Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo owns the most lampooned title in movie history, a veritable pop culture meme generally denoting “cash grab sequel” ever since its 1984 release. Electric Boogaloo, which draws its name from a 1980s hip-hop dance, has been spoofed in everything from The Goldbergs to It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia to roughly 10,000 Twitter jokes.
But the term “boogaloo” has also been co-opted by far-right extremist groups, in a direct reference to the film, as a code word for their planned second Civil War — as in Civil War 2: Electric Boogaloo.
In advance of the release of a Breakin’ and Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo cast reunion video chat organized by Yahoo Entertainment, we reached out to the series stars Adolfo “Shabba-Doo” Quiñones (Ozone) and Michael “Boogaloo Shrimp” Chambers (Turbo) for their reactions on the appropriation of their film’s famed (or infamous) moniker.
“It just points to what a bizarre state we find ourselves in. This is really bizarre,” says Quiñones, an actor, dancer, choreographer and activist who does not see the title as further tarnished or in need of redemption. “I’ve seen the name being used for all kinds of things over the decades, so I wasn’t surprised; nor did it create a rise in me.”
“There’s freedom of speech, and there’s people who are gonna do what they want out there,” says Chambers, who also points to all the times the sequel’s name has been satirized. “It’s just a title, so I don’t really have a problem with people using that name. It’s free enterprise; it has nothing to do with what we did. It doesn’t have anything to do with what I stand for as a person. It has nothing to do with dance.”
The “boogaloo boys” or “boogaloo bois,” as they’ve become known, are not street dancers or B-boys. “I don’t think anyone would associate them with being dancers,” laughs Quiñones. So when it comes to Electric Boogaloo, “I claim ownership over the term with respect to its proper use, but I don’t take any ownership over a term that is being misused.”
The true nature and full scope of the underground boogaloo movement remains confounding — and seemingly more sprawling and fractured than early reports suggested.
Related Video: 3 Alleged Members of ‘Boogaloo’ Movement Arrested
Initially, boogaloo boys were painted as a white supremacist outfit bent on fanning the flames of a race war. But the presence of armed boogaloos at recent Black Lives Matter protests — in apparent support of anti-police brutality marchers in Minneapolis, Salt Lake City, Dallas, Atlanta and elsewhere — has complicated perceptions.
“They’re all kind of unified by their fascination with this kind of meme of preparing for a civil war in the United States — and as much as that, this idea of a real hatred of the police, of law enforcement, federal and local, and a desire to kind of do battle with the state,” investigative journalist Robert Evans told the CBC’s Day 6 radio show recently. “Some boogaloo boys have called for violence against protesters that they described as looters and members of the anti-fascist, or antifa, movement. Others pledged themselves — and their firearms — to protect protesters from the police.”
As CNN put it: “The boogaloos are an emerging incarnation of extremism that seems to defy easy categorization.”
While Quiñones and Chambers may not come across as particularly aggrieved by the use of their film’s title, they are not supportive of boogaloo activity.
“They want to go back to the good ol’ days when people were oppressed and women were worth less than horses. … Those people are dying out and trying to hold on to an old way of thinking,” says Quiñones. “My activist senses would’ve been triggered had they used the name in a way that would’ve associated street dancers or culture and depicted us as racists or revolutionists. At the core, I don’t care what you call it. Stupidity is stupidity, I don’t care what name they’re using.”
“Everybody’s gonna make their statement and they’re gonna make their point one way or another, but violence in any form has never solved anything,” says Chambers, a devout Christian and subject of the 2019 documentary Boogaloo Shrimp. “I’m hoping that some way or other, the humanity of peaceful resolutions will come through and we can all show our colors as children of God.”
Last week, three men in Nevada with military backgrounds who self-identified as part of the boogaloo movement were arrested on terrorism-related charges for allegedly planning to spark violence during Las Vegas protests over the death of George Floyd. In January, the FBI arrested three Georgia members of the white supremacist group known as “The Base” — also with boogaloo ties — for plotting to commit murder. That came just a week after the arrest of three other members of the hate group in Maryland.
Chambers points to the stark contrast between armed militia members calling for a violent civil conflict and the characters in Electric Boogaloo, who protest the potential razing of their community center by staging a peaceful sit-in — and by dancing, of course. “It was a neighborhood and we could’ve said, ‘Hey, call those gang members,’ and there could’ve been colors, it could have been a gang turf thing. … Even when they had the bulldozers and the zoning committee was gonna tear the building down, we started dancing, and, yeah, we were vocal, but we had a peaceful resolution.”
Based on his research, Evans says “boogaloo” was first used among a loose collective of gun enthusiasts on niche right-wing sites in the mid-2000s, but it has gained traction over the past 18 months. “I think it was a series of jokes. But I think people carried those jokes out onto social media and it started forming Facebook groups,” he told Day 6.
But why that word specifically? Quiñones has an idea: “The word ‘boogaloo’ in itself has come to be known as a word that stands for something that is unique and different, and something that is out of the ordinary.” He also says it could be a tool to recruit younger members who wouldn’t necessarily gravitate toward terms like “alt-right” or “neo-Nazi.”
“‘Boogaloo’ is just kind of a cool name. It just makes them sound cool,” Quiñones explains. “I think it’s a marketing thing. No, it’s cool to be a racist! It’s hip. As insidious as that might sound, I think it’s probably true.”
Chambers says he’s considered reaching out to the members of the boogaloo movement. “I would want them to know that, no matter how passionate they feel about certain things, they have it in their heart to look deeper at humans as brothers and sisters,” he says when asked what his message would be. “As simple or as hard as that might seem, I know sometimes when people are really angry and passionate, they take it out on everybody else. ... Hopefully they can work things out and have a peaceful resolution, that’s all I’ll say.”
Our video chat reunion with the cast and crew of Breakin’ and Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo is coming soon on Yahoo Entertainment.
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