Positive Cynicism – I’m not dumb enough to enjoy Family Guy

Aaron Davis

Aaron R. Davis

I am not a fan of Family Guy.

You are? I don’t care.

I’m tired of taking shit on the Internet from the show’s audience of socially retarded frat boys, stoners and other assorted imbeciles who become incredibly defensive and irrationally upset when you don’t think their idiot show is the funniest thing ever to grace the television. There’s room enough on the Internet for all of us, and their insistence that we all like the same things is as troubling as it is fear-based.

The reason I bring this up is a comment I received on my blog regarding my opinion on Family Guy’s Star Wars parodies. I thought the first one, “Blue Harvest,” was surprisingly funny. And I thought the second one, “Something Something Something Dark Side,” was terrible even for Family Guy. It’s a perfect example of everything that’s completely unfunny about the show: in brief, the repetition of the same unfunny gags over and over, multitudes of references to other shows and movies, empty characterizations, loooooooong sequences where the animation is nothing more than an exact replica of a scene from something else, Seth MacFarlane’s extreme laziness as a writer and swearing that’s supposedly funny in and of itself.

Also, lots of misogyny. That’s one of the things that bothers me most about this show, is how misogynistic it is. It’s supposed to be somehow cute that Quagmire is basically a rapist. Seth MacFarlane has apparently never imagined a scenario where a woman getting punched in the face by a man isn’t funny. When I see these jokes, it feels to me like someone taking a frat boy, putting his arm around the boy’s ironic, beer-and-chip-stained hockey jersey and stroking his backward-hat-wearing head while saying, in soothing tones, “Yes, women are scary. Don’t worry; they’re things, not people.”

So, it was amusing to me when I got this comment on my thoughts from someone called “austin” who seems really, really offended that I didn’t care for Family Guy.

you’re all completely retarded. the family guy star wars films are not parodies. they are stylistically referenced homages. none of you understand why seth mcfarlanes sense of humor is funny, the humor comes from the redundancy, repetition and gross inappropriate-nes. im not saying that every time peter falls, hits his knee and starts tooth-breathing, i start guffawing like a stoned teenager; but i chuckle inside a bit. when peter knocks out lois like a rocky movie its not funny cause he’s beating women (or is it) its funny because its so socially unacceptable. you know why most of you dont think its funny? because you’re to busy sitting in your overstuffed lounger with your smoking jacket and penny loafers sipping a 3 finger snifter of 12 year old scotch to appreciate potty humor. fuck off

Good stuff, eh? I just had to share it with you.

It’s the usual cry of a Family Guy fan: because I don’t find the show funny, I must be some kind of intellectual elitist, too full of myself and all of my fancy thinkin’ to relax and enjoy anything. The problem isn’t that Seth MacFarlane isn’t funny; the problem is that I’m too full of myself and my mannered, urbane lifestyle to realize that Seth MacFarlane is actually a comedy genius.

Why, I was so shocked by this accusation that I spilled my glass of sherry all over my Valentino ascot. My butler will have the hardest time cleaning the stains, but I couldn’t help myself. So, instead of turning on my amusing “TeeVee” box to that delightful Frasier program, I decided to answer the charges of this Everyman with the courage to take me to task for my, um, “retardedness.”

1. the family guy star wars films are not parodies. they are stylistically referenced homages.

Incorrect. Shaun of the Dead is a “stylistically referenced homage.” I can see why you wouldn’t think “Something Something Something Dark Side” isn’t a parody, since parodies are supposed to be funny, and it spends much more time repeating exactly scenes from The Empire Strikes Back in a hushed tone of reverence instead of actually parodying the film, but it’s still a parody. If it’s an homage, this is one of the many, many instances in pop culture where “homage” simply means “acknowledged rip-off.”

2. none of you understand why seth mcfarlanes sense of humor is funny, the humor comes from the redundancy, repetition and gross inappropriate-nes. im not saying that every time peter falls, hits his knee and starts tooth-breathing, i start guffawing like a stoned teenager; but i chuckle inside a bit.

This is the part of the — let’s be charitable and call it an argument — that I hate the most: the assertion that the very things that make the show unfunny (repetition, redundancy, faux-inappropriate humor) actually make the show incredibly hilarious.

Watching an episode of Family Guy is actually, in my experience, frustratingly insulting, because it’s the same thing over and over again. It’s just all chopped into bits, asides, random gags and non-sequiturs. How much actual plot content is there on this show anymore? I’m not talking about the first two or three seasons, when the show was actually funny. I’m talking about now, when the show can’t go 45 seconds without a reference gag or something instead of telling a story. They must write about six minutes of plot material and then go to some kind of stock list of references to 80s movies and 70s television and just see what they can randomly throw in that’s like the time something else happened. It’s so much easier than real writing, isn’t it?

It basically goes like this: Plot. Scene from an 80s movie with Peter thrown in for no reason. Set-up for the episode. Random bit. Scene from Sesame Street or something but with Stewie carrying a gun around to show you how Family Guy is so much tougher than the lame shit you grew up with. Joke about violence or woman getting punched. Attempt at a social point that falls flat because it’s coupled with a joke about how retarded Peter is. Cleveland very slowly falls from an incline. Opportunity for Adam West to ramble or the gay dude to say “I knoooooww” or whatever lame voice Seth MacFarlane did in the shower that morning and his giggling staff of pot-smoking writers laughed at uncontrollably for 15 minutes. Lots of repetition of something. Someone hits their shin and breathes in slowly for two entire minutes. Stewie makes fun of Brian’s novel. Little bit of plot. Peter and the Chicken fight for seven minutes. Back to plot. Insertion of an Internet meme that was kind of funny 18 months ago, but from which the Internet has long since moved on. Reference to some commercial from 1983. Pointless “character” moment featuring a bit player rambling on about something or other to fill time. Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Conway Twitty. “Edgy” bit making fun of feminism or religion or abortion or something, followed by a musical number that goes on for far, far too long but at least manages to rhyme words with “bitch” and “ass.” Unfunny joke about vaudeville. The end.

Yes … it’s a genius formula. Especially when your audience apparently finds great comfort in seeing the exact same thing over and over and over again.

(Scene not shown: Seth MacFarlane laughing all the way to the bank that people will watch the same ten gags on every episode and still buy the DVDs. It’s easy to make stoners laugh, isn’t it?)

3. when peter knocks out lois like a rocky movie its not funny cause he’s beating women (or is it) its funny because its so socially unacceptable.

This is my absolute favorite part of this comment.

It’s amazing to me how part of the popularity of Family Guy seems to be that it takes its viewers and — by pretending to insult an imaginary audience of bluenoses, intellectuals, moralists, religious people and social activists — turns them into egotistical anti-intellectuals who seriously believe that Family Guy is some sort of empowering force for the “common people.” It’s Sarah Palin’s entire political strategy: make someone feel smart by celebrating their ignorance, then paint a false picture of the people who don’t like the same things they do, turning them into “real America” versus a bunch of liberals.

But what’s funny is that Family Guy is so damn gutless in its humor. The Simpsons may not have been very funny for the last several years, but at least it always had the courage to tear into its audience. That’s real edge. Family Guy simply nurtures its audience’s pretensions and fears by taking shots at groups of people who don’t actually watch the show. That way a Family Guy viewers gets to feel all smug about how some feminist or moral crusader somewhere must be really cheesed off by the way Seth MacFarlane just zinged their uncool attitudes. Take that, society!

Comments like this are born from the way this show revels in its own awfulness and, by design, makes its viewers feel brilliant. They’ll never be challenged by actual humor because they prefer the idiocy, and that’s what MacFarlane gives them.

That’s why this part of “austin’s” comment is my favorite. I love that he thinks what’s so funny about the fearful, childish, sexually immature, terrifyingly casual misogyny of Family Guy is that it’s somehow a challenge to social conventions. That it’s not at all Seth MacFarlane playing up to an audience that is scared of the social rules of 21st Century interaction and takes out their frustrations with feminism by laughing at women getting punched, but some kind of edgy commentary, some sort of attempt to push the envelope of what’s acceptable in humor.

But then he has the gall to add “or is it,” which completely negates his entire point. He just wants to leave the door open to the idea that watching women get clocked and then fall over unconscious could just be really, really hilarious. But in case I don’t realize how funny it truly is, he’ll find other ways to justify it by claiming it’s something else.

4. you know why most of you dont think its funny? because you’re to busy sitting in your overstuffed lounger with your smoking jacket and penny loafers sipping a 3 finger snifter of 12 year old scotch to appreciate potty humor

I have to say, I’ve never had someone attempt to insult me by telling me — and derisively, at that — that I wasn’t dumb enough to get something. That is a new one. And given all of the times I’ve been taken to task for being a fan of Kevin Smith or Judd Apatow, it’s kind of refreshing. But it did make me laugh longer and harder than Family Guy has in the last decade.

Oh, and also: you drink brandy from a snifter. Scotch is a whiskey; you drink it from a tumbler. Just FYI.

Aaron R. Davis lives in a cave at the bottom of the ocean with his eyes shut tight and his fingers in his ears. You can contact him at samuraifrog@yahoo.com.

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Comments(7)
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