Here at Casa la Brilliant
, we are fairly regular viewers of Family Guy
. Mr. Brilliant likes it more than I do, since the show features a fair amount of "guy humor" -- fart and sex jokes. I like it for the Brian/Stewie dynamic. Brian is one of the great cartoon characters of all time -- the erudite family dog who's smarter than the people he lives with, behaves more like a human than a dog, but then will for no reason at all chase a ball or lick his own privates. Brian is Cleo from the 1950's show The People's Choice
updated for a more ironic time. And then there's Stewie, the bratty gay aspiring song-and-dance baby of the Griffin family, who used to be homicidal towards his mother, but now is mostly just your standard id-driven baby on steroids. In fact he WAS on steroids in one show. The pair is also prone to bursting into song for no particular reason, and the songs, written for the show, are finely-crafted Broadway-style showstoppers.
The show is definitely twisted. It pushes the envelope so far that it often makes me angry, with its relentless abuse of Meg, the teenage daughter, and jokes about the libidinous Quagmire putting date rape drugs into women's drinks. But I understand what the show is trying to do, and it is some really nasty, wicked social satire.
So when the story line on Sunday involved Chris, the dim-witted Griffin son falling for the mentally-challenged girl at school, and on their first date the girl announced that "my father is an accountant and my mother used to be governor of Alaska", I said to Mr. Brilliant, "So how long do you think it's going to take?"
Now, Fox is ferocous about making sure that none of its properties shows up on YouTube, so I can't show you the clip in question, or indeed any sample clips from the show. But you have to be able to visualize Seth McFarlane sitting at home, watching Sunday night's show, and the minute that line was uttered, looking at his watch and starting to count: "One....two....three....four....", etc. Because if you watch the show, you know that's exactly what he was doing. So for the uninitiated, some Seth McFarlane snark. Here he introduces a censored episode on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim:
And like clockwork, Sarah Palin did not disappoint:
In recent weeks, Fox News analyst Sarah Palin has waged a high-profile war on the “r-word,” calling for White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel’s resignation after he called liberal activists “f-ing retarded.” Her latest target is the Fox cartoon Family Guy. In a recent episode, the character Chris Griffin dated a girl with Down Syndrome. “My mom’s the former governor of Alaska,” she told Chris. Calling it “another kick in the gut,” Palin and her daughter Bristrol took to Facebook to attack the show:
People are asking me to comment on yesterday’s Fox show that felt like another kick in the gut. Bristol was one who asked what I thought of the show that mocked her baby brother, Trig (and/or others with special needs), in an episode yesterday. Instead of answering, I asked her what she thought. Here is her conscientious reply, which is a much more restrained and gracious statement than I want to make about an issue that begs the question, “when is enough, enough?”:
When hate radio host Rush Limbaugh used the word “retarded” over 40 times on a recent show, Palin gave Limbaugh a pass because “he was using satire.” “I agree with Rush Limbaugh,” Palin told Fox News host Chris Wallace, referring to Limbaugh’s belief that he was just joking. Family Guy is “best known for combining controversial topics with off-color jokes
I can't imagine that the Roberts court would vote the same way, but John Roberts was not on the Supreme Court when Hustler Magazine, Inc. v. Falwell
was decided in 1988:
Held: In order to protect the free flow of ideas and opinions on matters of public interest and concern, the First and Fourteenth Amendments prohibit public figures and public officials from recovering damages for the tort of intentional infliction of emotional distress by reason of the publication of a caricature such as the ad parody at issue without showing in addition that the publication contains a false statement of fact which was made with "actual malice," i.e., with knowledge that the statement was false or with reckless disregard as to whether or not it was true. The State's interest in protecting public figures from emotional distress is not sufficient to deny First Amendment protection to speech that is patently offensive and is intended to inflict emotional injury when that speech could not reasonably have been interpreted as stating actual facts about the public figure involved. Here, respondent is clearly a "public figure" for First Amendment purposes, and the lower courts' finding that the ad parody was not reasonably believable must be accepted. "Outrageousness" [p47] in the area of political and social discourse has an inherent subjectiveness about it which would allow a jury to impose liability on the basis of the jurors' tastes or views, or perhaps on the basis of their dislike of a particular expression, and cannot, consistently with the First Amendment, form a basis for the award of damages for conduct such as that involved here. Pp. 50-57.
And for the record, anyone who watches the show on a regular basis recognized that while the character in question was clearly mentally-challenged, and certainly bossy and obnoxious, her mental disability was not even the butt of standard Family Guy
targeting. Sarah Palin's outrage is even more disingenuous because she has a daughter around the age of Meg, the show's teenage daughter who gets so much crap shoveled on her by the show's other characters that it's often painful. But there's not as much political hay to be made among Palin's frothing, drooling minions in defending teenaged girls from being portrayed as the butt of "ugly jokes."
Meanwhile, Seth MacFarlane, who's undoubtedly going to be invited onto every late-night talk show this week, is sitting there with that Cheshire-Cat grin. Because you can't BUY this kind of publicity. And his employers, who also employ Sarah Palin, know it.
Bread, circuses, etc.
Labels: faux moral outrage, Sarah Palin, satire, television