Many people are calling Seth MacFarlane’s take as the host of the Academy Awards satirical–they could be considered right, that perhaps MacFarlane’s take on satire falls under the Juvenalian umbrella.
It makes sense–why do we have a four hour (sometimes more) televised ceremony honoring celebrities as if they cured cancer or rescued a small, impoverished village? Go ahead and make fun. Please, make fun. However, when your idea of satire includes a song called “We Saw Your Boobs” and most of the instances are taken from rape scenes and a non-film moment (Scarlett Johansson was referenced for her hacked cellphone photos in 2011–that’s a personal violation,) talking about how Zero Dark Thirty is a movie about a naggy woman (he claims that the film is evidence that “women never let anything go,”) and oversexualizing a nine-year-old for no apparent reason (he says, “to give you an idea of how young [Quvenzhané Wallis] is, in sixteen years, she’ll be too old for George Clooney.”) That’s when the kidding stops.
“Oh, he’s an equal-opportunity hater, he rags on everyone–haven’t you seen Family Guy or American Dad or The Cleveland Show?” I have, actually. I think those shows did start out as satirical, but in recent years, have become nothing more than a showcase for MacFarlane to see how much he can shock people. I remember the (very understandable) outrage from many blogs after the Family Guy episode “Quagmire’s Dad” aired. For those not familiar with the season eight “classic,” here’s a summary:
Playboy Quagmire reunites with his father Dan, a military pilot who reveals he is in town to undergo sex-reassignment surgery to become a woman named Ida. At first, Quagmire is accepting of his father’s new identity, but then finds himself uncomfortable after having dinner with Peter Griffin and family minus Brian, the family dog, who is out of town. Thus, Brian has no idea what has happened when he meets Ida at a hotel a bit later and a has a one night stand with her. The next day, he tells Peter and Lois about his exploits, sending them into hysterical laughter. Brian believes they are just jealous, until Stewie informs him that Ida used to be Dan. Brian then proceeds to vomit for thirty seconds. While Brian is feeling ill over his one night stand, Quagmire and Ida make amends, Ida announcing that she has met Brian, whom Quagmire despises. Quagmire then goes to the Griffin home, and beats the shit out of Brian, who responds with a tactful, “I fucked your dad.”
I cannot believe I just typed that whole above paragraph. That is something that actually aired on national television. Can someone explain to me how this is satire? How is this intelligent humor, again? This looks like something written by a fourteen-year-old-boy. I don’t see what the satire is–I don’t think the episode was making fun of transphobia, I think it was glorifying it given Brian’s physical reaction, and Quagmire’s attitude for most of the show.
Now here lies the issue: what is over sensitivity, and what is genuine satire? When LivLuna shared my post about Lisa Lampanelli and her take on the n-word on Facebook, one commenter was upset over the use of the word “comedienne” (they felt it implied that I was saying female comedians were lesser than their male counterparts) but had no problem accusing me of being hypersensitive because I was questioning a comedian’s choice of racial slur, that it was part of an act. But was Lampanelli really satirizing a word, or was she just being a jerk?
I know satire isn’t meant to be nice. Satire is meant to exaggerate the negative qualities of something. But when it comes to MacFarlane, he seems to cross the line from satirical to downright mean. It’s as if he’s saying, “huhuhuhuhuh, I’m a multi-millionaire overgrown teenage boy and since I’m the highest paid writer-producer in television history, I can say what I want!” I remember The Simpsons catching a lot of flack for their humor in the first few years it was on, but anything Bart and Homer did was nothing compared to the exploits of Peter and company. South Park most certainly has vile moments, but there’s at least some semblance of brains behind why characters poop out of their mouths or walk around with a ninja star in their eye for an entire episode.
I think I have to turn this over to you now, LivLunatics. Is Seth MacFarlane a brilliant satirist, and people are just being over sensitive, or is he just dumb? What is the line between satire and plain stupidity?