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I was quite surprised not to find a thread on Family Guy. I'm not a regular viewer, but I've laughed quite a lot at the episodes I've seen. Anyone here a fan? I caught last Sundays season premiere... and it contained the following....

Most. Tasteless joke. Ever.

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I love it. And to answer the question in the sub-header, I don't think that it pushes it too far. In fact, that it makes me uncomfortable and makes me laugh about that is why I love the show. There are few programmes out there that really just go for it and leave it up to the viewer to decide whether or not they want to watch this. I appreciate that we're given the option and I also appreciate that it makes me laugh at my own blinkered opinions.

Occasionally it makes me groan with disgust, but that's more to do with the body humour than anything that could be perceived as offensive. I appreciate that it's not for everyone.

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Sarah Palin doesn't understand satire. She is offended by Family Guy but defends Rush Limbaugh...and she whored out her kids whenever it was politically convent (but pretended to be horrified when the results were not what she had hoped for). So, it's hard for me to take her indignation all that seriously.

Edited by Nezpop

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Sarah Palin doesn't understand satire. She is offended by Family Guy but defends Rush Limbaugh...and she whored out her kids whenever it was politically convent (but pretended to be horrified when the results were not what she had hoped for). So, it's hard for me to take her indignation all that seriously.

Was that meant to answer my question?

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In a partial answer to your question, I think there is a big difference between Family Guy and South Park. Family Guy tends to be far more specifically ad hominem in their satire than South Park, which means they often single out these current hot button issues related to specific political and pop culture figures and mine them for quick jokes. It is easy comedy for an rss fed culture.

South Park does often satirize figures like Michael Jackson or R. Kelly or Tom Cruise, and they are every bit as brutal when they do so. But in general, South Park satire happens more at the level of the irrational language of stereotypes and all the sneaky ways we use media to distance ourselves from ridiculous assumptions. South Park does an excellent job at challenging the ease with which we use words and epithets. Family Guy lacks this intelligence. I wouldn't say they push too far, which would imply that there is some sort of political gravity in what they do. I would rather say that Family Guy is opportunist comedy.

So that Family Guy bit is rough, but I do wish South Park would make an episode about Sarah Palin, Rahm Emanuel, and Andrew Sullivan getting entangled in the etymology of "retard." The flashes of hysteria in the Daily Dish about this issue are every bit as schizophrenic as Palin's responses.

Edited by MLeary

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Was that meant to answer my question?

Yes. I don't know that I feel they go to far, and Palin's outrage at the media always seems so calculated and fabricated that I am not sure they have gone any farther than in the past.

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Yes. I don't know that I feel they go to far, and Palin's outrage at the media always seems so calculated and fabricated that I am not sure they have gone any farther than in the past.

I don't understand what Palin's reaction has to do with anything. It is a question about the show, not a question about Palin.

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Yes. I don't know that I feel they go to far, and Palin's outrage at the media always seems so calculated and fabricated that I am not sure they have gone any farther than in the past.

I don't understand what Palin's reaction has to do with anything. It is a question about the show, not a question about Palin.

Hmmm..well, you linked to an article about Palin's response. On a show that mines "humor" from elderly pedophiles I am failing to see this as "to far." The show is about revelling in Bad Taste.

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Hmmm..well, you linked to an article about Palin's response. On a show that mines "humor" from elderly pedophiles I am failing to see this as "to far." The show is about revelling in Bad Taste.

I linked to a blog post where a video clip of the show could be viewed, along with commentary from Bill O'Reilly that also was not what my question was about. I could have clicked through and linked directly to YouTube, I guess. OTOH, the blog post has some interesting comments discussing the question that I did ask, which was about the show, not Palin (or O'Reilly).

FWIW, the blogger's own comment was as follows:

Perhaps it is partially because I have an autistic son, but words literally fail me to adequately describe people evil enough to mock a handicapped child because they differ with the mother of the child politically.

I sympathize with that sentiment in principle. It seems at least open to question, and some of the combox commenters do question, whether the show actually "mocked a handicapped child." The character in question is obviously not a direct representation of Trig Palin (wrong sex).

In the end, the take I find most persuasive is that of "DarwinCatholic":

The gag here (to the extent that there is one) appears to be that Chris goes out on a date with a somewhat bitchy and demanding girl who speaks in a “retard” voice. When he asks about her family, she explains that her mother is the governor of Alaska. I guess one could see this either as a “boy, they all seem to be retards in Palin’s family, don’t they” joke or as “oh, Down Syndome, heh heh, Palin, heh heh” joke. Either way, it seems to get what little steam it has from associating mental disabilities and disagreeableness with Palin.

Now, I suppose one could say, “Why is it offensive to associate Down Syndome or retardation generally with Palin’s family? She has a child with Down Syndrome, but there’s nothing shameful in that.” This would be true in a limitted sense, but it ignores the fact that in the instance in question it’s clearly being treated as something which is humorous or derisive, not just a “Oh, by the way, did you hear a child of the former Alaskan governor has Down Syndrome?” This is where the fact that Palin has been routinely mocked by the left for having a child with Down Syndrome would come into play.

"oh, Down Syndome, heh heh, Palin, heh heh" seems to me to about sum it up. So I think it's fair to say that the "satire" is actually at the expense of a real two-year-old with Down Syndrome. So I think it's pretty despicable.

BTW, interesting quip from "Art Deco":

I seem to recall that Joan Rivers was interviewed in 1983 or thereabouts and said her aim was to be “the meanest bitch in America”. Asked if any topic was off limits, she said, “deformed children…and religion I’m very careful with…”. Well, that was then.

FWIW.

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In the end, the take I find most persuasive is that of "DarwinCatholic":

This is where the fact that Palin has been routinely mocked by the left for having a child with Down Syndrome would come into play.

Routinely mocked for having a child with Downsyndrome? By whom on the left? That's a pretty loaded accusation. Family Guy is one of the few shows I am aware of that has made any such mockery. I bristle as the suggestion they are somehow especially *evil* in light of this...maybe poor decision makers and guilty of ineffective satire...but outright evil?

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Routinely mocked for having a child with Downsyndrome? By whom on the left?

How about this from HuffPo? Or this and this from Wonkette? Or Sullivan's Trig Trutherism, which is in a class by itself.

Family Guy is one of the few shows I am aware of that has made any such mockery. I bristle as the suggestion they are somehow especially *evil* in light of this...maybe poor decision makers and guilty of ineffective satire...but outright evil?

I'll stand by what I said, that it's pretty despicable.

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I'm not really that familiar with the show so can't comment, but I am a little bemused that the blog moderators will not allow anyone to even attempt to make a reasoned defence.

Matt

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I'm not really that familiar with the show so can't comment, but I am a little bemused that the blog moderators will not allow anyone to even attempt to make a reasoned defence.

Yeah, that seems like a mistake to me too, although I didn't read restrainedradical's comment so I don't know exactly what form the defense took. FWIW the commenter who goes by Blackadder has been questioning the anti-Trig interpretation and has not been prevented from doing so.

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I'm no fan of FAMILY GUY (I think it's cheap jokes and paint-by-numbers gags were effectively satirized by the far superior SOUTH PARK in the "Cartoon Wars" episodes, and pretty much echoes my gripes), but I think people have chosen the wrong hill to die on, so to speak, with this latest taking-offense. I understand why people feel the outrage politically motivated, because no matter how despicable it is, FAMILY GUY has had just as offensive bits in the past (at least to my perspective). Where was the outrage then? It seems that it only catches the attention of the media when it can be spun into some kind of proof of the Left's disdain for common decency.

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Routinely mocked for having a child with Downsyndrome? By whom on the left?

How about this from HuffPo? Or this and this from Wonkette? Or Sullivan's Trig Trutherism, which is in a class by itself.

Trig Trutherism is the one that stood out. It's also one that died quickly...considering how many high level Republicans will still pay lip service to the Birthers? The second Wonkette link is not mocking Trig. It's mocking his parents who "dressed him up like a political party symbol to be carried around at snarling political events." It's mocking Palin, but hardly actually mocking Trig. The first Wonkette link is debatable-as it's tied to the Trig Trutherism. Which had, again, a very short lifespan.

Otherwise, of the examples, nothing that suggests people on the left routinely mock Trig.

Family Guy is one of the few shows I am aware of that has made any such mockery. I bristle as the suggestion they are somehow especially *evil* in light of this...maybe poor decision makers and guilty of ineffective satire...but outright evil?

I'll stand by what I said, that it's pretty despicable.

After giving it a lot of thought. I disagree. The fact that anyone is offended by this "joke" suggests people are trying to find something to be outraged about. Nothing about the sequence portrays people with Downs Syndrome in a negative light. Heck, it doesn't portray Palin in a negative light. This is mock outrage at it's finest.

Fact is, Family Guy did cross a line... this is a joke that should have died in the writers meeting. I mean, it's not really taking a shot at Palin or Trig. It's not a funny joke, and it lacks any point. That's what people should be pointing out. I watched the joke and just thought... "Huh?" It lacks a point, so it is epic fail. But it's critics are reacting as if it was some biting cruel joke at Trigs expense. It's a safe "joke" with no actual laugh line!

Also, I know you challenged my early comments as not being relevant, but your question of "Did they go to far" is completely meaningless without the context of Palin and her reaction. If you seperate Palin from the issue? They didn't even dance near "offensive".

Edited by Nezpop

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Any show that gives Palin an opportunity to put her shrill self back in the news has definitely "gone too far". I'm sorry, but as a former admirer of sorts of Palin's, I've really grown tired of her efforts to out-politically-correct the politically-correct on this and other issues. And stunts like this Family Guy thing are precisely the sort of thing for which expressions like "Don't, it only encourages them" were coined (with "them", in this case, being Palin).

I'm with MLeary on the "retard" thing. And I say this as the parent of an autistic child who was once told by a psychologist that his son almost showed signs of "borderline retardation" on portions of his aptitude test (or whatever it was called).

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‘Family Guy’ Voice Actor Says Palin ‘Does Not Have a Sense of Humor’

One person who supports the “Family Guy” staff is Andrea Fay Friedman, the 39-year-old actor and public speaker who played Ellen in that episode. Like the character, Ms. Friedman also has Down syndrome.

New York Times, February 18

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That kind of response often reminds me of the Seinfeld episode where the dentist converts to Judaism for the jokes.

(Which means: I don't understand the logic of saying "I have a certain condition that people often make jokes about, but I am okay with that, so you should also be okay with that.)

Edited by MLeary

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After giving it a lot of thought. I disagree. The fact that anyone is offended by this "joke" suggests people are trying to find something to be outraged about. Nothing about the sequence portrays people with Downs Syndrome in a negative light. Heck, it doesn't portray Palin in a negative light. This is mock outrage at it's finest.

Fact is, Family Guy did cross a line... this is a joke that should have died in the writers meeting. I mean, it's not really taking a shot at Palin or Trig. It's not a funny joke, and it lacks any point. That's what people should be pointing out. I watched the joke and just thought... "Huh?" It lacks a point, so it is epic fail. But it's critics are reacting as if it was some biting cruel joke at Trigs expense. It's a safe "joke" with no actual laugh line!

I appreciate your thoughtful disagreement, and I don't object to your analysis of Palin's reaction. I don't appreciate your broad-brush psychological assessment that "The fact that anyone is offended by this 'joke' suggests people are trying to find something to be outraged about." I'm not trying to find something to be outraged about, and yet I find the "joke" offensive.

You're quite right to note that the "joke" has no point. So what? Screwtape's observations about this style of "humor" are still apropos:

Only a clever human can make a real Joke about virtue, or indeed about anything else ... Among flippant people the Joke is always assumed to have been made. No one actually makes it; but every serious subject is discussed in a manner which implies that they have already found a ridiculous side to it. If prolonged, the habit of Flippancy builds up around a man the finest armour-plating against the Enemy [i.e., God] that I know, and it is quite free from the dangers inherent in the other sources of laughter. It is a thousand miles away from joy it deadens, instead of sharpening, the intellect; and it excites no affection between those who practice it.

Much of that almost sounds as if it could have been written specifically about Family Guy.

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SDG, the problem with trying to use the Screwtape quote in this context is that Sarah Palin isn't a serious subject to begin with.

MLeary wrote:

: I don't understand the logic of saying "I have a certain condition that people often make jokes about, but I am okay with that, so you should also be okay with that.

I didn't get the sense that that was what the actress was saying, though. What she explicitly says is that she was NOT having a laugh at the expensive of Trig, but rather, she was having a laugh at the expense of Sarah.

I agree that the laugh is rather weak and pointless, but it seems to me that the bigger issue here is that Sarah Palin was once again trying to cast herself as the politically-correct defender of something-or-other (sometimes it's women, sometimes it's children, sometimes it's people with Down syndrome), and now the actress at the heart of this particular debate has said, "Um, I've got Down syndrome myself, so I don't NEED your defense, thankyouverymuch." Sarah can no longer claim to be speaking on behalf of the entire Down syndrome community, as it were -- and the fact that she's a relatively new arrival to the community (and even then, only by proxy) makes her much less convincing as a representative of this community than this 39-year-old actress is.

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

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I appreciate your thoughtful disagreement, and I don't object to your analysis of Palin's reaction. I don't appreciate your broad-brush psychological assessment that "The fact that anyone is offended by this 'joke' suggests people are trying to find something to be outraged about." I'm not trying to find something to be outraged about, and yet I find the "joke" offensive.

I am sorry, I realize plenty of people might be genuinely offended. But why? As I note, it's not an attack. It's not mean in any way. Why is it offensive? Really, it seems to me that people are coming up with what the joke means without really finding out the point from the people who made it. The offense people are expressing doesn't actually match up to the supposed joke at all.

You're quite right to note that the "joke" has no point. So what? Screwtape's observations about this style of "humor" are still apropos:

Only a clever human can make a real Joke about virtue, or indeed about anything else ... Among flippant people the Joke is always assumed to have been made. No one actually makes it; but every serious subject is discussed in a manner which implies that they have already found a ridiculous side to it. If prolonged, the habit of Flippancy builds up around a man the finest armour-plating against the Enemy [i.e., God] that I know, and it is quite free from the dangers inherent in the other sources of laughter. It is a thousand miles away from joy it deadens, instead of sharpening, the intellect; and it excites no affection between those who practice it.

Much of that almost sounds as if it could have been written specifically about Family Guy.

No disagreement. The earlier analysis regarding Family Guy and South Park was very dead on. The Family Guy is lowest level satire, rarely challenging the viewer with it's assault on the senses. While I take Peter's point about going to far in it gives Palin something to go on TV and talk about... nothing about this "joke" strikes me as cruel... again, the character is not presented in a derogatory way, which is actually kind of surprising to me. Their sensitivity meters seem a bit broken at Family Guy. Always have, and they have always been over the top. That such a tame clip is causing such offense for people is mystifying to me. Before I got to see the clip, I though maybe it was a really harsh charicature of people with downs syndrome. I am failing to see why it is raising the ire it is.

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SDG, the problem with trying to use the Screwtape quote in this context is that Sarah Palin isn't a serious subject to begin with.

I realize you're probably being semi-facetious, Peter, but of course every human being is a serious subject. Lewis wrote about that too, in another essay in which he objected to flippancy on precisely that grounds, but I'll pursue that line of thought no further now.

More to the point, the "humor" value of the "joke," as has been noted, seems to take the form of "oh, Down Syndome, heh heh, Palin, heh heh." It's not possible to say that it's a joke about Palin and not also about Trig and Down syndrome. It is a "joke," of the lame flippant sort that it is, at the expense of a two-year-old with a genentic disorder. If you don't think it's repellent, then you don't. Like humor, moral boundaries can divide people.

I agree that the laugh is rather weak and pointless, but it seems to me that the bigger issue here is that Sarah Palin was once again trying to cast herself as the politically-correct defender of something-or-other (sometimes it's women, sometimes it's children, sometimes it's people with Down syndrome), and now the actress at the heart of this particular debate has said, "Um, I've got Down syndrome myself, so I don't NEED your defense, thankyouverymuch."

While my brief is not to defend Palin, I thought Palin objected to the joke principally as the mother of a two-year-old. Unless the actress is a mother and a well-known public figure whose children have been subjected to tasteless exercises in satire, I'm not sure she's in a position to play the "me, too" card.

I am sorry, I realize plenty of people might be genuinely offended. But why? As I note, it's not an attack. It's not mean in any way. Why is it offensive? Really, it seems to me that people are coming up with what the joke means without really finding out the point from the people who made it. The offense people are expressing doesn't actually match up to the supposed joke at all.

It's not nice, at any rate. The character is prickly and off-putting (not terribly characteristic of people with Down syndrome, FWIW). Also easily offended, which one could argue adds a layer of Palin satire as well as meta-irony to the kafuffle. But in the spirit of the Screwtape quote I contend that the gag doesn't need to actually articulate the attack, it's enough to gesture at it and snicker.

FWIW, the shallowness of the "joke" does mean, IMO, that Palin's reaction was ill-advised as well as overreactionary. But, again, I'm not defending Palin.

Edited by SDG

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It's not nice, at any rate.

The character is prickly and off-putting (not terribly characteristic of people with Down syndrome, FWIW).

Oh, I've met some folks that meet that criteria. Heck, I work in retail and have had folks with Down Syndrome whom I've never met walk up out of the blue and insult me. What, there is only one personality type for people with downs syndrome? Considering 90% of media portrayals are of the cuddly variety, having ONE be "off putting" is neither unkind or unfair. Plenty of characters without Down Syndrome have been seen as loveably off-putting through the years-especially on comedy shows.

Since the joke lacks any barb of actual cruelty... without an actual point? It's hard to conclude what they were going for. So far, we have nothing but conjecture.

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SDG wrote:

: I realize you're probably being semi-facetious, Peter, but of course every human being is a serious subject.

Of course. But we're not talking about Palin the "human being" here, we're talking about Palin "the former governor of Alaska". As far as I know, Family Guy never cited Palin by name or as a "human being" in this episode; instead, they made a reference to a "former governor of Alaska". And it's this political persona that I and many others have a very hard time taking seriously.

: More to the point, the "humor" value of the "joke," as has been noted, seems to take the form of "oh, Down Syndome, heh heh, Palin, heh heh."

Um, well, no. "Palin, heh heh," yes. But "Down Syndrome, heh heh"? Really? The YouTube clip that you linked to (which I'm embedding below) doesn't crack any jokes about Down Syndrome. Only someone who is so supersensitive about Down Syndrome that any depiction of it whatsoever is presumed to be an insult would have that reaction to this clip:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eNx_nd_f_j4

: It's not possible to say that it's a joke about Palin and not also about Trig and Down syndrome.

Sure it is. I and many others have said just that. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that what counts is not WHAT the joke is about but HOW it is about it. Those who say that this joke is somehow made "at the expense of" Trig have to demonstrate HOW the joke is made at Trig's "expense".

I said earlier that the joke is lame and pointless, and I still stand by that. But I'm beginning to wonder if the joke may have served a meaningful point after all, inasmuch as it riffs (however inadvertently) on Palin's claim to somehow speak for all people with Down Syndrome and/or their relatives. If "Down Syndrome" immediately makes people think of "Sarah Palin", then I can certainly understand why someone who has Down Syndrome would want to mock that link while also publicly distancing themselves from that link.

: While my brief is not to defend Palin, I thought Palin objected to the joke principally as the mother of a two-year-old.

I really don't know how to respond, on that level. I was appalled at the way Andrew Sullivan and others went after Palin and her children during (and after) the election campaign, but I also don't see how anyone can deny that Palin has used her children for political purposes, from Bristol's pregnancy (which, to Palin, often seemed more like an opportunity to Send Kids A Message rather than something that ought to have been kept relatively private) to the feud with David Letterman (where Palin seemed to almost wilfully misunderstand the point of Letterman's joke just because it would give her even more to be outraged about). So let's just say I'm not inclined to give her the benefit of the doubt on this one.

: FWIW, the shallowness of the "joke" does mean, IMO, that Palin's reaction was ill-advised as well as overreactionary. But, again, I'm not defending Palin.

Fair enough.

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