Friday, March 5, 2010

Family Guy or Family Why?


Cartoons are a staple in our society; grandparents, parents, teenagers, and children are all exposed to entertaining animated shows. Whether you remember George Jetson getting stuck on the treadmill walking Astro the Dog, Daffy Duck trying to upstage Bugs Bunny, or SpongeBob SquarePants ripping his pants, a cartoon character caught your interest. Some parents argue that the types of cartoons produced in 2010 that children watch are no different than those in 1930. Parents and men and women over the age of 50 are pointing the finger at networks like Fox, Comedy Central, and Cartoon Network for allowing shows like Family Guy, King of the Hill, The Simpsons, and South Park to air. Each show mentioned is geared towards an older audience, but the question is, should these shows be removed from television at the risk of a child viewing it?

Parents argue that what was once a goofy, harmless barrel of laughs for youngsters are now far too violent, sexual, racist, and mature. Really? Well, take a look at any Warner Bros. Looney Toons episodes where there is blatant racism and political propaganda. “All This and Rabbit Stew” featured a black hunter with big, pink lips, spoke with a heavy dialect and poor grammar, and was portrayed as a “sucker” each time he tried to capture Bugs Bunny. In another short, “Nips the Nips,” Bugs Bunny destroys thousands of Japanese soldiers through fighter planes and sumo wrestling. Again, there is racism present as Bugs Bunny speaks with a fake Japanese accent as he hands out ice cream bars saying, “Here you are slant eyes,” “here you are monkey face,” “here you are bow legs.” Hard to believe good ol’ Looney Tunes would produce such negative images to the American public, and get away with it. Just think; our parents, and grandparents watched this stuff without even questioning it. What was that about old cartoons being harmless? It is not just 2010 that is producing toxic cartoons.

Turning back to the present, what exactly is it about Family Guy that pisses so many people off? Seth MacFarlane, Family Guy’s creator and producer, admits to pushing the envelope. He creates comedic moments where you should not laugh because of the person’s race or gender, but do so anyway because it is so hilarious. When Peter Griffin grows a mustache, he suddenly thinks he is able to speak Italian and tries to order his deli with ridiculous jargon, “Uh scusi babita-boopy? I’m speakin Italian...Ba-bita-boopy!?! Bee-bita-boopady-baba!?” This particular scene is tamer than the references to the Spanish people who can only work jobs as maids or janitors. Consuela is the resident maid on Family Guy, who cannot speak very much English and always replies, “Meester [insert name] we need more lemon pledge, nooo…” These types of jokes are humorous to some, but offensive to others.

The media is constantly questioning what age a child can view a show like Family Guy. Faniq.com conducted a poll where parents, teenagers, and adults voiced their opinions; the unanimous response was when children become teenagers. However, there are numerous websites and magazines like Parentstv.org pushing to completely remove television shows.

On November 19, 2009, Parentstv.org teamed up with Parent Television Council’s National Grassroots Director, Gavin McKiernan to celebrate sponsorships pulling their support on Family Guy. McKiernan said, “I am here today to congratulate you and your team [Microsoft] for rejecting negative programming that is detrimental to young viewers. The November 8th Fox program ‘Family Guy Presents: Seth and Alex’s Almost Live Comedy Show’ starred ‘Family Guy’ creator Seth MacFarlane and included ‘humor’ about the Holocaust, incest and feminine hygiene. You have demonstrated to Hollywood that advertisers still have a choice in what they underwrite and Microsoft has media guidelines which it will adhere to.” Thanks to fantastic sites like Parentstv.org, Seth Macfarlane continuously faces scrutiny. No need to pay attention to any other television shows, huh? Crime Scene Investigation is totally appropriate for little kids to watch; bloody bodies, crazy criminals, and drug examination is completely acceptable. Well done, America.

Family Guy’s rise to the top was a bumpy ride. The show was canceled twice within a year; once at the end of their second season in 2000 and again during their third season in 2001 which absolutely sucks. However, Adult Swim--Cartoon Network’s late night lineup--began airing Family Guy episodes, which produced a strong fan base. Between an increasing popularity and high DVD sales, the show was revived in 2005 for season four. This show managed to survive two cancellations and bring in some of the highest ratings of 2009 for the FOX network. Obviously the farting jokes, Marlee Matlin jabs, and homoerotic references are not scaring away the entire United States population. Family Guy is going on its eighth season and preparing to bring us more jaunty Brian-Stewie duets and paraplegic humor, poor Joe.

Seth MacFarlane’s team is continuously reinventing and creating interesting episodes, as the fan base is expanding. Each person’s view of Family Guy is going to differ; several college students weighed in. Eleanor Parenteau, Bristol Community College student said, “I think it’s funny. I love coming home after a bad day and just watching some Family Guy. I do feel guilty laughing at some of the episodes though. It’s offensive and humorous. As far as parents letting their kids watch the show, it depends on how sensitive they are.”

Ashley Richard Yu, University of Massachusetts Boston, said, “I like it because I find it to be a scathing social commentary on modern society…and I have a fourth grade sense of humor. Some things are not appropriate for children, and Family Guy is one of them. Also, Seth Macfarlane is adorable and fart jokes are hilarious.”

Family Guy’s intentions are not always meant to be malicious or to see how many people they can offend in one episode. Although Seth MacFarlane does enjoy the occasional political dig at George W. Bush or an opportunity to mock South Park, there is a lot of information thrown into the audience’s laps. MacFarlane and team are poking fun at stuff that we all take so seriously or are stupid enough to believe. His episodes are trying to throw water (…or booze) into our faces to wake us up. The controversial “Juice is Loose” immediately comes to mind. The whole episode revolves around Peter Griffin befriending O.J. Simpson while the rest of the town creates a riot. In the end, after O.J. makes peace with Quahog, he stabs some neighbors and Peter comments, “I guess he did do it.” Although the jokes are spot on, you begin to think about the actual legal case and how it played out. Family Guy, I applaud you for your ability to make us think while giving us the chance to laugh at Lois slipping on lasagna and Brian thinking O.J. murdered her in the kitchen.

Before watching each episode of Family Guy the Fox and TBS Network provide a headline “Viewer Discretion is Advised” with a recommended age of 14 and up. Upon viewing this warning, the decision then rests on the parents whether or not they permit their child to view the show. Common sense is a wonderful tool which should kick in at this point; either let the child watch or make them leave. However, if you want to risk them see Quagmire talking about getting it on with two Filipino women and a man, that is fine too. Joanna Silva adds, “Anyone younger than eighth grade would probably find the show boring, mostly because if you don't know who or what they're making fun of, jokes do not make as much sense.” The amount of information children can retain is increasing all because of what they are exposed to on television. Parenthood.com explains, “After viewing 443.5 hours of children’s entertainment [cartoon], researchers found 3,488 incidents of violence – the equivalent of 7.86 violent incidents per hour. Among the other findings were: 858 incidents of verbal aggression, 662 examples of disruptive, disrespectful or otherwise problematic attitudes and behaviors, 275 instances of sexual content and 250 illustrations of offensive language.” Although these numbers are staggering, we must understand that there are choices to avoid encountering these negative images.

Simply turning off the television or changing the channel is an easy option. You can even sit down and watch an episode if you are on the fence about letting your child or teenager watch. Remember that what you read online or hear from friends cannot compare to a hands-on experience. Just because a show incorporates a dysfunctional family with sexually charged parents, a corrupt baby, a dog who is an alcoholic, a daughter who is the butt of everyone’s jokes, a son who cannot escape the evil monkey, and their crazy friends, does not mean it should be canceled. Parents, you need to take the time and do some homework. Read up on the “popular shows” airing on each network. Then, you can immediately nix a show like Family Guy if it appears on the television because you will know what they explore. Next time you see an animated show on TV with bright colors and silly characters, remember that the show might not be kid friendly, simple as that.

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