Criticism Of Family Guy


The American animated sitcom Family Guy has been the target of numerous complaints concerning taste and indecency. Parents Television Council has expressed moral opposition to the series, and filed complaints with the Federal Communications Commission.

Criticism also originates from animators concerning quality and originality. While most attention has been given to the moral criticisms (e.g. crude and blue humor), stylistic content and thin storytelling with a loose plot and overuse of "cutaway sequences" have drawn criticism. The animated sitcoms South Park and The Simpsons have both satirized the show's writing and organization.

Moral controversy

Controversies have arisen due to the show's use of jokes and satire. The "You Have AIDS" sequence, in which a barbershop quartet sings and dances around the bed of a man with end-stage AIDS about his diagnosis, drew protests from several AIDS service organizations. In his 2006 book The Decency Wars: The Campaign to Cleanse American Culture , author Frederick S. Lane described Family Guy as among several television sitcoms that premiered in the 1980s and 1990s he felt were "aimed at the darker side of family life".

Parents Television Council

L. Brent Bozell III, founder of the Parents Television Council, has frequently criticized Family Guy through his organization and syndicated column on what he perceives contains indecent content and anti-Christian themes.

The Parents Television Council, a non-profit watchdog group, has published critical views of Family Guy . In May 2000, in its weekly "E-Alert" email newsletter, the PTC launched a letter-writing campaign to the Fox network to persuade the network to cancel Family Guy following a return from a long hiatus in the show's second season, due to what the PTC claimed were "strong advertiser resistance and low ratings".

Family Guy made the PTC's 2000, 2005, and 2006 lists of "worst prime-time shows for family viewing", with over thirty Family Guy episodes having been chosen as "Worst TV Show of the Week" for reasons of profanity, animated nudity and violence. The Council has cautioned parents that children will be attracted by the show because of its animated format while asserting that the series is suitable only for adults. Family Guy was also named the worst show of the 2006–2007 season by the PTC. The PTC has also objected to Fox scheduling Family Guy during early primetime hours due to their concerns of children being likely to watch the series.

Additionally, the PTC, which has generated most of the indecency complaints received by the United States Federal Communications Commission, has twice filed formal FCC complaints about Family Guy . The first indecency complaint, following the January 2005 rebroadcast of "And the Wiener Is...", was denied by the FCC on the grounds "that because of the absence of explicit or graphic descriptions or depictions of any sexual organ, along with the absence of shocking, pandering, and/or titillating effect, the episode ... is not patently offensive." In November 2005, during "sweeps" period for the 2005–2006 television season, the Parents Television Council launched a campaign for its members to file indecency complaints to the FCC for the episode "PTV", the Family Guy episode that satirized the FCC, for its sexually explicit humor. However, the PTC had expressed doubt over whether they would formally complain to the FCC over that episode; the PTC has not logged any complaints filed through their website. In fact, that episode was highlighted in the Fox special TV's Funniest Moments that was broadcast on June 1, 2007; a rerun of the program on August 20 that year was named "Worst of the Week" by the PTC, noting that the "PTV" episode was among the highlights in the special. On March 11, 2009, PTC filed complaints about the episode "Family Gay" over claims that the episode contained sexual content in violation of indecency law. Then on December 15, 2009, PTC filed an indecency complaint about the episode "Business Guy" two days after its airdate, citing a scene including a lap dance as a possible violation of federal law regarding broadcast decency. In 2010, PTC filed a complaint against the 150th episode of Family Guy , "Brian and Stewie", taking offense at excretory references. PTC president Tim Winter said: "It seems as though Family Guy creator, Seth MacFarlane, carefully reviewed the legal definition of broadcast indecency and set out to violate it as literally as he could."

The PTC has also accused Fox of failing to include "S" (sexual content) and "V" (violence) descriptors in content ratings for some Family Guy episodes. Additionally, the Council has asked Family Guy sponsors Wrigley Company and Burger King to stop advertising for the show and has frequently accused the Fox network of what they perceive as the show being marketed to children.

Family Guy executive producer David Goodman responded to the PTC's criticisms by claiming that Family Guy is "absolutely for teenagers and adults" and he does not allow his two children to watch the show.

Allegations of anti-religious sentiments

An example of anti-religious sentiment would be in the episode, "Road to the Multiverse", the "World Without Christianity", which is depicted as being a futuristic, happy world where Christianity ceases to exist. The reason it is so advanced is said to be because the Dark Ages never happened. Entertainment Weekly TV critic Ken Tucker criticized the show for being anti-Semitic. In 1999, L. Brent Bozell III wrote that he felt the episode "Holy Crap" promoted anti-Catholicism.

The Parents Television Council has criticized what it perceives as Family Guy' s negative treatment of religion, concluding in its 2006 report Faith in a Box: Entertainment Television and Religion 2005-2006 that "mockery of God is a constant" on the show.

On October 3, 2007, the Bourne Company publishing house, sole owner of the song "When You Wish upon a Star", filed a lawsuit against the makers of Family Guy , claiming copyright infringement over the song "I Need a Jew". The suit claims harm to the value of the song due to the offensive nature of the lyrics. On March 16, 2009, U.S. District Judge Deborah Batts ruled that Family Guy did not infringe copyright when they transformed the song "When You Wish Upon a Star" for comical use in an episode.

Allegations of insensitivity towards transgender people

AfterElton.com writer Brent Hartinger graded an episode which featured a character named Ida who undergoes a sex change operation negatively. While noting that the episode deserves credit for making important points about transgender people, he found its inclusion of the vomiting scene and Lois and Peter's transphobic remarks about Ida to be "shockingly insensitive". Hartinger continued, "Frankly, it's literally impossible for me to reconcile last night's episode with MacFarlane's words, unless I come to the conclusion that the man is pretty much a complete idiot." The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, an LGBT media watchdog organization, released a statement about the episode, noting that "GLAAD shares the serious concerns being voiced from members of the community and GLAAD’s Entertainment Media Team is addressing these with Fox."

Sarah Palin controversy

In February 2010, following the airing of the episode "Extra Large Medium", in which Ellen, a female character with Down syndrome, mentions that her mother is a former governor of Alaska. Bristol Palin, daughter of former Alaska governor Sarah Palin, criticized the show for mocking her brother Trig, who has Down syndrome, and people with special needs in general. Stating on her mother's Facebook page, "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." Sarah Palin herself also criticized the episode in an appearance on The O'Reilly Factor , calling those who made the show "cruel, cold-hearted people."

MacFarlane responded that the series uses biting satire as the basis of its humor, and that it was an "equal-opportunity offender". Andrea Fay Friedman, the actress and public speaker who voiced Ellen, and who herself has Down syndrome, responded to the criticism, saying that the Palin joke in the show was aimed at Sarah and not her son, and that the "former Governor Palin does not have a sense of humor." In a subsequent interview, Friedman rebuked Palin personally, saying she was angry with Sarah Palin for using her son Trig as a political prop to pander for votes, that she has a normal life and that Palin's son Trig should be treated as normal rather than like a "loaf of bread."

MacFarlane characterized Palin's outrage as a presumptuous attempt to defend people with Down syndrome, and characterizing Friedman's statement as her way of saying that she does not need feigned pity from Sarah Palin.

Media critics

In addition, Family Guy has been panned by some media critics. Ken Tucker of Entertainment Weekly has frequently panned the show, grading it with a "D", and naming it the worst show of the 1999–2000 television season. Tucker responded to a reader's question in 2005 that he continued to dislike the series. Mark Graham noted "MacFarlane's incredibly rocky relationship with both the magazine and its lead television critic, Ken Tucker" in a blog on the New York magazine website.

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