Is Our White Supremacists Learning?

Shorter Verbatim Charles Murray: “I had never heard of Seth MacFarlane, and was astonished by his talent. And envious of his impermeable self-confidence.”

Confusing “greasy smarm” and “unjustified self-regard” with “self-confidence” is pretty much a foundational problem of conservertarianism.

192 comments on this post.
  1. fledermaus:

    Ah Family Guy, where one rape joke is never enough.

  2. witless chum:

    A glimpse into the future:
    Aug. 2014 Murray releases his new book, The Animated Comedy Curve, quantifying scientifically how much more often he laughs at Family Guy than the The Cleveland Show.

  3. sharculese:

    Nothing says self-confidence like incessantly and ham-handedly trying to preempt expected criticism with fake self-deprecation.

  4. Scott P.:

    Boy, somebody really, really doesn’t like Seth McFarlane.

  5. DrDick:

    Charles Murray has repeatedly demonstrated that he is incapable of learning. Must have something to do with bell curves and genetics. Either that or his mother dropped him on his head as an infant. From great height. Repeatedly.

  6. Jeffrey Beaumont:

    Wow, I had no idea that we were all holier-than-thou about McFarland and Family Guy. Talk about aesthetic Stalinism. As a very left wing academic, I am really horrified at my fellow left wing academics’ inability to navigate the world of humor without tripping all over their outrage. Relax and laugh some.

  7. Jewish Steel:

    I’ve never been able to figure out what the fuss is over that show. Totally unwatchable.

  8. Peter Principle:

    Charles Murray: Seth MacFarlane was 12% funnier than a black comedian would have been. And if was Asian, he’d have been even funnier.

  9. NonyNony:

    At what? The funny jokes that McFarlane has were funnier (and, honestly, more subversive) when I heard them on the Simpsons and/or Married With Children. It’s fine to repeat jokes or put a new twist on them, but when you do it you actually have to put your own spin on them, not just trot out the same “fat guy with a hot wife whose kids hate him joke #216″ and collect a paycheck.

    I thought his Stewie Griffin stuff in the first season was really funny. Until I read Jimmy Corrigan, where Chris Ware had done the same thing only better (and honestly he got there first, even if it really was a coincidence). So I’m not seeing what McFarlane brings to the table as far as “funny” goes.

  10. Uncle Kvetch:

    Harrumph! (And can we expect an endless of series of pissy, indignant defenses of Murray from Andrew Sullivan again this time?)

  11. Peter Hovde:

    Everyone knows Family Guy is actually written by manatees anyway.

  12. Joey Maloney:

    And, sadly, manatees are not closely related to walruses.

  13. spencer:

    Jeffrey laughs when he watches Family Guy. Therefore, Seth Macfarlane is funny and we are aesthetic Stalinists for disagreeing.

  14. NBarnes:

    Aesthetic Stalinism would be if we were criticizing McFarland for being insufficiently liberal or respectful of liberal values.

    We are not doing that. We are criticizing McFarlane for being an unfunny, overrated hack. We are not relaxed and not laughing not because we are angry at McFarlane’s failure to advance the Glorious Cause, but because McFarlane’s work is not relaxing and, most importantly, not funny.

    P.S. – Am I the only person that cannot keep Seth McFarlane and Scott McFarlane straight in my head?

  15. bargal:

    Family Guy isn’t even written by Seth McFarlane, so I don’t give him all the credit for the many episodes of the show I’ve loved over the years. If you want to shit on him, go right ahead. I’m sure he’s crying into his giant pile of money.

    It’s a 23 episodes a season deal–plenty of crap with some real diamonds in there. And the diamonds make it worth more to me than most other programs.

  16. Origami Isopod:

    Being “very left wing” doesn’t necessarily mean you have a damn clue when it comes to the oppression of women, folks of color, etc. There’s a reason the term “manarchist” exists.

  17. BigHank53:

    I always get him mixed up with Todd McFarlane, and need to spend a good ten seconds dis-entangling them.

    If there’s ever a Spawn TV series, I’ll never be able to tell them apart.

  18. witless chum:

    If he’s not to busy trying to look up Sarah Palin’s uterus.

  19. Glenn:

    Well, Scott did criticize McFarlane for “Four Hours of Witless Sexism & Racism” and link to the “depressing compendium of Oscar sexism.” I don’t claim any of this amounts to Aesthetic Stalinism, but the criticism of MacFarlane is certainly not merely for being unfunny … because that wouldn’t set him apart from most Oscar hosts.

  20. Jeffrey Beaumont:

    This is what I am talking about.

  21. Dr.KennethNoisewater:

    Please please, let’s not fight. Seth MacFarlane is both my mother and my sister.

    I think he’s a talented guy (Family Guy is occasionally really funny, he does amazing voice work and he has a gorgeous singing voice). But I’m sympathetic to those who don’t appreciate his particular brand of humor.

  22. Jeffrey Beaumont:

    First season Family Guy is awful. Second season Stewie, great.

    And yes, it is clearly derivative of the Simpsons, but McFarland has taken this in a whole new direction. He is very creative. Watch more episodes.

    None of this is to say that his performance on the Oscars was worth a damn. Did anyone think it was?

    And I only referenced the aesthetic Stalinism thing because it has been tossed around LGM before. And, I would argue, that a lot of the criticism leveled at McFarland here is due to his perceived (not real) sexism, racism, homophobia, etc. Lots of people dont get that satirical humor, and look at it as regressive, racist/sexist/otherwise. I think this is an intentional misunderstanding of that brand of humor. I also think it is destructive, because people use this total misapplication of charges of racism and sexism to marginalize and silence comedic voices that walk the line between hysterical and offensive. Funny lives on an edge, and dulling that edge sucks.

  23. Jeffrey Beaumont:

    Absolutely

  24. Jeffrey Beaumont:

    As long as they recognize it as a brand of humor and not some regressive attack.

  25. actor212:

    Also, complete denial of self-awareness, Scott.

    Too. Also.

  26. Murc:

    Hey, manatees are the Jedi of the sea.

  27. David Kaib:

    Stalinism – famous for its harsh verbal barbs at its opponents.

    Yeah, everyone else is blowing something out of proportion. Thanks for bringing us back to earth.

  28. actor212:

    I get his satirical humour.

    He’s not that funny. Some of his shtick is downright hilarious and his delivery can be spot on.

    But go watch “Ted”.

    He’s just not that funny.

  29. joe from Lowell:

    Harrumph harrumph.

  30. Stephen Frug:

    “Did anyone think it was?”

    Apparently Charles Murray did.

    Kinda the point.

  31. sharculese:

    And, I would argue, that a lot of the criticism leveled at McFarland here is due to his perceived (not real) sexism, racism, homophobia, etc. Lots of people dont get that satirical humor, and look at it as regressive, racist/sexist/otherwise. I think this is an intentional misunderstanding of that brand of humor

    ‘You don’t understand, it’s really satire.’ The go to response when someone points out a comic is leaning on trite cliches about race and gender.

  32. Anonymous:

    You’re (intentionally?) ignoring the “witless” part of that criticism.

    Some folks simply don’t find jokes about the unintelligibility of Spanish speakers and the boobage / trampiness / indefatigable persistence (in a bad, crazy way) of The Ladiez funny. There is that to consider.

  33. joe from Lowell:

    There’s a reason the term “manarchist” exists.

    Because physical membership cards are too expensive?

  34. Steve M.:

    “I had never heard of Seth MacFarlane, and was … envious of his impermeable self-confidence.”

    Had you ever heard of the entertainment industry, Charles? Sorry to be the first one to break this to you, but impermeable self-condfidence is actually not a rare commodity in that demimonde.

  35. Daragh McDowell:

    American Dad – the search for Ollie North’s gold.

    This is all. If we’re going to bash MacFarlane (and there are many reasons to do so) can we at least take into account that

    a) Family Guy started out pretty strong, and managed to get such a dedicated fan base it effectively vetoed it’s own cancellation. That’s pretty fucking impressive and generally a point against the line that MacFarlane is talentless and a hack.

    b) Family Guy is very patchy right now. Cleveland Show has always been pretty bad. American Dad, despite predictions that it would date itself into irrelevance the moment W left office continues to be a pretty strong show. In fact, I’d argue that MacFarlane has managed to come close to The Simpsons overall output, in a vastly more compressed timescale, and with a comparable hit-miss ratio overall. (If you make the comparison from when FG first went on the air, the quality of MacFarlane’s output collectively far outstrips the Simpsons. Nothing to sneeze at.

    c) he rubs a lot of people up the wrong way. Fair enough. But that’s a taste thing – it does not make him history’s greatest monster. Lets keep it in context people.

  36. Murc:

    No, wait. Narwhals. Narwhals are the Jedi of the sea.

    I’m not sure what manatees are.

  37. sharculese:

    That’s pretty fucking impressive and generally a point against the line that MacFarlane is talentless and a hack.

    Why?

  38. Scott Lemieux:

    I am really horrified at my fellow left wing academics’ inability to navigate the world of humor

    I like humor! Now, what does that have to do with McFarlane’s comprehensively unfunny hosting of the Oscars?

  39. wjts:

    Bad news: you’re doomed.

  40. Origami Isopod:

    I’m so sorry that us lesser types speaking up against bigotry against us annoys you, Professor.

  41. Scott Lemieux:

    My question: what was his sexist non-humor last night satirizing?

  42. Mrs Tilton:

    MacFarlane does seem to have a gift for voice work (I’ve never heard him sing that I can recall). But he is a “great comedian” in much the same way that Belle and Sebastian is a “great band”. Yes, there are some mangoes to be found there; some juicy, juicy mangoes. Great Cthulhu’s dormant hectocotylus, though, but don’t you have to wade through miles and miles of foetid, tiger-infested swampland to find them.

    In the end, though, de gustibus and all that. We all find different things funny, or not funny, and comedy is notoriously refractory of analysis. And who am I to judge, anyway? My own tastes are hardly a touchstone; I don’t even find Adam Sandler especially amusing.

    Still, by telling everybody to relax and laugh, Jeffrey Beaumont is, of course, the real aesthetic Stalinist.

  43. Origami Isopod:

    “Humor” can never be oppressive. It’s only entertainment, after all!

  44. Origami Isopod:

    If you want to shit on him, go right ahead. I’m sure he’s crying into his giant pile of money.

    “If you’re so smart, how come you ain’t rich?” Always a convincing argument.

  45. Jim Lynch:

    “To black America: Thanks for taking everything in stride”. Stewie Griffin

  46. Origami Isopod:

    This. It’s the “Eat shit – 10 billion flies can’t be wrong!” argument.

  47. John Protevi:

    “If you’re so smart, how come you ain’t rich?” Always a convincing argument.

    The inverse has always convinced me: “if he’s rich, he must be smart [talented, funny ...]“

  48. JKTHs:

    I’d agree with your first two sentences of point b) but American Dad has clearly gone downhill as well (and was somewhat hit or miss to begin with).

  49. Origami Isopod:

    Hipster racism and hipster misogyny are still racism and misogyny.

    I’ll worry about “marginaliz[ing] and silenc[ing] comedic voices” when we no longer have national debates over whether it’s OK for someone like Daniel Tosh to “jokingly” threaten an audience member with rape, and speaking up about it earns her (or, rather, her friend) additional threats from angry, entitled Tosh fanboys.

  50. Origami Isopod:

    Just don’t let them touch your balls.

  51. Cody:

    “Oh this is the universe where there was never Christianity. So there wasn’t any Dark Ages, and thus humanity is 1,000 years ahead of where it is in our world.”

  52. Cody:

    So no one is allowed to watch the Chapelle show because it’s overtly racist?

  53. BigHank53:

    Shit. I usually pride myself on being behind the curve, but this is ridiculous.

  54. Dr.KennethNoisewater:

    I think the thing that bugs me about “Family Guy” is that so much of the humor resonates, and seems to be fairly in-line with my mindset about most things. Then along will come some joke about WNBA players being untalented and unattractive and it feels like being punched in the gut. And what’s weird is that that very joke seems at odds with a lot of the other humor to be found in the show.

  55. VCarlson:

     I don’t even find Adam Sandler especially amusing.

    Personally, I find Mr. Sandler the antithesis of humor. Others are welcome to find him funny, but I won’t believe their unsupported word about what’s funny.

  56. Cody:

    Wow. You really hate Family Guy. You spent this whole thread just saying “Family Guy sucks, and if you don’t hate it, you suck, because things can be bad!11!!!”.

    About as artfully articulated as well. So if millions of people like something – but you don’t – it means that THEY must be wrong. Is it inconceivable people have different taste? I don’t think disliking Seth McFarlane is at all being an aesthetic Stalinist, but you’re making a case for yourself at least.

  57. BigHank53:

    Listen, if a man’s teeth can touch my balls—

    Oh, wait. Wrong forum.

  58. mark f:

    Wasted a Netflix mailer on that because several people told us we hadtoseeitfunniestmovieever. We got through 23 minutes before switching to the Justified DVDs a more discerning friend lent me.

  59. mark f:

    Re: “hip” racism, here’s the obligatory Lester Bangs link (pdf).

  60. Mondfledermaus:

    The Huts. See Jabba.

  61. joe from Lowell:

    Listen, if a man’s teeth can touch my balls—

    …then you went to a really shitty dentistry school.

  62. Anonymous:

    Bob’ Burgers is pretty good though.

  63. mark f:

    I’m sure Dr. Murray would be equally won over by Chris Rock’s “impermeable self-confidence,” especially if Rock told a bunch of jokes about looking at white ladies’ boobs and Jews being too powerful.

  64. jim, some guy in iowa:

    i always think that’s the goal – that *everybody* is supposed to be hurt/offended/angered by something, and that’s how the creator/writer/whatever gets off the hook for being specifically racist, sexist, whathaveyou

  65. Dr.KennethNoisewater:

    I’m not a fan.

  66. Origami Isopod:

    Thanks for that link.

  67. mark f:

    American Dad is the one about the retrograde, buffoonish guy who has a family of broad sterotypes, a talking pet and an incongruous, scheming anthropomorph? Or is that Family Guy?

  68. Dave:

    As a very left wing academic, I am really horrified at my fellow left wing academics’ inability to navigate the world of humor without tripping all over their outrage.

    O rly? And how do you feel about Chappaquiddick?

  69. Origami Isopod:

    JFC. It’s not a question of “taste.” It’s a question of being willing to overlook the propagation of concepts that fuck a lot of people over. If this being brought up hurts your ickle feewers so much that you’re willing to compare vehement critics of MacFarlane to Stalin, that says a lot about you (as well as about the individual who first made that comparison in that thread).

  70. Origami Isopod:

    That strawman could feed a stable full of IKEA meatball horses.

  71. Origami Isopod:

    …you wouldn’t need to shave anymore?

  72. Jim48043:

    Conservertarianism?

  73. TribalistMeathead:

    It only moved from “mediocre” to “pretty good” when the writing style moved more towards Archer.

  74. DrDick:

    Harrumph!

  75. Pestilence:

    +1

  76. wengler:

    Now you know how so many conservatives get taken by con men.

  77. Captain Splendid:

    I still don’t understand the hatred and contempt (not singling you out), and I mean this literally. One minute Family Guy was just some offensive cartoon on Fox (ie not really worth much strong emotion either way.) Next thing I know, Seth McFarlane is singlehandedly responsible for the decline of western civilization.

    Guess he’s doing something right as he’s hated by the whole political spectrum.

  78. Bill Murray:

    so you’re going to change your avatar soon then?

  79. Dr.KennethNoisewater:

    Was my joke too subtle?

  80. SeanH:

    Truly, this quote wins the Epic Bacon Fedora Win Award.

  81. SeanH:

    To paraphrase, I think, Scott Lemieux – you’re right, Two and a Half Men is better than The Wire.

  82. wengler:

    Family Guy sucks when compared to good animated shows though. In Family Guy’s first incarnation, The Simpsons was still a great show and FG was deservedly cancelled for its lack of any central story elements, and constant cutaways for the literal interpretation of the joke.

    As The Simpsons started sucking, the differences were less evident, but even MacFarlane’s own American Dad is a lot better than Family Guy in that it doesn’t want to constantly cut away or invest 15 minutes in a chicken fight.

  83. VCarlson:

    And get offa my lawn, I know, but AS is one of those people I’d seriously consider paying money to notsee.

  84. Uncle Kvetch:

    Next thing I know, Seth McFarlane is singlehandedly responsible for the decline of western civilization.

    Yeah. I totally get the criticisms about offensiveness and insensitivity (the Chris Brown/Rihanna “joke” was a prime example of one of those “WTF” moves that Dr. Noisewater has referred to elsewhere — utterly unfunny and just horrible). But as crimes against humanity go, this is pretty thin gruel. I find the Oscars to be an interminable slog of tedium, mawkish self-congratulation, and general squirmy awkwardness in the best years.

    You’d think that McFarlane had tagged the Mona Lisa or something.

  85. Cody:

    Aren’t you engaging in exactly what you claim to be fighting against? I have “wittle feelings?”. Is it not okay for a man? Am I not fitting into your gender roles appropriately?

    I guess projection is strong in this one. Sorry if you have to project your stereotypes onto others in defense of disliking a show… because it projects stereotypes on others in humor.

  86. VCarlson:

    Apropos of nothing, but this thread makes so much more sense when viewed in the non-mobile version. Note to developers: if you can’t figure out how to link comment and replies when you’re making a mobile version, don’t make one.

  87. rea:

    what was his sexist non-humor last night satirizing?

    Unhumorous sexists?

  88. mark f:

    this thread makes so much more sense when viewed in the non-mobile version

    When I’m on my phone I still read in the full site format; there’s a button in the bottom left corner. It’s not as convenient functionally, but it makes the comments much more enjoyable. It also eliminates some of the confusion that results from, say, blockquotes not appearing properly in the OPs.

  89. Hogan:

    Maybe from the same place as “Seth McFarlane is the touchstone for whether or not you have a sense of humor.”

  90. Scott P.:

    It’s a different brand of humor, but one with a long pedigree — the pointless diversions were a staple of Laugh-In, Monty Python, the Carol Burnett show, and way before that you can go back to vaudeville. It’s not inherently inferior.

  91. Hogan:

    Maybe it comes from. And so on.

  92. sharculese:

    I would assume that it’s just pent up frustration being released. McFarlane is pretty uniformly distasteful in the same way, but it’s generally confined to his hour and a half on Fox (well, that and the relentless hype for his movie, but that was a passing thing.)

    But last night he had a major television event that he was bound to fuck up in predictable way, and that provides an outlet for a lot of dislike for him that’s built up but there’s never a good reason to express, and next week it’ll be forgotten and this Oscars will be remember for being the one with the tie and for Argo beating Lincoln.

  93. witless chum:

    Is it fun to be a moron? I can’t imagine the levels of either stupidity or obtuseness required to think Chapelle’s Show is overtly racist and, even if you believe that, to think someone criticizing something is equivalent to “no one is allowed to watch it.” Seriously, aren’t you ashamed of that?

  94. cpinva:

    which presumably those in charge of the show would have known about.

    “But last night he had a major television event that he was bound to fuck up in predictable way,”

    which leads one to wonder, why did they pick him to begin with?

  95. cpinva:

    thanks, just thanks for that incredibly disturbing mental image!

    “If he’s not to busy trying to look up Sarah Palin’s uterus”.

    now i’m to have to go scrub my brain with bleach, and the stain may still not come out.

  96. Jeffrey Beaumont:

    He wasnt funny last night. Ted is pretty mediocre too. Family Guy, which he only partially writes, is full of gems.

  97. djw:

    Right. Occasionally, SNL figured out a funny way to use his comic talents, and he was funny.(And while it wasn’t straight comedy, PTA made good use of his talents as well). But when Adam Sandler is in charge of figuring out how to make Adam Sandler funny, it’s an unmitigated disaster.

  98. joe from Lowell:

    As unpleasant as that image may be, it’s still not as bothersome as having to experience, even for a little while, the sensation of feeling sympathy towards Sarah Palin.

    Damn you, Andrew Sullivan!

  99. Malaclypse:

    As Dog is my witness, I thought your avatar was something you did. Now that I know those are not your big pink bunny ears, I haz a sad.

    Have you really only had that avatar since 2011? I thought you had been here longer than that. Or did I do too many drugs back in the 80s?

  100. Jewish Steel:

    Whenever the central committee produces a comprehensive list of what is and is not funny, I will sign. Until then, this is all false consciousness.

    Yours In Utmost Leftness Of Wing,

    JS

  101. CaptBackslap:

    It really wasn’t so much that way before it got canceled/revived. I mean, the offensive humor was there, but it wasn’t so densely packed or “holy shit, call the ADL/NAACP/NOW” offensive.

    More importantly, the show was funny back then, too.

  102. Hogan:

    I’m beginning to toy with the possibility that they’re not very bright.

  103. sharculese:

    There was that episode where Peter has to go to sensitivity training and it turns him into a woman because lol ladies and their feelings, until he gets cured by a good old fashioned cat fight.

  104. cpinva:

    no, it isn’t.

    “It’s a different brand of humor, but one with a long pedigree — the pointless diversions were a staple of Laugh-In, Monty Python, the Carol Burnett show, and way before that you can go back to vaudeville. It’s not inherently inferior.”

    however, all the shows you name, and vaudeville, were variety shows, none of mr. mcfarlane’s are, at least not intentionally so. this makes a big difference.

  105. cpinva:

    no one, except 14 and under males, does.

    “I don’t even find Adam Sandler especially amusing.”

    i found him painful on SNL, he transitioned about as well as could be expected.

  106. CaptBackslap:

    That was an exception, but it was overall nothing like it is now (in particular, the straight-up racism is in basically every new episode).

  107. mark f:

    I’ll give MacFarlane a little credit here: he very intentionally designed the sitcom around that vaudevillian/variety style.

  108. Barry:

    But the voices are so f-ing irritating!

    Oh, wait – that’s not an advantage.

  109. mark f:

    I hate to admit how hard I laughed at Stewie’s reaction to waking up & discovering he was suckling at his father’s breast.

    But, yeah . . . “Gloria Ironbox” hawrhawrhawr.

  110. Barry:

    “Wow, I had no idea that we were all holier-than-thou about McFarland and Family Guy. Talk about aesthetic Stalinism. As a very left wing academic, I am really horrified at my fellow left wing academics’ inability to navigate the world of humor without tripping all over their outrage. Relax and laugh some.”

    First, when somebody says ‘as a left wing academic….’ to support right-wing BS, you’re probably lying.

    Second, Family Guy is drivel. It’s stupidly unfunny. I’ve seen a couple of films predicated on the idea that a funny 90-second skit *must* make a funny 90-minute movie, and they’re still funnier than Family Guy.

  111. daveNYC:

    You think that Monty Python’s Flying Circus was a variety show? It’s straight up sketch comedy with some animation bits inbetween.

  112. Barry:

    What’s funny is that Charles ‘Bell Curve’ Murray is himself a fountain overflowing with absolutely unjustified self-confidence.
    Perhaps that’s what he likes about Seth.

  113. mark f:

    Honestly I think the punch in the gut is the point all by itself. Like the elevator incident under discussion the other day, it’s there mostly to let some people know they’re not really part of the club.

  114. sharculese:

    First, when somebody says ‘as a left wing academic….’ to support right-wing BS, you’re probably lying.

    It made me think of Megan McCardle’s classic line, “I come from a family of academics who are actually intellectually intimidating.”

  115. bianca steele:

    My mom tends to like his movies.

  116. FlipYrWhig:

    I loathed it instantly too. I have a low tolerance for weirdness for weirdness’s sake.

  117. VCarlson:

    I thought Homer and Jethro’s (The Battle Creek Boys) “Ooh, that’s corny” album was the funniest thing ever when I was 5. Last time I listened to it, about 40 years later, I still thought it was funny. I ought to hook up my turntable and listen again, see if I stll think so. I think yes, so no definitive list of “funny” can be truly valid without that album.

  118. The Kenosha Kid:

    No it isn’t

  119. actor212:

    As someone who can be satirical and biting, I always keep in the back of my head there are lines I will not cross.

    Believe me, there are lines well short of those that others wish I would not cross, but the point is, you can be biting and sarcastic — and funny — but there’s an art to it, and MacFarlane is at best a talented amateur. If your audience doesn’t get it’s a joke (cf Andy Kaufmann), you’ve lost them and the humour.

  120. actor212:

    Oh, the huge manatees!

  121. actor212:

    What? Someone had to say it.

  122. actor212:

    Based on their respective tenures, I always thought Rob Schneider would have the bigger career.

    Shows you how old I am that I didn’t even get Adam Sandler as GenYs Jerry Lewis.

  123. actor212:

    Let’s not forget the Blue Collar Comedy Tour. Them ol’ boys shore is teh funnay, I tell you whut.

  124. GeoX:

    People oft forget that before its initial cancelation, Family Guy actually had sympathetic characters and coherent storylines and jokes that were often as not actually funny. Obviously at this point the thing has descended into a lazy, obnoxious (and, let’s never forget, horrifyingly misogynistic) parody of its own worst tendencies, but I maintain that there was a time when it was actually good, though I can certainly understand how knowledge of where it would end up going would taint even that early stuff.

  125. Dr.KennethNoisewater:

    Well, except that some of “offensive” stuff is actually insightful cultural critiques and some of it is just non-sequitor ad-hominem nastiness. And a lot of the non-sequitors are a.) unfunny b.) just so damn unnecessary.

  126. witless chum:

    I really, really like Billy Madison. It’s, at least, a lot better than his later stuff because it has a fair amount of just random weirdness thrown in around the edges. And when it comes to the point of Billy actually learning something and moving the plot forward, it has the decency to do so by a musical number. Compared to his later movies that seem to actually be trying for sentiment, it’s light years ahead.

    Auteurists can give director Tamra Davis credit, if they want.

  127. Dr.KennethNoisewater:

    Oh yeah, that was a horrible episode.

  128. Dr.KennethNoisewater:

    I’m not sure it’s that calculated. But it’s at those moments when I get the feeling that FG’s liberalism is really a very specific kind of White dudebro type of liberalism.

  129. sparks:

    Ah, the old “I’m not racist, I offend everyone!” dodge.

  130. Dr.KennethNoisewater:

    I *WISH* I had created Louise Belcher. Alas, I am not a genius.

  131. GeoX:

    Man, I don’t like Family Guy OR American Dad, but even the most cursory examination would reveal that the two are utterly different in terms of theme, tone, humor, character &c. No need to be dumb about it.

  132. Jewish Steel:

    Time does cruel things to funny. The Marx Brothers are kind of mind-blowing for, at times, still feeling pretty fresh.

    But maybe that’s because of the parallel gilded age/depression vibe we have in the country these days. I smell Dissertation!

  133. Dr.KennethNoisewater:

    I like “Billy Madison.” Guilty. It’s delightfully stupid.

  134. sharculese:

    When Billy Madison came out I was exactly at the age range it was pitched to, so I don’t feel like I can evaluate it objectively but I still have a lot of fondness for that movie.

    It also leans less on “Adam Sandler gets angry” as a driver of humor than most of the movies that came after it.

  135. Uncle Kvetch:

    a very specific kind of White dudebro type of liberalism

    I think that pretty much nails it.

  136. Bruce Baugh:

    The veil of ignorance is not the thing you tie around your neck when you want to go zooming around like Calvin being Superman.

  137. CaptBackslap:

    I saw that DVD at the home of a mysteriously crackerish relative. Ron White’s Tater Salad story is genuinely funny, but that’s pretty much it.

  138. SamR:

    Lot of 14 and under males out there paying for movies:

    http://boxofficemojo.com/people/chart/?id=adamsandler.htm

    Sandler cranks out $100 million dollar box office in non-scifi/fantasy non-sequel movies. This is more rare than you’d think.

    It may not be nice but its true. I think b/c a lot of people go to movies to have fun in a non-challenging way, and Sandler (and MacFarlane) fills that role.

  139. Uncle Kvetch:

    Oh yeah, that was a horrible episode.

    It was (mark f’s qualification notwithstanding), and to me there’s a telling contrast between that one and the episodes featuring Brian’s gay cousin. Jasper is an old-fashioned flaming queen, but he’s also presented as lovable and a fully fledged member of the family. Lesbians, on the other hand, can only be hulking, humorless, man-hating amazons.

  140. mark f:

    I do too, and I think that while the effect isn’t necessarily plotted it is intended. As soon as someone says “hey maybe this isn’t funny,” a dudebro is going to say “well, fuck those bitches.”

  141. Dr.KennethNoisewater:

    Yep. The show does seem to have a few of those dichotomies throughout, huh?

  142. Dr.KennethNoisewater:

    That’s entirely possible and really really disappointing if it’s true.

  143. Matt T. in New Orleans:

    The way the one decent human being in the family – Meg – is treated, both by the other characters and the show itself (and as a lesser example Haley from “American Dad”) makes me wonder if McFarland doesn’t have a sister somewhere he’s still pissed off at for whatever reason. I couldn’t make it through an episode of “The Cleveland Show” to tell if that particular turd’s sister character got as much venom.

  144. Uncle Kvetch:

    The treatment of Meg’s character is a tough hurdle…even when the show was at its best I had the feeling that they had no idea what to do with her other than to degrade her in every way possible. (I disagree with the analogy with Haley on AD, though…she’s a lot more together.)

  145. Hogan:

    I don’t get the impression McFarlane thinks of the characters in his shows as people, or even as characters. They’re stock types, occasions for running jokes and cultural references, placeholders for narrative tropes, and he doesn’t give a rat’s ass what happens to them. You could say the same about Gilbert and Sullivan, but they didn’t produce hundreds of episodes of The Mikado over eleven years, so the effect is a little different.

  146. Dr.KennethNoisewater:

    Oh, ok, so I’m not insane. I was verbally abused for 12 years by a member of my family. The abuse Meg took was never funny to me.

  147. Dr.KennethNoisewater:

    I figure if nothing else, “Billy Madison” gave us this.

  148. Tehanu:

    Personally I like Seth McFarlane even though a lot of his humor is a bit too nasty for me — too many poop jokes — and I love that he likes the old standards like Gershwin, Cole Porter, etc. But the real point here is that Charles Murray, who claims to be so knowledgeable about human intelligence and the proper way society should treat different groups of people, had no fucking idea who McFarlane was. If I were pontificating about who should be allowed to be first-class citizens and who should be helots, I’d want to have some actual knowledge of the society I was blathering on about.

  149. Malaclypse:

    Worker & Parasite is funny. That is all.

  150. Jewish Steel:

    ENDUT! HOCH HECH!

  151. spencer:

    Is.

  152. Paula:

    Yeah, that was interesting, actually, if sorta limited in execution.

    I give McFarlane credit for being more versatile than what Family Guy would lead me to believe.

  153. Paula:

    David Walsh @ wsws.org frequently makes me wonder if he’s some kind of parody Marxist.

  154. herr doktor bimler:

    Objection! False dichotomy!

  155. Tybalt:

    As do most people.

  156. rea:

    It’s certainly less depressing . . .

  157. Tybalt:

    Gems ripped off from The Simpsons, yes.

    The only Macfarlane does that’s original is the thing that Chuck Lorre has ripped off him in turn for Big Bang Theory… where simply making a pop culture reference, with no actual joke attached, is supposed to make us laugh.

    (I’m crediting him with originality here although I suspect he’s just noticed that smarter people make pop culture references in their jokes all the time; sadly, he’s not caught the fact that there needs to be something funny attached.)

  158. bgn:

    Well, this is the man who was responsible for the following:

  159. Tybalt:

    (In case anyone else was thrown by that, by the way, in actual fact she doesn’t: her mom’s a real estate broker and her dad’s a lobbyist. But they are, of course, rich.)

  160. bgn:

    Sorry–was trying to enter a link to a discussion of Murray’s recent bloviation on American class & culture:

    http://www.lawyersgunsmoneyblog.com/2012/01/how-white-are-you

  161. Substance McGravitas:

    It was really weird seeing jokes lifted directly from The Simpsons in Family Guy. I mean, they’re on the same network and at that point was immediately after it. Similarly in Ted there’s a disco scene lifted from Airplane that is simply a scene lifted from Airplane and nothing more.

    I’m not as much of a Family Guy hater as most people seem to be on this thread – I liked the Star Wars thing for instance – but if you’re looking for stuff to hate it’s there.

  162. Tybalt:

    It can be both. In McFarlane’s case it clearly is: his touch isn’t nearly light enough for him to send up offensive behavior by playing it straight.

    He probably doesn’t mean it, which makes it even worse, like a six-year-old playing with blasting caps.

  163. Tybalt:

    You were the first person in this line of argument to start bashing people (“history’s greatest monster”) and then you were the first one to get personal with your “you… you… you” so if you want to talk about projecting, get bent.

  164. Tybalt:

    Dumb about the Flintstones formula he’s working to?

  165. Tybalt:

    Because shows have a great diversity of writers, though, you are going to get some duds. Normally a show should be run carefully enough that such stuff doesn’t get through to the screen, but the Macfarlane shows aren’t run that carefully; they are sloppy. (Which, in its defense, the audience seems to like)

  166. Tybalt:

    And here I have to admit a soft spot for that stuff. It’s cornball, it’s dumb, it can creep up on offensive (but it rarely ever really goes there) but in a pretty lasting sense that’s my world, you know?

  167. Mike D.:

    About the average number of jokes were funny as tends to be the case in any Oscar broadcast.

  168. Mike D.:

    This.

  169. GeoX:

    No, dumb about the fact that the two shows have very little in common. HTH.

  170. Anonymous:

    When I was 9, he was hilarious. And then I turned 10.

  171. Dan Coyle:

    Well, Haley is VOICED by McFarlane’s sister…

  172. Dan Coyle:

    The Rush Limbaugh episode is filled with such self-loathing, but a lot of Brian related stuff has been filled with self-loathing, with the show’s one smart character with complex viewpoints continually fucking up his life. The Quagmire stuff is just bizarre; are we really supposed to think a serial rapist is a morally superior to Brian?

  173. BillWAF:

    “Monty Python”was not a variety show.

  174. Jewish Steel:

    You want to complain! Look at these shoes. I’ve only had them three weeks and the heels are worn right through.

    It’s worth noting that only Monty Python is the only show I can think of that really pulled off that dream-like stream of consciousness. The Simpsons came close.

    Oh, and the Goon Show, but that’s reaching way back.

  175. Jewish Steel:

    Only one only is necessary, old boy.

  176. Mrs Tilton:

    I know that Sandler’s bankability is nearly as reliable as it is inexplicable. And by all reports he is also, although Republican, a decent guy. He is simply dismally unfunny.

    More than unfunny — he is profoundly irritating. And this is not the intense but ultimately superficial irritation that one experiences from, say, a Gilbert Gottfried, akin to a pebble in the shoe or a shard of dust in the eye. Sandlerian irritation is something fundamental, existential; no pebble in one’s shoe but rather a lifetime spent in a cheap motel in a small grey rainy industrial city in the Murmansk Oblast, with a flickering defective neon sign outside one’s window, nothing but Fox News on the TV, the vodka supply depleted, and billions and billions of years to go before the universe finally enters heat death.

  177. Mrs Tilton:

    the quality of MacFarlane’s output collectively far outstrips the Simpsons

    Wut.

    I mean, I have seen almost no Simpsons past season 10, and I suppose it’s theoretically possible that the series’s widely acknowledged 2nd+ decade suxxxorage is grave enough to cancel out its earlier glories. But if that statement of yours were true or even halfway approaching truth, nations would be building temples to MacFarlane, and rightfully so. And nobody should build MacFarlane a temple.

    One needn’t be a Seth Hata to say that. One’s judgment of MacFarlane could be, for example, that he has some quite funny bits, a respectable amount of mildly amusing stuff, and lots and lots and lots of meh. That’s my judgment of him, anyway. And it’s not an especially negative or hostile judgment. I don’t find MacFarlane annyoing because he is an unfunny failure (or even, like Adam Sandler, an unfunny success). Rather, I would sum up what annoys me about MacFarlane thus: I know Matt Groening; Matt Groening is an idol of mine; and you, Seth, are no Matt Groening.

    I didn’t watch him MC the Oscars. I never watch those. I’ll take it as read that he sucked, but isn’t that pretty much a requirement of the job? That Charles Murray thought him boffo suggests that, if nothing else, MacFarlane got that part right.

  178. slightly_peeved:

    …which The Young Ones did in the 80s. They even had musical interludes with Madness and Motorhead.

  179. Uncle Kvetch:

    Mrs T, that was so eerily beautiful that I’ll forgive you for the Belle & Sebastian thing, which you’re totally wrong about by the way but that’s OK.

  180. actor212:

    That and the “gay porn” bit where he reveals his redneck cousin’s latent homosexuality.

    It really is a stunning piece of deconstruction.

    (Link Barely SFW)

  181. actor212:

    Oh, all comedy is contextual. If you can relate to it better than I, then it’s going to be funnier to you than to me.

    But attempts at universally funny comedy means you’re judged out of context too.

  182. actor212:

    Many of their jokes are really dated, like the contemporary references Groucho and Chico drop into conversation (like the one about the Hays Code). If you didn’t study early 20th Century history, you’d never get them. Likewise some of the Yiddish references (“Did someone call me shnorrer?)

    The jokes that occur in the interplay between characters (“I’d horsewhip you if I had a horse!”) hold up amazingly well, tho.

  183. JL:

    Yeah, even to the extent that I have liked Family Guy at times (I loved the marijuana episode, for instance), the treatment of Meg always bothered me, a lot. I never understood how it was funny to completely degrade and shit on a teenage girl, even a fictional one.

  184. blondie:

    Does anyone really believe it was layered self-parody?

    Let’s see …(deep breath) … Hollywood and the movie industry treats women as sex objects, so that even the most-talented actresses must bare their breasts in movies; so we’ll demonstrate that by singing a song about how sleazy we are to have overlooked the art of those women and, instead, have ogled them, and we’ll point it out by being overtly sleazy, but it’s okay because we know we’re being sleazy, and we’re so knowingly sleazy that we show how we realized we should cut out the number, but we just can’t bear to actually cut it so we have created a framework employing time travel and Captain Kirk to show the audience something we know is really too sleazy to show them …

    tldr

    If the Academy was aiming for the youth demographic, it overshot.

  185. Jeffrey Beaumont:

    Yup, that’s it. You figured me out. I’m a closet racist. I also conducted pogroms, held trials, and even instituted limpieza de sangre standards for my toys as a kid. I cant tell you how many cabbage patch kid mongrels and jewish James T. Kirk dolls went to the ovens. Tomorrow I am going to punch the first Asian I see. Or hit an Indian with my car.

  186. Jeffrey Beaumont:

    Some ripped from the Simpsons, many not. Go watch it.

  187. Jeffrey Beaumont:

    Yes. The Oscar act wasn’t funny. Ted wasn’t really funny. McFarland can be really funny at times, however. It is really Family Guy I am defending. And maybe satirical humor more generally.

  188. Jeffrey Beaumont:

    On a more serious note, let me throw this one out there…. Could it possibly be that the intention of lampooning racial, gender, etc stereotypes in comedy has something to do with disarming those stereotypes, making them less noxious, and things that cannot be taken seriously? Could it be that this sort of satirical humor has a long history of doing just this sort of thing? After all, isn’t the basis of all humor really the realization that something perceived as a threat is not after all really a threat?

  189. Substance McGravitas:

    I think “many jokes not lifted from The Simpsons” is about right.

  190. Daragh McDowell:

    That second (and at this point) third decade of Simpsons has piled a lot of garbage on the scales of The Simpsons overall quality.

    And for those complaining about the ‘Flintstones Formula’ only the following needs to be said:

    A) It was previously known as the ‘Honeymooners Formula’
    B) It has been employed by almost every television comedy series, animated and live action, based around a family unit since the 1950s.

  191. marijane:

    Did you ever watch Mr. Show with Bob and David? They did stream-of-consciousness pretty well.

  192. Jewish Steel:

    No! But I heard it was really good. Totally missed that one. Paul F Tomkins was on that, right? Love him.

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