As I don’t watch the show, and didn’t even really like it before now, said boycott won’t require a lot of heavy lifting on my part. But I know it’s popular in what I think is my primary audience; so many of my readers probably have already seen the inexcusable episode from Sunday night. Brent Hartinger explains:
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.
Seth McFarlane, the show’s creator, had the gall to describe this as the “most sympathetic portrayal” of a trans person “ever” on television:
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…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 (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.
In the interest of full disclosure, I suppose I’m something of a hypocrite for calling for this boycott. I remain a fan of South Park despite their even more stupid, callous depiction of trans people. Whereas most shows depict them only as sexualized victims, South Park had a gay character undergo a sex-change operation after being confused by a plastic surgeon. Later, self-identification with the opposite of one’s birth sex was compared to self-identification as a dolphin. It was nakedly obvious the creators had never met a trans person, or at least never talked with one for any period of time. They didn’t even repeat the jargon of transsexuality to mock it.
The end result: One of the most popular programs with Gen. Y made fun of a minority whose members fight for their lives every day. They made the world a little more dangerous for trans people, and made a safe world a little further off. This is all the more distressing considering how Stone, Parker, et.al. came out early for gay rights and, more importantly, gay acceptance before it was a popular position to take. It’s baffling and hurtful that Stone, Parker et. al. could care so murch for the LGBs and have such contempt for the Ts. It is shameful, and they owe apologies.
If you replace “Stone, Parker et. al.” with “Seth MacFarlane et. al.” in the above paragraph, it succinctly explains my reasoning against Family Guy.