AVAHS – The Proud Family: Seven Days of Kwanzaa

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Plot: On Christmas Eve, Penny and her family briefly meet a homeless family. After donating some money to them, Penny invites them over for dinner on Christmas day, much to Oscar’s chagrin. The family seems a bit odd to the Prouds, but they quickly warm up to them after they share their holiday traditions on Kwanzaa.

Breakdown: Mmm, Christmas is over now. Guess I should move on to other holidays to make this a legit ‘holiday special’ instead of purely Christmas. Well, it’s Hanukkah. What animated Hanukkah specials can I review?

……Already reviewed the Rugrats one…..The day I review Eight Crazy Nights is the day they agree to donate $1000 to every animator on that movie for every review made of it as an apology for suffering through that….And…..Wow, seriously, that’s it? Can we write to someone about this because it’s a pretty raw deal for Jewish people. While I try to find some more animated love for Hanukkah, let’s tackle a holiday I’ve never touched upon in this special; Kwanzaa.

So, how many animated Kwanzaa specials are there?…..Hmmm…..Two? Again? We’re gonna have a sit down, Christmas. This is just a little ridiculous. You’re hoarding all of the animated specials; you need to stop. Now both of the Kwanzaa specials I’ll be covering are specials I have seen in the past, which makes this particularly disappointing because I really wanted to see something new, but I work with what I have.

My relationship with The Proud Family is a bit of an odd one. I did follow the series pretty regularly but looking back on it, I don’t really know why. The characters, for the most part, are kinda annoying, some downright infuriating like Dijonay and Oscar, the animation quality is pretty awful a good chunk of the time with obvious errors littering the series, something fairly unforgivable in a Disney series, the stories aren’t very memorable and the jokes are pretty meh. They had some heartfelt moments and they tackled some more serious topics that other shows were more wary of, but for the most part I could do without ever watching any episode ever again. (But oh God I will be reviewing the movie at some point. That crazy sack of weird cannot go un-reviewed.)

But it’s the holidays, and this is my first ever Kwanzaa special and The Proud Family review, so let’s give it a full review.

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We start with the Prouds doing some last-minute Christmas shopping around town. Penny whines to have a cell phone and her dad tells her it’s too expensive so she gives them a look that would earn me a few swift smacks to the backside in my youth, but this is Disney so we can’t do that.

This was one of the most common themes in The Proud Family; Penny really really wants something and Oscar won’t let her because money or she’s too young or just because he can never be reasoned with. Oscar accidentally drops a present and a man helps him pick it up. Oscar rudely denies that he needs help saying ‘he can help himself for free’ believing he’ll ask for a handout. They see the man is part of a homeless family standing nearby with a sign that says ‘We’re the reason for the season, give what you can.’

Trudy tells him to go give them a few dollars in the spirit of Christmas and much to Oscar’s annoyance (and his animation error that temporarily takes him out of his winter clothes into his regular attire.) he agrees. However, when he turns to give them the money, they’ve mysteriously vanished leaving only their sign behind. Trudy tells Oscar to go to the local homeless shelter to search for them and give them the money and Oscar, again begrudgingly, agrees and takes Penny with him to the homeless shelter.

They arrive at the shelter and Oscar decides to pretend to be giving by walking by all of the people asking for money on the street and putting a dollar in their buckets just to pull it away with a fishing line without the person noticing. I guess he justifies it by the charity people believing they got a donation, making them happy, and he gets to keep his dollar, making him happy.

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See, this is why Oscar is such an insufferable character to me most of the time. He’s not a completely hopeless asshole and he has plenty of comeuppance, but he’s still an ass most of the time. At least Penny points out how awful his trick is. It’s not even funny or clever. The ‘pull away a dollar with fishing line’ gag is very old and the only thing they do to it is make it even meaner than it usually is portrayed.

When they arrive at the shelter, they find the family and give them the money. Penny invites them to dinner on Christmas which Oscar, again begrudgingly, agrees to.

The next morning on Christmas, Penny and the others rip into their gifts like hyenas ripping into a freshly felled gazelle and Penny whines and moans that she got an obvious joke gift of a phone book, saying ‘oh look a phone book, so I can write down all those numbers I can’t call.’ Then Trudy and Oscar give her her real gift of a cell phone.

This reminds me of those videos on the Internet where a kid gets a crappy gift or ‘the wrong gift’ and they have a flip out about it, acting like their parents are assholes who ruined Christmas. Basically entitled little shits who thinks the universe owes them something for existing. Then once the parents film the reaction and have their yucks, they give the real gift to the kid and Christmas is saved.

I would not be able to give my child their real good gift if they reacted like a spoiled brat at the news of not getting the good gift they wanted. I would either put that gift away until they acted more appropriately, I’d return it or I’d give it to charity. You appreciate what you get, you little snot.

Penny’s not flipping out over her not getting her cell phone, but she is being an entitled little bitch here. She should be smart enough to take a phone book as a joke gift and put two and two together, but this is the same girl who entered a homeless shelter and asked her dad if everyone there was homeless.

After the kids open their gifts, Trudy gives her gift to Oscar even though they agreed to not exchange gifts this year and only get gifts for the kids (though that begs the question why Suga Mama, Oscar’s mother, is opening gifts). It’s a really expensive gold and diamond Wizard Kelly watch.

Oscar obviously has no gift for Trudy since he’s a cheap ass idiot. Though Trudy’s putting him on the spot by intentionally surprising him with a really expensive gift when they agreed not to get gifts for each other and outright asking where her gift is, so they’re both selfish idiots.

Look, anyone who gets caught in the ‘we said we wouldn’t do gifts for (holiday) this year’ trap, let me give you some advice. Get a present anyway. If they do end up springing a gift on you, you’ll have something to give.

If you feel like it would make them particularly happy, give it to them first. You run the risk of them not giving you a gift and feeling bad about it, but they’ll likely be happy with what you give them anyway.

Dead set on not exchanging gifts? No worry. Save the gift for another holiday or special occasion. Bonus points for giving it to them out of the blue. There is no downside to going out and buying a gift in this situation. The worst that can happen is that they don’t like it and you’ve gone so far from the purchase date that you can’t return it, which is really only a huge deal for extremely expensive gifts.

The doorbell rings and it’s the homeless family with a rancid fruitcake, coming earlier than planned. Their names, by the way, are Margaret, Joseph and their daughter Stephanie. I find it more than coincidental that the parents names are Joseph and Mary (Mary can be short for Margaret) and while Stephanie seems detached from this theme, Stephanie does mean ‘crown’ so it might be a very subtle poke at Jesus. I might be looking too much into this, but it’s not a real stretch. I don’t know why they’d have this theme in a Kwanzaa episode, especially considering, spoilers, this family is not real.

Yeah, this family are like a bunch of ghosts or something. They never adequately explain, but they’re either ghosts of a homeless family trying to spread Kwanzaa cheer or they’re the spirits of Kwanzaa.

Anyway, Penny brings them gifts for Christmas and Oscar tries to pawn off their awful fruitcake as a gift for Trudy (the fruitcake is so bad, Bobby, Oscar’s brother, kicks it into the lawn and it burns through the lawn). As retaliation, she gives his watch to Joseph. Really, Oscar, you would’ve been better off giving her nothing. You had an out with saying you agreed to not give gifts to each other this year. Giving her an awful fruitcake that she knows this family just brought in is just asking her to give your watch away.

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They see that the family is not enjoying the gifts, they’re not even opening them, so Trudy asks what’s wrong. They respond that they don’t celebrate Christmas. This line by itself would be fine, but then they have to get up on their high horse and say, word for word, ‘We got tired of buying into corporate America’s end of the year profit scam.’ These Kwanzaa ghosts just turned into hipsters.

Because yes, Christmas is exclusive to America. Because it’s only existed since corporations existed and is a big fat scam to get money. Because Christmas is all about what the stores dictate.

I am well aware that Christmas has a huge problem with consumerism, which is a common theme in Christmas specials. I think this episode is trying but failing to convey this lesson up to this point, too. I mean, yeah, Oscar’s a skinflint here, but he’s always a skinflint. Sure, Penny’s a selfish materialistic brat, but she’s always (more or less) a selfish materialistic brat. She is a teenager after all. But most people know that Christmas isn’t just about the gifts, and at its core Christmas is what you make of it. It can be a huge day for family and friends and traditions or it can be a quiet day to yourself or you can just have a day on the town enjoying the sights and sounds of the season etc.

This supposedly spiritualistic, deep and wise family fails to see the true spirit of Christmas and make of it what they want it to be. Instead they take the most cynical view on the holiday and refuse to partake in it on those grounds.

And, remember, this is a Kwanzaa special not a Christmas special. So they’re never going to show us the true meaning of Christmas or show it in a better light; they’re just going to move on to Kwanzaa and almost make an argument that Kwanzaa is better than Christmas because it holds truer values and meaning than Christmas. Don’t get me wrong, Kwanzaa is a great holiday and I’m not arguing that Christmas is inherently better. I’m complaining that this is even starting to turn into a competition by devaluing all of Christmas in that one line and kinda showing how consumerist the holiday is through the Prouds.

After more animations errors (Dijonay is laughing in audio, not even moving her mouth in the animation. Also, being technical, Joseph gave the sign from before to Stephanie to take with her and she obviously doesn’t have it here.) Penny introduces Stephanie to Zoey, Dijonay and Sticky. Zoey is a very stereotypical nerdy white girl with huge glasses, a wiry frame and plain styled red hair. Sticky is a very cool tech genius. Dijonay is the scum Satan scrapes off of his asscrack. I swear to God, if I ever get around to reviewing this show full out, the worst thing I’ll have to get through is any episode focusing on Dijonay. This series may not be the most memorable show ever, but if there’s one thing I definitely remember it’s how much of a huge bitch Dijonay is and how I wonder why Penny ever became her friend to begin with.

This next section is going to be kinda long because I really want to dissect this as much as possible to show how horrible these characters can be sometimes.

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So, obviously, the group keeps putting their feet in their mouths around Stephanie regarding her homelessness. Because these kids are seriously stupid assholes. ‘How can you be homeschooled if you don’t have a home?’ ‘You DO have friends, don’t you?’ ‘Why would you read a book when you can watch the cartoon?’ and inadvertently pressuring her into basically feeling bad that she spends so much time with her parents and doesn’t have her own room.

It quickly devolves from them putting their feet in their mouths or not realizing how crass they’re being to just outright insulting her. And of course Dijonay starts it off by asking her if her jeans are Guess or ‘Guess what?’ Responding to her saying it’s what’s inside that counts with ‘Yeah, what’s in yo’ pockets!’ Zoey laughs along with Dijonay here so I guess Satan has extra scum around the crack today. Sticky finishes off the asshole barrage by responding to Stephanie saying money’s not everything by calling her ‘loony’ and planning to ditch her by taking the other girls to the movies with movie passes he got for Christmas.

Stephanie says it’s alright if Penny goes since she can stay and do some reading. And despite the fact that Stephanie said she’d stay behind, Dijonay can’t help herself but be a bitch and say ‘Penny, why don’t you ditch ‘Beloved’ so we can go have some real fun?’

Penny says she can’t ditch Stephanie since she promised their parents they’d hang out. They decide to go without her, but not without Sticky saying ‘Well, we’ll catch you later….when she’s not around.”

Okay, look, I’ll admit, Stephanie has been a bit, for lack for a better word, cult-y. She calls her parents by their first names and parrots a lot of what Joseph says, starting several sentences with ‘Joseph says….’ but that’s all she’s done outside of saying her life is fine, she likes to read and there are more things to life than money. She’s smiled the whole time and has been perfectly pleasant.

So, if I get this right, the way they would’ve liked her is if she admitted her life as a homeless person was miserable, if she bitched and moaned about hanging out with her parents so much and being obsessed with money and materialistic things.

This is both an incredibly heavy handed way to show the stigma of homeless people, increase the consumerism/selfish angle by a million and, again, highlight how awful Penny and her friends can be. Oh and yeah, this is the only scene these characters are in this episode so they’ll never learn a damn thing or change their attitudes. Hooray.

Also, no you didn’t promise your parents anything Penny; you specifically asked your parents and hers if you could go together to the mall to meet your friends, which you didn’t even end up doing anyway. You met them on a street corner because street corners are easier to draw. This entire scene was pointless if the only goal was to make Penny exacerbated with a homeless person. You already showed her being materialistic and selfish, there’s no need to add her being annoyed with Stephanie over things that don’t even make sense.

Back at home, Oscar and Bobby try to put together a play set for Penny’s little twin brother and sister Bebe and Cece, but fail miserably. Joseph, a former construction worker, easily puts it together in seconds.

Oscar: “Well, I see why you’re still out of work. It looks rickety to me.” *sigh* And he jumps all over it, showing it’s perfectly sturdy.

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Please take note of Oscar’s expression here. He’s taking a lot of pleasure in the thought of destroying this thing to make Joseph look like a fool.

He calls the babies to the play set but gets angry when the babies would rather play with the box than the play set.

Oscar: “I work hard for the money, even harder to put the thing together and they’d rather play with the box!”

Joseph: “That’s because the box is not what’s important.”

Oscar: “Yeah, but the working hard sure is. But I guess you wouldn’t know about that.” *SIGH* Yeah, he’s homeless so he’s obviously not a hard worker. He’s just a lazy bum looking for handouts and free food even though he’s asked you for nothing directly.

Joseph: “That’s where you’re wrong. You have three beautiful kids, Oscar. You should spend more time with them.”

Oscar: “You mean quit work and hang out in the streets all day like you do!?” *SIGH* Yes, Oscar, I’m so sure that’s what he meant. Also, I’m even more sure that’s what really happened to him. He just decided on the construction site one day to quit his job and be homeless. Though, I will admit, it does seem like they purposely don’t pursue any sort of financial benefits for the sake of getting a home or anything. I guess that’s fine, but they’re acting like possessions and having a home ruin you. They only do that if you let them.

This insensitive blather carries on when Joseph asks him what Oscar’s nice home and things really amount to and asks if these nice things are really worth the stress…..Wait….no….no….he’s not REALLY arguing that Oscar should quit his job and spend all his time with his family. Right?

I mean, yeah, it would be nice if everyone could stop working and just spend time with their families, but people do need shelter and medical care and education etc. Things that require money. And his philosophy kinda falls apart when you remember that he and his family were asking for handouts at the start of the episode and happily accepted the money Oscar gave them. He wouldn’t have had that money to give if he didn’t have a fairly decent job.

Now to the women where Trudy asks Margaret about how she feels about her situation. She says it’s liberating because she used to be just like Trudy, bending over backwards to maintain the things in her life, which is reflected in Trudy washing her dishes I guess. She got tired of things controlling her life. Trudy tries to defend herself by saying she may love her house, but she’s not overly attached to anything. To which Suga Mama responds by smashing her good china, making Trudy flip out a little.

Again, this argument is placing full blame on the things. I will admit, if you live with even slight comforts like a bed or a roof over your head, it can be easy to get attached to them. But the control of that attachment is in your hands. If you have a philosophy of things being unimportant and the most important things in your life being family and spirituality, then you can still be the richest person in the world and still maintain the philosophy. You have to have the willpower to not let your things control you; things don’t inherently control people.

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I really hate this shot. It even comes with that ‘twinkle’ sound effect like she’s a little angel taking passive-aggressive shots at so many aspects of their lives.

Later, as the family is about to leave, we learn that they’re vegans, which is also a completely fine aspect of their lives and would have stayed fine if they didn’t go the extra mile.

They sickened everyone to the point of not being able to eat Christmas dinner by telling stories about how turkeys are enslaved before being pumped with steroids and slain.

Nice, guys. They invite you to dinner so you refuse to eat anything (even the vegetables?) and then ruin their dinner by making them imagine tortured enslaved turkeys and guilt tripping them up a wall. And how did it not come up that they were vegans before or during dinner? It had to have been mentioned during the turkey torture spiel. I’m sure Trudy would have fixed them something they could eat if they mentioned it. It has to make the dinner even more awkward when the only people at the table who won’t eat anything are the homeless people.

Oscar kicks them out, adding the brick in the face for more anti-greed messages by saying they ruined their ‘favorite most expensive holiday of the year’, only to have them reappear later. They legit break into his house and decorate for Kwanzaa excusing themselves by saying he invited them to spend the holidays with them and since they don’t celebrate Christmas, they decided to share their Kwanzaa festivities with them.

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First off, Penny specifically invited them for dinner not to ‘spend the holidays’ together. I must’ve forgotten that this show has as many story inconsistencies as it does animation errors. Second, even if that was the case, that’s no excuse to break in and mess with their stuff.

Penny, hearing there’s another holiday to celebrate, decides to flippantly say that she could use a headset to go with her new cell phone right in front of them. Good job. Also, if I keep getting bitch-slapped by materialism messages in this episode, I’m going to go to the hardware store and buy the most expensive hammer they have to smack myself repeatedly in the forehead.

Stephanie says that Kwanzaa’s not about gifts; it’s about instilling strong values and becoming in tune with the past, present and future. I’ll address this in a minute.

Oscar tries to kick them out again, but Trudy wants to celebrate Kwanzaa so they stick around and start the festivities. Suga Mama, acting as elder, pours a tambiko and say a word in praise of a worthy ancestor. Taking the chalice, she says ‘Habari gani’ (how are you?) and the others respond, as another animation error turns the whites of Joseph’s eyes brown, “Umoja” (unity in the family and community) Each person then takes a sip from the chalice as they say a word in praise of an ancestor who has contributed to the spirit of unity.

Suga Mama toasts to her deceased husband Percy, and Penny toasts her mother for not disowning her for acting like a spoiled brat. So there’s that car crash of character development. Don’t worry. None of this has any bearing on anything in the future. Oscar’s up next and he toasts Nebraska in hopes of winning his bet.

Stephanie then lights the first candle for Kwanzaa, Umoja for Unity.

The next day, they arrive for the second day of Kwanzaa and Trudy lights the candle in celebration of Kujichagulia or self-determination. Somehow this is reflected in Penny wearing a headband and hugging Stephanie.

The next day, Margaret lights the candle for the celebration of Ujima or collective work and responsibility, reflected in Trudy, Oscar, Suga Mama and Puff (Suga Mama’s dog) working together to change a single diaper.

The fourth day, Joseph lights the candle for the celebration of Ujamaa or collective economics, reflected in Oscar giving all of the money in his wallet to the people he bilked a few days ago.

The fifth day, Penny helps Cece light the candle for the celebration of Nia or purpose, reflected in Penny reading the bible. Sure hope there’s nothing Christmas-y in there!

The sixth day, Bobby helps Bebe light the candle for the celebration for Kuumba or creativity, reflected in Bobby playing drums and Penny painting an African mask.

The final day, Oscar lights the candle for the celebration of Imani or faith, reflected in everyone praying.

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After the festivities are over, they practice another important facet of Kwanzaa; Zawadi….friggin’ gift giving. Yup, after all of that anti-possessions stuff and specifically saying that Kwanzaa isn’t a gift-giving holiday, they suddenly remember that, hell, yes it is.

Okay, it’s important to remember that they’re giving gifts like books and African masks (that Penny made) as gifts, and typical Kwanzaa gifts aren’t like the usual Christmas stuff. They’re traditional Kwanzaa celebration items and things that were hand made, but they’re still things. They’re still gifts. They’re still possessions. This is pretty hypocritical is all.

The family leaves with all of the Prouds gaining a new view on the holidays and their lives as a whole, which, like I said, won’t have a bearing on anything after this episode. Felix, father of Penny’s frenemy, LaCieniga, and Oscar’s best friend arrives and says he had to cut his holiday in Acapulco short because his construction foreman quit on him. Oscar suggests Joseph for the job and Felix agrees to give him a shot.

Oscar and the rest of the Prouds arrive at the homeless shelter again to tell Joseph the good news. We learn Bobby frequents the homeless shelter, taking advantage of the free food. *sigh*

As I mentioned before, the big twist is that the family they’ve been celebrating Kwanzaa with doesn’t exist….mostly. There is no record of that family ever being at the shelter and no one but the Prouds have ever seen them, but there is a white family with an out of work construction worker named Joseph, a mother named Margaret and a young daughter named Stephanie who made the sign the Prouds saw at the start of this whole thing.

Hearing that Oscar has a construction job available, Joseph asks about it and Oscar gives him the information and recommendation before leaving. They wonder why someone would impersonate a homeless family, but they’re thankful for the values they helped instill in them, including appreciating their heritage and family and sharing it with others.

As the Prouds walk away in all their poorly animated glory, the sign gets picked up by an off-screen Joseph and the sign leaves little twinkly trails behind.

Not content to leave it at that simple ending, we cut to some time later where the Prouds arrive back home to see that there’s a huge tree in the yard.

Bobby: “That fruit cake I threw out the winda’…”

You threw it from the doorstep, not the window.

Anyway, the fruitcake somehow grew into a massive fruit tree and at the very top we see the family dressed in dashiki waving to the Prouds before walking off into the sun.

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Well, that was pretty long for one of these reviews. And I gotta say, this episode kinda blows.

The stuff actually about Kwanzaa is fine, but a majority of the special is holier-than-thou blatherings guilt tripping people for having stuff and money or even stuff like eating meat and dairy products. It’s also noticeably slamming Christmas and the people who celebrate it for its consumerism which is really a reflection on how Christmas has been exploited for profit, not that it was specifically designed for such a thing.

The disappointing part of this Kwanzaa special is that Kwanzaa isn’t even mentioned until the second half of the episode. Seven days of festivities and celebrations mushed into about nine minutes. They also didn’t set up the development of the characters through Kwanzaa very well.

Like I said, Oscar and Penny aren’t really acting any worse than they usually act. They’re acting better after the Kwanzaa festivities, but the festivities are a montage with only one five second shot per day barring the three second shots of the candle lightings. They literally sit the characters down and basically go through the seven main values and celebrations of Kwanzaa, just listing them off, and suddenly everyone’s changed in a millisecond, being happy and being charitable and forgetting materialistic stuff. They spent so much time on the anti-materialism part of the episode that the actual Kwanzaa special falls to the side.

Why did these Kwanzaa spirits or whatever appear to the Prouds anyway? Just because they were one of millions of people being a little greedy on Christmas?

And let me just say this straight out; nearly everyone is unpleasant in this special. Puff, Bebe and Cece and Trudy are the only people who aren’t slimeballs or complete and utter asswipes at some point in this episode. Bobby’s the only one who’s being funny, but that one exchange showing that he exploits homeless shelters for free food puts him into the slimeball category.

This family is meant to be someone you’d wish to be. They’ve valued family and spiritualism above all else. They’re not ‘prisoners of possessions’ or whatnot. They’ve seemingly reached a level of enlightenment in their lives. But these aren’t people I want to emulate at all. Their constant smug smiles, their complete lack of any real-world problems (they don’t see their poverty as a problem so neither am I) their holier-than-thou attitudes, their condescension, their rudeness; it’s another reason why I wish the Kwanzaa aspect had been more prominent because then they would’ve definitely would’ve been more tolerable for most of the special.

Oscar’s being obnoxious, Penny’s being selfish and rude, her friends are being total dickheads who don’t even learn a lesson here (and why were Zoey, Dijonay and Sticky able to see Stephanie if no one but the Prouds saw them?) Thank god LaCieniga wasn’t in this episode. I can only bet how horribly she’d react to homeless people who devalue possessions and money considering she’s a huge spoiled rich bitch.

It’s just not a very effective Kwanzaa special to me. The parts with the Kwanzaa celebrations are lacking to say the least and they spend way too much time getting to Kwanzaa. Ironically, we spend more time in Christmas Eve and Christmas than Kwanzaa. It covers the bare basics of the Kwanzaa traditions, but I really wanted to be more immersed in the holiday. Instead, I just end up almost feeling bad for buying gifts for Christmas and having a roof over my head. It’s not funny either, but then again, like I mentioned, the show rarely was.

And one of the points of this family doing this for the Prouds is to get the real Joseph a job so he can get a home and make life better for his child, when Joseph was practically chastising Oscar for doing that same thing? What’s even weirder, the real Joseph says he doesn’t want his daughter to live the way they’ve been living anymore which is why he wants the job so badly. So either homelessness isn’t the massive pile of possession-less rainbows the Kwanzaa family said it was or these people are way too attached to those possessions they don’t have.

The least I can say is they were more of less true to the holiday and I have to give The Proud Family props for doing a Kwanzaa special in the first place. It sparks interestin the holiday, but it doesn’t do much to celebrate it.

Maybe someone can put this special into a better light for me, but for now it’s just borderline aggravating.

Fear not, though. There is still one more Kwanzaa special to tackle, and it was done by the maestro of overlooked holiday specials; Rugrats. Will they have better luck? Guess we just have to have plenty of imani.

Final notes: But how stupid was that ending clip, though? A fruitcake tree that leads to the heavens where the Kwanzaa family is looking down on them? You guys sure the only things they were lighting during that week were Kwanzaa candles?

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