[6 July 2010]
Family Guy is not what you think. That is, it isn’t if you think what I thought at first: a crude, tactless and brutal cartoon made solely to satisfy a primal juvenile need to laugh at the offensive. No. That is not Family Guy. Is Family Guy crude, tactless, brutal, offensive and juvenile? Often, yes. However, there is something much deeper going on.
To bristle at the ugly stereotypes perpetuated by this cartoon is natural. I cringe at their sly Jews, their effeminate homosexuals and every other offensive stererotype the show parades in front of us. Yet it’s not done in this manner out of racist or homophobic spite. It’s not a marketing tool to brainwash the public with xenophobia.
Quite the opposite. By parading these stereotypes in front of us, we, thinking ourselves reasonable people, say, “That can’t be true. That’s nonsense.” Yes, it’s nonsense, and that’s the reaction that Family Guy intends to provoke. By exaggerating these racist or homophobic views to a comic level, it shows us how ridiculous they are.
We watch as the Griffins make stunted remarks such as Lois’ claim that a man can’t be sexually harassed by a woman. We know that something’s not right; this isn’t right. In the event we haven’t experienced it personally, just from watching the episode in which Peter is harassed by a woman in a manner not so far from reality, we know that men can be harassed by women, and to assume otherwise is bigotry and falsehood. Family Guy sneaks in such lessons while entertaining us, even if such lessons make us cringe while laughing.