Can’t you see what I mean?
A lot was made yesterday over a couple of interviews the producers of Family Guy did following the “Trump Guy” episode. One interview with EW saw the producers taking their stance on the #MeToo movement in that they shed light on Donald Trump, who has been alleged to have committed various acts of sexual harassment, making unwanted advances on Meg even while in the White House. This isn’t a political stance, I can assure you. Family Guy has had no problems going after George W. Bush, Bill Clinton (“Bill and Peter’s Bogus Journey” is a classic), and others thereby establishing the franchise as equal opportunity offenders, in that, every one gets it the same regardless of political affiliation. As a result, it was really only a matter of time before Family Guy was going to plant their flag on the fruits of Trump humor, even in the face of growing competition in this space. Whether it’s been late-night, animation, live-action, or in print, Donald Trump might be the most written about public figure in the history of the United States of America, for better or for worse. I’m willing to bet the farm that Sunday’s episode won’t be the last time we see Trump on Family Guy, so buckle up.
In another interview, the producers of Family Guy had told TVLine that they plan to “phase out” gay jokes in future episodes of Family Guy, which also happened to be a line Peter uttered whilst talking to Trump RIGHT before the two went nuts (if memory serves me). Before we get into this sensitive subject, let me put out a few full disclosures of me.
I am NOT a homosexual. I come from a line of thinking that whatever your sexual preference is, it should not make a difference on how you are treated in this country. At the end of the day, if you are someone who pays taxes, contributes to society, and are a decent human being, you should get the same basic rights as any other tax payer in this country and that’s non-negotiable. I’m sure I have employees on my staff with wide-varying sexual preferences, personally, it’s none of my business and I don’t ask. I want a great staff that is punctual and puts out great product regardless of political affiliation, sexual orientation/preference, religious affiliation, etc, it doesn’t matter to me. The only thing that matters is putting out great content! Sometimes I agree with my staff on their various viewpoints, other times I do not. But that’s the great thing about living in America, it shouldn’t matter what your opinion or what beliefs you subscribe to, that’s on you. I am an ardent supporter of freedom of speech, expression, and the freedom to do whatever it is that makes you happy provided you aren’t bullying or ridiculing others for being themselves.
When it comes to freedom of speech, one’s intent needs to be a part of the conversation. It has to be. You’ve heard the phrase, “Taken out of context”, it’s real. So, I can absolutely understand the producers of Family Guy saying that humor that demeans LGBQT communities should be put out to pasture, however, that shouldn’t exclude those in the LGBQT of being ridiculed. I’ll give you some examples:
These are examples of incorrect humor with LGBQT themes circa 2019:
- Use of the words “fag” or any derivation to describe someone.
- Harming someone for being LGBQT or making jokes about harming someone
- Any sort of exclusion from social circles for being LGBQT
These are examples of humor with LGBQT themes circa 2019:
- Caitlyn Jenner is a sociopath. The day before she came out as trans, she was part of an automobile accident that February 2015 killed someone. This is fact. She caused an accident that killed someone but nobody talked about it because six weeks later she came out as Trans and was given an ESPY award (her reward for the Diane Sawyer exclusive) for all her troubles. If either you or me or any other regular Joe caused this accident, we AT THE VERY LEAST, would’ve been thrown in jail. Caitlyn? She gets the cover of People’s magazine. To clarify, yes, Caitlyn is trans, but she doesn’t get a pass for committing vehicular manslaughter just because she’s trans, and the producers of South Park made sure of it.
- Another area that should be mentioned…the mandating by the Canadian government to recognize the over 200 gender pronouns where, if you’re wrong, could see potential jail time deemed as hate speech or an act of aggression. In America, we don’t have this law in place…yet..but it might as well be. College campuses across the country are dictating anger and the marginalization of free speech for the purposes of a society that, for them, will hopefully have cushions everywhere that will SURE keep them safe and sound and impervious to a challenge.
Nope…sorry. That’s not the way the world works. First thing’s first, I respect people wanting to be referred to by particular pronouns, but I prefer to not refer to someone by their gender identification, and instead, ask, at the very least, their first name. I can tell you, it’s way more important to get your “name” out there rather than a pronoun. Why? Pronouns aren’t unique enough to differentiate people, and as such, create groups and constructs. For my money, I like those that stand out, not those that conform. The only way to stand out, is to make sure people recognize not “what” you are, but rather, “who” you are. It’s far more important, and from a business perspective, you’ll see more opportunities open up regardless of your social status.
So yes, popular tropes that arise from the increase awareness of LGBQT can still be used as fodder for jokes, and I think the producers of Family Guy know this. In other words, LGBQT jokes that aren’t discriminatory for being LGBQT but possibly are still part of the fabric that creates the excesses that might be silly and due for a reality check. Examples could include those that go nuts over micro-aggressions, groups cutting stand up comedians for no apparent reason, and defending Prozac as the first line of defense in treating depression.
As for Kevin Hart. The fact that we live in a society where someone’s career could be ruined because of Tweets is ridiculous and that scans the spectrum. I don’t care if you’re Roseanne Barr, Kevin Hart, or James Gunn, we shouldn’t be firing people because of Tweets. I get that there are definitely companies that have social media policies in place e.g. “while employed here, you have to subscribe to a standard”. That I get. But, if you work in an HR department and then you fire someone for Tweets that are years old, then YOU should be fired, because it was YOUR job to make sure to do a background check that would verify the incoming employee as being fit for employment. If those same people get fired AFTER posting something inflammatory while being employed, OK, fine, but you don’t get a pass for not searching up ten year old Tweets, that’s ridiculous. Roseanne Barr was nuts before you hired her, ABC, what made you think that was gonna change? I personally don’t think we should have any rules in terms of speech, expression, etc. The same laws in place that make sure people don’t say whatever they want on TV are the same laws in place that prevent nudity and crass language (PS Family Guy is SO funny uncensored). My take is that I think regardless of the circumstances, marketplace should dictate the outcome and as such television, Patreon, Youtube, and Facebook should be construed as platforms to continue to shepherd free speech, an extension if you will. It’s up to our educators and parents to decide how our children should view the world, it shouldn’t be up to celebrities and actors. Art is a reflection of society, and sometimes those reflections can be dark. People interested in art can learn a lot from the dark shadows of history. One could argue that the Civil Rights movement doesn’t happen the way it did without television. Likewise, the internet, as we are seeing from the #MeToo movement and the rise of anti-gun legislations, can be used for good to thwart evil. Again, it’s all about intent. I’ve never seen evil from Family Guy, South Park, or The Simpsons. To quote Billy Crudup’s character from Alien: Covenant, “I’ve seen the devil” as have I, and television isn’t the devil. Restricting freedoms is.
I love the way Ellen DeGeneres handled the Kevin Hart/Oscars situation. Here’s Ellen, one of the highest profiled advocates for LGBQT rights in the world, and she reached out to Kevin Hart, had a conversation, got the apology everyone was looking for, in an attempt to put the past behind us. That’s important. A way back. She didn’t have to do ANY of that. People (and the TV shows made by them) can change for the better. If you are someone so cold-hearted that you can’t forgive someone, regardless of the charges, then that’s a sad way to live. Humankind isn’t born to hate, they are taught to hate. If someone recognizes their past transgressions and is asking for a way back, helping hands ALWAYS win out against wagging fingers (I’m lovingly looking at you Billy Eichner).
In closing, I applaud the producers of Family Guy deciding to move on from LGBQT punch lines that definitely walk the tight rope between jokes and bullying, but that doesn’t mean everyone should be immune from satire. In this country, if you pay taxes, you get the same jokes as everyone else…but can we please keep Herbert and Ida?