Does Family Guy cross the line?

By Laura Crowley

Arts & Life Editor

For those who find humor in the crude and grotesque, Family Guy is a godsend. In its 22-minute episodes, the animated television series confronts controversial cultural topics with humor that is consequently edgy and frequently offensive. As a result, the show’s shocking humor has resulted in harsh protests, lawsuits and periodic cancellations while simultaneously launching the show into immense stardom.

The show makes many daring references to sensitive topics. In “Quagmire’s Dad,” a character named Ida, formerly known as Dan, undergoes a sex change operation that is the object of disgust for protagonists Peter and Lois. In reaction to this episode, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation released a statement noting that the organization “has serious concerns being voiced from members of the community” that “GLAAD’s Entertainment Media Team is addressing these with Fox.”

In “Extra Large Medium,” director McFarline poked fun at Sarah Palin’s mentally challenged son, Trig. In reaction, Bristol Palin, Sarah’s daughter, said “If the writers of a particularly pathetic cartoon show thought they were being clever in mocking my brother and my family yesterday, they failed. All they proved is that they’re heartless jerks.”

Unsurprisingly, Family Guy has caught the attention of organizations that have no patience for stunts that offend. Most notable is the Parents Television Council, who in 2000, 2005 and 2006, listed Family Guy on their list of “worst prime-time shows for family viewing” and labeled the show the “Worst TV Show of the Week” 30 times. In a desperate effort to eliminate the show for good, the PTC has also filed two formal indecency complaints to the United States Federal Communications Commission regarding the show’s crude content.

Family Guy has also been protested and sued on the basis of anti-Semitic, anti-Catholic, anti-LBGT and anti-feminist sentiments, among others, with few successes in court.

The offended reactions of many organizations beg the question as to whether Family Guy goes too far. While these organizations would say the show’s masterminds David Goodman and Seth MacFarlane undoubtedly cross the line, it seems this allegation would be, and has been, denied  on legal bases.

When Carol Burnett filed a $6 million lawsuit on the basis of trademark infringement, Goodman and MacFarlane were as self-assured as ever with the First Amendment on their side. With this, the lawsuit was entirely rejected and no apologies were issued.

In the wake of instances like this, it seems that Goodman and MacFarlane still don’t care about hurting feelings. Now in its 10th season, episodes are as shocking as ever. Goodman warns that the show is “absolutely for teenagers and adults” with its TV-14-DLSV rating but makes no apologies for crude content as he watches his offensive humor attract viewers and fill his wallet.

Even if Family Guy does hurt feelings, it seems that Goodman and MacFarlane offend in the name of indifference rather than in malicious hatred. The producers subject nearly all ethnicities, religions, age groups and genders to harsh ridicule and as a result, do not single out any particular group. With plans for future seasons, you may be offended next.

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