It takes a lot to shock me these days, but I confess, I was shocked by the insensitivity of "Quagmire’s Dad," last night’s episode of Family Guy.
In the episode, Quagmire’s friends think his dad is gay. Cue Family Guy’s regular flood of penis and anal sex jokes whenever anything "gay" is mentioned.
It turns out that Quagmire’s dad isn’t gay; he’s a transgender woman. To the episode’s credit, it does point out that "gay" is different than "transgender." And Ida, the transgender woman, does talk about her choice to get gender-reassignment surgery, saying, "Do I want to be happy the rest of my life, or do I want to be miserable?"
But the second half of the episode is about Brian hooking up with the woman, thinking he’s found his soul-mate, but not realizing she’s transgender. When he’s informed of this, he precedes to vomit for thirty seconds straight; in a sight gag, the whole floor of the room fills up with vomit.
"I had sex with her!" Brian says, before screaming like what has transpired is the most disgusting thing imaginable.
"When they move to a new place, they’re supposed to notify the neighborhood!" a character says of transgender people.On top of that Peter and Lois say a whole host of shockingly insenstive things including asking what they call "it" now.
Okay, fine, whatever. Family Guy tells puerile jokes that are offensive to sexual minorities, the sun rises in the east. MacFarlane’s shows — Family Guy, along with American Dad and The Cleveland Show — are the "Ann Coulters" of primetime: the whole point is to be "shocking" and say outrageous things, in an attempt to draw attention to themselves (and allegedly be funny).
Granted, last night’s jokes seemed particularly cold-hearted and mean, but still, what else is new?
What’s truly shocking to me is the opinion of MacFarlane, who we spoke to in January about the trend of anti-gay jokes in Family Guy, American Dad, and The Cleveland Show.
When we asked him if he ever worries the show crosses the line with its gay humor, he mentioned last night’s episode:
Seth MacFarlane: You have … the [gay] news anchor partners on American Dad, you have Bruce the performance artist on Family Guy, and you have my own personal abhorrence for Prop 8. That always distresses me when I hear that the gay community is upset with us, because that’s one group of people I hope would know we’re on their side. … I can safely say that the transsexual community will be very, very happy with the "Quagmire" episode that we have coming up in a couple of months. It’s probably the most sympathetic portrayal of a transexual character that has ever been on television, dare I say.
I don’t think this is just a question of my being overly-sensitive. I acknowledge there’s been a spirited disagreement even here at AfterElton.com about whether certain jokes in MacFarlane’s shows are offensive or funny.
But a male character on the show has sex with a transgender character without her revealing her former-gender (extremely unlikely, IMHO, despite the fact that it’s one of Hollywood’s most popular transgender storylines), and when he finds out, he spews vomit for thirty seconds, then freaks out while another character compares the transgender person to a sex offender? And MacFarlane thinks the "transsexual" community will be "very, very happy" and that this is the most sympathetic television portrayal of such a character ever?
For the record, it’s not a question of MacFarlane not knowing what was in the episodes: he does the voices for both Brian and Quagmire.
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.