I might not think that Family Guy is such a funny show if I didn’t live in Rhode Island. Probably, but maybe not. The local references coupled with the referential bits that speak exactly to my generation make it a very enjoyable 19 minutes to spend every week (thank you, DVR). My tastes in television shows tend to run more toward the dark and dramatic (Dexter, Weeds, Mad Men, Big Love, Criminal Minds) so the occasional comedy like 30 Rock, The Office, or Family Guy is a nice break from the heavy content of the other shows. Here’s the trick to keeping it light entertainment: I don’t take it seriously. I know it is in the spirit of irreverent comedy when Michael Scott says things that are not accepting of other people’s religions, when Jack Donaghy says something classist, or when any character on Family Guy says anything.
Some people have a difficult time with humor, or maybe they just have a really easy time overpersonalizing things because of their rampant narcissism. Potentially they just aren’t capable of looking past the superficial aspects of something to suss the true meaning. Not a comedic example, but I remember way back when the movie Natural Born Killers came out, there were a bunch of people all in an outrage about how it “glorified violence.” I know it’s hard work to actually put a few moments of critical thought into an opinion before you spew it all over the place, so here – let me help you sort it all out.
After the February 14th episode of Family Guy, when the character Chris dates a young woman with Down syndrome (who also happens to be opinionated, demanding, and not one to suffer fools), Sarah Palin took to Facebook to complain about the episode. Granted, the young woman in the episode did refer to Palin when asked what her parents did, saying “my mother’s the former governor of Alaska”; but Palin was taking umbrage on behalf of her son Trig, who has Down syndrome as well (in case you have been living under a rock and didn’t know that).
After I heard that, my eyes rolled so far back in my head I was afraid they wouldn’t come back. You see, the episode exactly did not make fun of people with Down syndrome. It did make fun of Sarah Palin, since she has made sure everyone knows that she is the mother of a child with Down syndrome, but how dare you reference she has a child with Down syndrome! Keep her family out of it, thankyouverymuch! However, I really have no agency to speak out about the ridiculousness of this perceived attack on her son.
Andrea Fay Friedman, the actress with Down syndrome who voiced the young woman on Family Guy does though. Here is Friedman’s interview with the New York Times on the subject, and here is an article where she is quoted as saying:
“I guess former Governor Palin does not have a sense of humor.” She added that in her family, “we think laughing is good,” and that she was raised by her parents “to have a sense of humor and to live a normal life.”
Ms. Friedman continued, “My mother did not carry me around under her arm like a loaf of French bread the way former Governor Palin carries her son Trig around looking for sympathy and votes.”
This is exactly, exactly the point. How insulting is it to Ms. Friedman to insinuate that she didn’t understand that she was being made fun of, or that the Palin family are the sole deciders of what is and is not appropriate when it comes to people with Down syndrome? I love it when people can see past perceived political correctness and actually speak to the truth of a matter.
So, Fabulous Thing #50: Andrea Fay Friedman. Rock on, lady.