This is a response to a post This child is fat, and other jokes by Seth MacFarlane by Charlie Lynne from his highly influential and irreverent Ultra Culture blog. It was a well put argument that made some extremely valid points yet somehow I found myself disagreeing with the majority of what was said. I have been a reader of Lynne’s blog for around two years now and have recently started listening to him on Claudia Winklemen’s radio 2 arts show and thereby acknowledge that he acknowledge that he is an intelligent person. I so wish that one day this blog will be as smart as his but I have a long way to go. However this is my attempt to disprove what he said in that post in the nicest way possible, just because I like Family Guy so much
I am a big fan of the shows Family Guy and American Dad and I enjoy Seth MacFarlane’s humour and many a hearty chuckle has been derived from watching his shows. The question is though whether MacFarlane is a bigoted bully whose jokes are aimed at the supposedly weak, the low members of society?
Macfarlane aims to be provocative and the difference between himself and Bernard Manning, John Dimbleby, John Gaunt or Roy Chubby Brown is that these jokes are not to sympathise with the sentiments of your average bigoted Caucasian. That humour which was in its day fashionable and shamelessly permitted to broadcast supposedly paralleled the views of a then bigoted Anglo Saxon nation. I would like to think that although there are a lot of fart and dick jokes thrown into MacFarlane’s opus; his humour is aimed at a more intelligent audience than the idiots who thought Jim Davidson funny. This is a racist world in which we live in and just because a black president is in the white house does not make people not racist any more.
Stereotypes can actually be funny, and we must acknowledge that is what they are rather than reality. Lynne’s hang up in question is the scene where Sam Jones punches through the wall to the disdain of an irate Asian who was about to kill a duck. The clearly uptight man with limited English to me was not a form of mockery and in the context of the plot he had a right to be angry. That he wins a fight against the bigoted, substance abusing Sam Jones is justice in itself. And the joke is on Jones’ bigotry and his outrageous antics rather than here is an Asian who doesn’t speak English. I am sure Jones does not want people to really think that he has delusions similar to Charlie Sheen, and mistakes any Asian man for Ming the Merciless but that he is really a nice guy who is playing a subverted version of himself. In truth the sketch was pretty weak.
I remember a joke in Family Guy where Stewie and Brian walk up to a well to do African American and say something along the lines of “you are welcome ” ascertaining to the abolition of slavery in the US like the guy should be grateful. Or when a Korean stand up comedian is at the Apollo with an all black audience and makes an observational joke about two black people walking into his store where one goes one way and one goes the other implying shoplifting. We are not laughing because it is true, we are laughing because it is wrong for him to say that.
“I hear the fat kid running, that is hilarious”
Back off Susan boyle
The charge made by Lynne regarding Ted’s comic abuse of Aedin Mincks’ character was to a certain extent true. The abuse was not funny and a tad bit tiresome but this was down to laziness of humour rather than hatred of fat people. Fat people have always been used as a source of comedy ever since a man tripping over a banana peel on the floor or Chunk in the Goonies doing the truffle shuffle. The character of Ted is designed where only he is allowed to say such politically incorrect things to a kid of about ten, because the other characters are too nice.
MacFarlane humour usually consists of taboo topics around paedophilia, Christianity, rape and 9/11 and the reason it mostly works (yes sometimes he does take it too far; there does need a line to be drawn) is because it is unashamedly wrong and self reflectively highlights our own moral high ground.
Ted does not live up to the expectations grounded by MacFarlane’s animated shows. Ted the character itself is a hybrid of Roger from American Dad; a swearing, substance abusing slacker who gets to say things that we would not have the balls or the lack of morals to say. And here lies the problem that this is the joke of the whole movie; a cute teddy bear that comes to life but swears, drinks and smokes pot a lot. Of course it could have been a better movie but MacFarlane opts for the simple hackneyed message of a 35 year old man struggling to become mature; where the obvious metaphor that Ted (who represents immaturity and childhood) should be the one holding him back. It is up to the “straight-man” steady girlfriend of the piece (Mila Kunis) to make him come to his senses. It is too much cliché. I agree that humour should be able to punch up rather than down but disappointedly Ted was a thumbs down for me.