Family Guy’s Bid for Bloated Brentwood Jews

Oh Family Guy. (Sigh.) I have loved you and not loved you and loved you again for years. And now there’s this: Seth MacFarlane’s rejected “For Your Consideration” Emmys ad, which the cartoon helmer tweeted since no publication will run it, for obvious reasons. So who’s in the wrong? MacFarlane for possibly being a bigoted publicity whore (well, possibly a bigot, definitely a publicity whore) or everyone else, for having no sense of humor?

I think the answer’s somewhere in the middle. Anyone who’s seen Family Guy knows that anti-Semitic humor runs rife throughout it, and I’d even venture to say the Jews are targeted more than any other group on the show (though few remain completely unscathed). Sometimes it’s funny, sometimes it’s not, and whether it’s funny or not is always highly subjective. (And whether MacFarlane is actually making fun of bigotry itself is also up for grabs, though I doubt it.) To wit: I LOLed for realsies at this bin Laden bit when I saw it, but I doubt the families of anyone who died on 9/11 found it the least bit funny. So do I think MacFarlane hates the Jews any more than he hates anyone else? Maybe. And it’s that maybe that makes the ad uncomfortable.

The ad is funnyish. (And truthfully, Family Guy is most offensive when it falls short of hilarious—which it often does—because then it’s just meanness for meanness’ sake.) Somehow I’m not as offended by this ad as I was, say, Wodka Vodka’s holiday billboard insinuating that Jews are cheap. (even though MacFarlane’s seems so much more venomous). There’s something pointed and insidery about the Family Guy ad that reminds me of when one non-Jewish friend of mine throws pennies at me at work (true story), the difference being, of course, that Seth MacFarlane is not my friend. (And that’s a big difference.) But what makes it uncomfortable is that what MacFarlane would no doubt claim is boundary-pushing humor that offends only those too uptight to appreciate it probably does thinly veil his own hatred of the Jews—or if not hatred, then at least intense envy.

I don’t know MacFarlane’s personal history, I don’t know his experience in the biz. I don’t know if he feels his show (which has been running since 1999 and has never won an Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Series) has gotten short shrift and in some way that’s the fault of the Hollywood movers and shakers (read: the Jews).

Isn’t that the root of most Jewish paranoia? That we somehow control things (the media, the banks) and that people who are deserving don’t always get their due because they’re not one of us? So is the ad anti-Semitic? Youbetcha. But I don’t know that it needed to be banned. I sort of want to tell whoever rejected it that if readers are offended by it, they don’t have to look at it. People who are easily offended aren’t Family Guy’s target audience anyway. The ad may as well run, as it’s an act of self-defeat if MacFarlane’s endgame is being loved—he won’t be, especially if he continues to offend those he’s so sure are the puppetmasters in his town. In that way, it’s a win-win for him: The ad runs, he gets to plead his case for an Emmy. If it doesn’t, he only bolsters his belief that the gluttonous, powerful Jews are out to get him—but this time, he’ll only have himself to blame for his failure.

What do you think?

About The Author

Carla Sosenko

Carla Sosenko's work has appeared in Marie Claire, Jezebel, The Hairpin, Self magazine, Laughspin, Jewcy and various other publications. Her first play, Headcase, was produced in the 2001 New York International Fringe Festival, and her short story “Clutter” was a semifinalist in the Nimrod Literary Awards. Follow her on Twitter @carlasosenko, and check out her website, carlasosenko.com.

12 Responses

  1. Chad

    Where to begin? “I’d even venture to say the Jews are targeted more than any other group on the show.” Really? Seriously… Are we watching the same show? If you are black, disabled, or gay you are a much bigger target on The Family Guy than if you are Jewish. In general I think its fair to say we notice what hits closest to home and ignore the rest altogether. I wonder if you had the same outrage when it came to another group being targeted on the show. If you did I bet you it was fleeting at best… Satire, irony, or sarcasm has few friends in this world when it hits its target. Irony is about opposition to the literal meaning and this is what the ad was slyly putting across to the universe. I think to imply an anti-Semitic intent seems a huge stretch of the imagination, but as I said earlier I think its fair to say we notice what hits closest to home, and ignore everything else. Is that hypocrisy or just human nature? I’ll vote for the latter.

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  2. Brenna

    FWIW, I know that Family Guy has a lot of Jewish writers on the staff. Plus, at least two of the most prominent voice actors are Jewish. So I think that Seth MacFarlane probably doesn’t have anything against Jews personally.

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  3. Kip

    Seth and Alex lost me as a fan after the “Variety Show” where there was a joke that Alex’s success is in due to some degree that there aren’t many Jewish female ‘comediennes’ because of the holocaust.

    For fucks sake.

    That and the insistence of the writers to work a domestic violence/rape bit into nearly every episode.

    I don’t mind offensive humour. I do mind patently stupid, wholly unfunny and gratuitously offensive humour.

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  4. Jeff

    @Brenna: “Plus, at least two of the most prominent voice actors are Jewish.”

    Three – Alex Boorstein, Seth Green and Mila Kunis.

    “(And whether MacFarlane is actually making fun of bigotry itself is also up for grabs, though I doubt it.)”

    I really think that is what he’s doing, and I really don’t think he’s antisemitic.

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  5. Grandston

    Who is Seth MacFarlane railing against with the Peter character?

    It seem to me that every character on the show is an idiot. It’s funnier that way.

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  6. JanK

    Unless we’re getting severly edited versions in the UK, there are way more Jewish jokes than anyone else. And frequently they are really, really nasty.

    Having some of us Heebs on the staff doesn’t mean there’s no malice. Spielberg still defends Mel Gibson. The BNP ( a racist political party in the UK) frequently trumpets a Jewish member.

    Maybe MacFarlane really does think that the Jews are out to get him. Maybe a Jew beat him up or stole his girlfriend. Maybe he’s just an asshole.

    It’s interesting that things are far more balanced on American Dad. Certainly, it’s less tedious than Family guy or the excrable Ted.

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  7. Dirk

    Jan – American Dad is produced by MacFarlane. So – get a grip dude.

    Go watch Sarah Silverman’s stand up and tell me she’s not offensive to Asians, Christians, basically anyone not Jewish. Maybe your rules should apply to her stand-up? How about Jon Stewart and his crazy war on anyone who isn’t Jewish? Talk about a double-standard. And his defense has been, and I’ve heard him say it, “well, I’m a comedian, so I can make fun of people.” ???/ Say what? So, I guess MacFarlane is just doing the same. So shut your mouth and take it, crazy Jews.

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