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.