controversial temperament that frequently causes uproar, offense and humiliation within both the black and white American public.

 Larry Elder, an American talk show host and great critic of the cartoon and McGruder says, ‘Aaron McGruder draws the sometimes-funny daily comic strip “The Boondocks.”… In a recent strip, two young black characters considered renaming what they call the “Most Embarrassing Black People” award. One character suggested calling the award the “Larry Elder.” An idea clicked. How about an award for the “Dumbest, Most Vulgar, Most Offensive Things Uttered by Black Public Figures”? Maybe we could call the award the . . . “McGruder.”’However, McGruder doesn’t see Larry Elder as much different to himself in their approach to their work and is well aware of the fact that in order to make changes in the world one most certainly needs money, ‘The more ridiculous shit I say that’s hurtful and hateful and racist, the more stupid rednecks will buy more books. I don’t even get mad at them, ‘cause I get what it is…He [Larry Elder] decided to be that black guy that makes money by saying things that white people want black people to say.’

‘I find it very funny that the people who have the hardest time dealing with McGruder’s satire, are the people who truly haven’t done anything productive for blacks since Martin Luther King died. Larry Elder, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton just to name a few,’ says Mike Lee. Would The Boondocks be so controversial if it had a predominately black or urban audience – like it does in the UK?  Would Larry Elder even care so much as to critique the show or strip be it obscure to the mainstream or only satire the black underclass? It could be doubted that Elder would even want to give the show any exposure, not for the refusal of contribution to the success of a highly intelligent black male, after all it’s not the success of Aaron McGruder that troubles black public figures. If McGruder were a golfer, a conformist journalist or creator of something similar to The Cosby Show he probably wouldn’t mutter a single, negative word – in fact, when boasting of black people’s achievements in the world, he might use McGruder as an example. What does anger black middle class figures like Larry Elder is the precise and acute illustration of black society in its totality, broadcasted to the public domain and put in the line of fire.

The Boondocks, heroic and defiant in its illustration of ‘blackness’ and societal, racial and political views acts as the metaphorical mirror being held in the face of American society. Exploring the lives of black people living in a country that is the supposed manifestation of Martin Luther King’s ‘blissful’ dream McGruder unveils, fortunately or unfortunately, the black social and cultural experience in all its glory and criticism. It’s authenticity, frankness and it’s no hold bars approach is what makes it a success. The Boondocks forces people to question their own actions and reactions – even if they don’t do so out loud. Should we be laughing at Uncle Ruckus’s racial verses? Should we be laughing at the poor white teacher Mr. Petto that made a slip of the tongue and called Riley a Nigga in what he thought was a term of endearment, maybe even brotherhood, confused by the various contexts and meanings? Do we ever find Huey’s subversive nature tiresome, even though knowing he is for the greater good of the race?

The Boondocks success is McGruder’s courage and his competence to illustrate the profound issues he does and his outstanding ability to tap into his audience’s mind. McGruder uses the audiences own personal perspective as an interactive part of the experience, finding identification and familiarity with the strip or particular characters is a very fulfilling instant. Watching the short twenty minute cartoon is like being on an emotional roller coaster, the sensation of The Boondocks is beyond description and worth watching or reading just for the sheer amazement at the witness of a genius.

McGruder isn’t about whitewashing blackness or making the truth obscure to anyone – he is just extremely courageous and devoted to presenting his vision with complete veracity to anyone and everyone who cares to know, regardless of their race, class or political affiliation. However, in the words of Huey Freeman, ‘Now here’s something black people have known for a couple of hundred years, niggas are crazy, now black people may not want to talk about crazy niggas in public because white people might be listening, but I’m afraid the secret might be out.’ The Boondocks Season 4 is in production.

Otis Jenkins, A.K.A Thugnificent is Woodcrest’s very own superstar rapper. ‘Otis has found success like many negro American entertainers today, by being a professional buffoon.’

(1)  J Edgar Hoover the first Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) of the United States. He used the FBI to harass political dissenters and activists, to amass secret files on political leaders,and to collect evidence using illegal methods.

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