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Gay ’Family Guy’ Episode Provokes Christian Right

by Kilian Melloy
Friday Mar 13, 2009
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Following the Mar. 8 episode of the Fox animated comedy "Family Guy," religious conservatives rose up in indignation due to the show’s "anti-Christian" content.

The episode, titled "Family Gay," relied on broad gay stereotypes for much of its humor. Peter Griffin (voiced by series creator Seth McFarlane) becomes a medical test subject in the episode in order to earn money to pay down his debts.

When he is injected with the "gay gene," Peter begins to mince, giggle, and wear an ascot; then he announces that he’s leaving wife Lois and their kids to be with a male partner, who promptly arranges for an orgy with a number of other men.

The depiction of Peter as a caricature of a gay man may well have given offense to gays as well as conservative straights. But it wasn’t just the presentation of gay stereotypes of effeminate mannerisms and promiscuous sex that raised conservative hackles. Rather, it was the equally inevitable commentary on fundamentalist Christian attitudes toward gays that riled up religious right pundits, who promptly denounced the show, its sponsors, and the Fox network.


At conservative Web site News Busters, a Mar. 11 op-ed piece observed what longtime viewers of the show, now in its seventh season, have known all along: "Family Guy" is deliberately crude and insulting, its humor as purposefully vulgar as that in the popular Comedy Central animated program "South Park" (in which both Jesus and Satan make regular appearances, and gay stereotypes are embodied by "Big Gay Al").

Indeed, it may be the case that "Family Guy" is popular because of, rather than despite, its crude humor: the show was canceled after its first of couple of seasons, but then sold so well as DVD sets that Fox renewed the show, giving Seth McFarlane a reported $100 million contract into the bargain. (McFarlane has developed two more shows for the network.)

The News Busters article cited an array of concerns regarding the episode, including a bit of dialogue between the murderous infant Stewie and the family dog, Brian (both voiced by McFarlane) in which Stewie tells his mother to read a passage from the Bible condemning homosexuality.

Brian responds, "Stewie, you’re judgmentally quoting Bible verses and you don’t even know how to read."

Stewie fires back, "Welcome to America, Brian."

The article also voices strong disapproval of cartoon nudity, same-sex kisses, Stewie eating semen obtained from a race horse, and a scene set at a Christian "straight camp" in which a counselor tells his charges that, "your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ... hates many people, but none more than homosexuals."

Another source of aggravation: the show’s premise that homosexuality is an innate personal characteristic based on genetic makeup, not a "lifestyle choice," as conservative religious groups claim. (Gay people themselves testify to not having made a decision to be attracted to others of the same gender, but experiencing such attraction as part of who they are by nature.)

The article noted that Brent Bozell, the president of the Media Research Center, had taken the show to task three years ago for content which Christians would find objectionable.

Indeed, in a Mar. 12 column at AM 1280/The Patriot Bozell registered his displeasure with "The Family Guy," calling the episode "mind numbing garbage" and "vomitous," and lamented that the networks censors had not cleaned up the episode.

The show has historically also run afoul of The American Family Association, which in a 2006 posting from AgapePress reported that a "pro-family activist" denounced a "Family Guy" episode dealing with the issue of pornography.

That article cited the president of the American Decency Association, Bill Johnson, as calling for a boycott of one of the show’s sponsors, a firm that also had placed commercials on shows such as "Desperate Housewives" and "Grey’s Anatomy."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor, writing about film, theater, food and drink, and travel, as well as contributing a column. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

Comments

  • Anonymous, 2009-03-13 09:37:00

    One of the best episodes of one of the best shows on TV. Keep up the great work McFarlane and don’t let those religious cults intimidate you or your art.


  • Anonymous, 2009-03-13 20:27:29

    On top in the caption it should be Peter Griffin not peter Griffith. I thought it was the best episodes ever!


  • Anonymous, 2009-03-14 21:15:36

    I love it!! Keep up the great work, and ditto..don’t let those religious freaks intimidate you!


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