Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Fuss Over Family Guy

I just saw yet another rant against Seth McFarland and his show Family Guy.  Parents of so-called “special needs kids” (more on why I hate that term later), including ex-Governor of Alaska and expert hand-writer Sarah Palin, are up in arms about McFarland’s portrayal of a teenage girl with Down Syndrome, calling him a “hater” for “picking on people who can’t defend themselves.”

I just don‘t get their outrage, and find many of the arguments being put forth by the McFarland bashers hypocritical at best and highly offensive at worst.

At the center of the controversy is a scene in which Chris, the oldest son in the cartoon’s Griffin family, is out on a date with a teenage girl with Down Syndrome.  She admonishes Chris for being rude to her, citing as an example that he hasn’t asked her a single personal question all evening.  Chris responds by asking her what her parents to, to which she replies that her Dad is an accountant and her mother is the ex-Governor of Alaska.

The Foes of Family Guy (FFGs) have decided that one line of dialogue is a “kick in the gut” to Sarah Palin because it somehow mocks her son Trig, who has Down Syndrome. 

To quote Chris Griffin, “WHHHHAAAAAAAUH??”

I’ve watched the whole episode -- which is more than I can say for some of the FFG spokespeople out there.  Frankly, despite the usual irreverence shown toward everyone and everything, I thought the portrayal of the girl with Down Syndrome was extremely progressive and positive, especially in the context of a show known for taking political incorrectness to new extremes.

If these FFGs would put away their pitchforks, burning torches, and angry hounds long enough to take an objective look at the character and only the character, maybe they could look past the irreverent satire and see what I saw:  a self-confident teenage girl who attends the same high school as her non-disabled peers, and goes out on a date with a teenage boy who is absolutely smitten with her and finds her beautiful.  I should be so lucky to be mocked like that.

Come on, folks, let it go.  It’s a cartoon that takes shots at EVERYONE, including my crowd -- paraplegics and quadriplegics.  In his cartoon, Seth McFarland did what I’ve heard people with developmental disabilities ask for all along -- he treated them same as he treats everybody else, by using  stereotypes and misconceptions as the basis for satire.  If you don’t like that kind of humor, don’t watch it.  But for goodness sake, please stop acting as if the show and Seth McFarland have single-handedly set the public perception of people with developmental disabilities back a hundred years.

And while I’m on my rant, I HATE the term “special needs kids.”  The needs kids with Down Syndrome have aren’t special at all.  They have the same needs as everyone else -- an education that helps them grow and develop to their maximum potential; the opportunity to get a job, play sports, eat out at restaurants and go shopping; friends and family who love them; access to quality health care; and the right to live as full participants in their communities.  IMO, continuing to refer to people with developmental disabilities as people with “special” needs further segregates them, and does far more to stigmatize them than any 30 minute cartoon show ever could.

1 comment:

Stephanie said...

Do you watch Glee? My daughters got me hooked on it last summer. There is a bit where a girl with Downs Syndrome wants to be a cheerleader. The coach is a real bitch, and mean to everyone, yet she lets the girl on the team. After the tryout, when she accepts her, she then growls at her and yells at her, sending her to the locker room and telling her she needs to work harder or something. As the girl (happily by the way) heads off another teacher is angry at the way she had spoken to the girl. The coach's response was right on. She doesn;t want special treatment, she wants to be treated like everyone else, and I am doing just that. I talk to all of the team this way.