TV

Family Guy: Season 7 Premiere

Leigh H. Edwards

Seth MacFarlane's Family Guy features gross-out humor with a mean-spirited kick.

Family Guy

Airtime: Sundays, 9 pm ET
Cast: Seth MacFarlane, Mila Kunis, Seth Green, Patrick Warburton
Subtitle: Season Seven Premiere
Network: Fox
US release date: 2008-09-28
Website
Trailer
Amazon

Seth MacFarlane's blockbuster animated series Family Guy features gross-out humor with a mean-spirited kick. Parodying a sitcom, the series portrays Peter Griffin and family as dopes who deserve to be laughed at. But when the series shifts to laugh with the Griffins, it undercuts the satire and instead reinforces... the dopiness.

MacFarlane says the show "likes to hold a mirror up to society and say, 'Society, you're ugly.' " In the Season Seven premiere, that society includes snooty upper class, both political parties, and wife beaters, as well as feminists, paraplegics, and overly attentive mothers. The show has no clear politics, except perhaps libertarianism, and by slamming all targets equally, it runs into a serious problem.

Consider the critiques of gender roles, which often veer over into misogyny. This new episode's main plotline ridicules both a brainwashed bimbo and a promiscuous bimbo, with little distinction between them. The first is a woman Brian the family dog tries to pick up at a costume party (the running joke is that no one ever notices he's a dog and he's the smartest one in the family; i.e., men are dogs). Covered in blood, she explains her costume by saying, "I'm a victim of the liberal agenda. I'm a murdered fetus." When Brian asks, "Have you ever had sex that was voluntary," she replies, "No, I have not," at which point, he backs off. He calls her "crazy" for her adherence to a strict right-wingism, but what makes her even crazier, according to the show, is that, according to her stated sexual history, she lives in a world where date rape is the norm.

Seeking a woman who "gets him," Brian meets Carolyn at a bookstore and romances her. The infant evil mastermind Stewie convinces Brian to "take it slow" and not push sex on the first date. After three weeks of chaste dating, Brian finds Carolyn having sex with Cleveland in a car. Devastated, he tries to break them up convincing Cleveland's ex-wife Loretta (who cheated on Cleveland) to win him back. More cheating follows. While Brian tries to be the perfect gentleman, his ideal woman Carolyn only wants quick sex and will betray him (and the men after him) at a moment's notice. She's a different kind of crazy, but still crazy.

Contributing to the misanthropic vibe, the series regularly features numerous bathroom jokes and pornographic gags. In this episode, the wacky "sick" moment comes when Stewie is trying to get Brian not to chase Carolyn and he starts brushing Brian's face and puts his finger first into in Brian's mouth, then into his own. It's gross, but hardly unusual here.

The caricatures are more successful when the targets are pop cultural, especially the history of TV sitcoms. Loretta spoofs stereotypical portrayals of black women as pushy wives who speak in exaggerated dialect. But again, the episode defeats itself, dragging the gag on for too long, so that even as it mocks the racism of earlier shows, its own joke turns racist.

This mix of messages is offered up in the series' opening theme song, an old-school variety show number sung by the family members> Decrying violence and sex on TV, the lyrics ask, "Where are those good old-fashioned family values on which we used to rely?" But these "family values" were always illusory. Family Guy is only telling us what we already know.

3

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less
3

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image