After watching last night's extremely transphobic Family Guy episode, I'm reminded of the Propellerheads song that features Shirley Bassey.
Once again, Seth McFarlane has resorted to transphobic "humor" in what seems to be an increasingly desperate grasp for ratings. After the Cleveland Show episode that mocked transwomen and featured a character puking for what seemed like an eternity after finding out he had sex with a deceitful trans woman, Family Guy got original. They showed a character puking after finding out he had sex with a deceitful trans woman.
Complete episode and some thoughts after the jump.
Updated at the end of the post.McFarlane thinks "It's probably the most sympathetic portrayal of a transexual character that has ever been on television."
Let me be clear, I'm a huge Family Guy fan. I've seen every episode and my DVR records the show every week so I can watch it again a few days later. That said, I'm considering changing my habits. I just can't stand the ugly level of bigotry that's started coming through my TV screen.
McFarlane has gone from skewering modern America's peculiarities and pop culture to targeting minority groups for ridicule and scorn. While the show has always been edgy and poked at the LGBT community, it was always with a general bonhomie that felt more like he was laughing with us than laughing at us.
"We are deeply disturbed by last night's Family Guy episode, which was really nothing more than a string of anti-gay and anti-trans slurs strung together as if that formed a plot," Mara Kiesling, Executive Director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, told me. "It is true that there are transgender people like Lt. Commander Quagmire, who transitions on the show from Dan to Ida, who served admirably in the US military. Ida points out, 'I'm changing my future, not my past,' and is presented in a somewhat sympathetic way. But the characters around her respond with deep seated prejudice, true immaturity, and a lack of any human empathy."
"It is exactly this kind of cold-hearted behavior that leads to violence, harassment and rejection of transgender people and it isn't funny. And the vomiting on this show is just as disturbing as when the producers tried it on the Cleveland Show. Why people think blatant and outright prejudice is funny, and not the truly ugly thing it really is, is beyond me."
As the Employment Non-Discrimination Act sits stalled in Congress thanks to Blue Dog democrats' unease with the transgender protections so desperately needed, these two episodes play right into the hands of religious conservatives. While McFarlane regularly uses fundamentalists' single minded dedication to prejudice as fodder for jokes, this time he's taken a page straight from their handbook.
While the LGBT community is pushing protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity, the religious right is countering with baseless tales of trans woman ranging from bathroom rape scenarios to deceitful women ensnaring gullible straight men for illicit sexual fantasies. McFarlane plays rights into those memes with these shows.
But it doesn't stop there. While helping to push society's unease and distrust of anyone bending the gender binary, McFarlane goes much further with the puke gags. In essence, he's saying that transgender individuals are so horrendous and such freak shows that to gaze upon their naked bodies will cause the normal heterosexual man to projectile vomit and scrub himself obsessively in the shower.
UPDATE: Brent Hartinger at AfterElton questions whether or not Seth McFarlane is a complete idiot in a post about this published this morning. Hartinger refers back to an interview the site did with McFarlane in January about the rising level of homophobia and transphobia on his shows.
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.
...A male character on the show has sex with a transgender character without her revealing her former-gender... 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? ... 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.
"The most sympathetic portrayal of a transexual character?" Seriously?
If so, it's only because the audience felt sorry for the character by the end of the show since everyone (but Quagmire eventually) was horribly offensive and negative about her very existence.
I don't believe Seth McFarlane is an idiot; that only leaves open the knowledge that he's just, well, prejudiced against trans people. Any idiot can see how degrading this episode was.
If he expects me to swallow that tripe, he'll find I just don't have the stomach for it any more.
GLAAD's Facebook page post about the episode, however, is full of people defending the episode. The moral outrage meter registers me. That's about it.