For those of you who aren't aware, Family Guy is an animated series featuring the Griffins, a very dysfunctional family. It has been going on for a while. Seth MacFarlane has produced 11 seasons so far. This show has attracted the attention of many viewers and also the critics who labeled it as offensive and immoral.
First of all, as a personal fan of this sitcom, I believe that those critics need to get a sense of humor. People should stop ignoring the big elephant in the room and start accepting that blue comedy is becoming a part of our lives. We get it, children get it, and everybody gets it. Honestly, the less taboo these topics become, the less intriguing they become and the more mature and astute kids become.
As for the offensive part, I think MacFarlane was clever by featuring racist and stereotypical representations of all ethnicities and religions on this show. They are so stupid and offensive, they make us reflect upon our own perceptions of other people and help us realize how silly these things look like.
One thing I learned in sociology class that was all too new to me is that the terms race and ethnicity mean different things (shocking, I know). Race is a group of people who share genetically inherited physical features that distinguish them from other people. On the other hand, the ethnicity of a group of people refers to how they identify with one another on the basis of common ancestry, nationality, or cultural heritage. I could look like someone, but identify with the culture of someone else more than the person I look like. Which is cool. But the existence of different ethnicities creates stereotypes, prejudice and descrimination that we socially construct.
Stereotypes are inaccurate generalizations about a group of people. We hate stereotypes when they are about us, yet somehow manage to create dozens when they are about other people. In every culture we have the main group and “the other.” It’s the people of the city and the foreigners who live in it. Here in Qatar, for example, we have Qataris and non Qataris. In the US, you have white people and then the other colored people who tend to have beautiful babies.
Movies and TV shows play a huge role in shaping those stereotypes of “the other.” They subconsciously let us behave towards them in a certain manner and therefore, discriminate them. What people try to do now is create this “new racism.” Basically, “we are colorblind, racism doesn’t and shouldn’t exist, we’re all the same.” Sounds sweet. But the problem with that concept is that it fails to recognize that people are different, that we are not the same, that people were treated differently “back then” and might still be treated in that manner.
Now this is where Family Guy beats the rest (at least in my opinion). The show is a social commentary of how people behave and think about others. In order to show that, through comedy, they employ all sorts of stereotypes. “They make fun of jewish people, dorky white people, hispanic people, arab people, catholic, homosexuals … if you can think of a race or religion it has been made fun of on that show.” My personal favorite is Consuela, the Hispanic maid:
When people see those things, they laugh. Yes, we get offended, but eventually, we realize how stupid it would be if we actually viewed people in that manner. The show also makes fun of racist people by having racist characters. Brian, who is a white dog, doesn’t pick up black guys in his cab. The constant bombardment of those representations remind us of our differences, the racism that we face and the discrimination we have towards others. When we start to see how ridiculous it looks like, we start to change our views but respect and accept differences.
You should definitely check out the show if you haven't. I have personal DVDs of most seasons because I just love this show so much. It's so funny.