Family Guy: 20 Years of Pandering to the Worst in Us

“Humor,” Mark Twain said, “is mankind’s greatest blessing.”

That beloved American humorist was not a religious man, so to witness the word “blessing”—a word a-drip with spiritual significance—in his writing betokens the respect the man had for his subject, humor.

Humor, laughter, gags play for a lot of money these days, especially in the world of episodic comedies wherein scripts must pack no less than 5.2 yuck-lines per minute. If even as little as 40 percent of those gags get laughs, as a comedy writer once told me, you’ve got a smash hit on your hands.

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Family Guy is unabashedly, proudly and loudly offensive. For 20 years it has furthered ugly stereotypes of gays, Muslims, Jews, Catholics, African Americans, and disabled and transgender people, among others. It has glorified the abuse and belittling of women and minorities and has elevated rape out of the gutter and transfigured it from an act of violence and degradation to a gag line.

But on November 8, the show achieved a dubious distinction. Within one page of dialogue it managed to trash not only Judaism and Catholicism as faiths, but also their adherents and their most holy practices.

There are millions, to our shame, who laugh at these reprehensible canards masquerading as gags, and millions more who, in continuing to watch, are giving leave for such cheap trolling to continue and spread.

Within one page of dialogue it managed to trash not only Judaism and Catholicism as faiths, but also their adherents and their most holy practices.

But Family Guy’s viewership has declined from a high of an average of 12 million per episode in its maiden season down to its present 2 to 4 million. Clearly its audience has its limits. So why is it still on the air, spewing away? Indeed, it’s survived two pushes to cancel, and has garnered no less than eight Primetime Emmy Awards, and is the first animated series nominated in the Outstanding Comedy category since The Flintstones.

Somebody out there is determined to keep it going, it seems, even after it’s lost no less than 75 percent of its audience. Somebody must think its message of degradation and bigotry is important enough to keep dragging it out like a drunk uncle season after season.

It must be the wise elders of the Walt Disney Company board of directors, aided and abetted by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, and other organizations charged with the quality and public merit of what we and our children see when we watch TV. These distinguished folk are, after all, the ones with the power to pull the plug on Family Guy.

They must know what they’re doing. After all, everybody likes the show—except the public.

What happened to humor as mankind’s greatest blessing? Old Mark Twain must be rolling in his grave.


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