Peacocke explains her standpoint with many different examples, one of her first coming from an episode in which a mock fifties instructional video is used to show the sexism that was once prevalent in these types of videos. The example given features the voice of a narrator instructing viewers of the video to frequently tell insecure women how great they look every day, and that nothing says “Good Job!” like a firm slap to the behind (260). To people watching a show with no background knowledge of sexist 1950’s videos, this would not seem humorous. However, after finding an ancient video from the 1950’s about how a happy marriage should run, I can see the humor in MacFarlane’s satire.
The second example Peacocke uses is a bit more obvious. For this example, she cites an episode in which the dog, Brian, and the baby, Stewie, are talking about books and reading. Brian tricks Stewie into explaining that heonly reads books that are on Oprah’s book list (262). This episode provides a comment on America’s obsession with celebrities. This is seen anywhere – if a celebrity has an object, suddenly it’s popular for everyone else to have it. And if the celebrity is Oprah, then no more explanation is needed. Oprah rules as the Queen of American talk shows. Once she tells her royal subjects about something that she finds to be good, they have to have it.
Family Guy also uses satire to take jabs at the Federal Communications Commission, which censors shows that are seen on the air. In one particular episode the main character, Peter, sets up his own television show from home. The FCC steps in and begins to not only censor the program, but soon they begin to censor the neighborhood in which Peter lives. Soon, black boxes are places in front of characters when they are seen in “crude” positions, and the FCC blows foghorns whenever they curse. Macfarlane puts his explicit argument into the mouths of his characters, having Brian explain that there are plenty of things that are worse than television for children (264). When you think about it, it’s completely true. I’m not saying that children should go watch the goriest show they can find and that all will end well. But a gory, hypothetical show compared to an actual violent event? I’ll take television, please.
Peacocke also takes the time to in her piece to respond to one other author in TSIS.. She speaks of the similarity of her piece compared to a work written by Douglas Rushkoff about The Simpsons. She thinks that her and Rushkoff’s pieces are similar because they both comment on the aspect of humor of their respective television programs. She says the one main difference between hers and his piece, however, is one distinct line where Rushkoff says that The Simpsons creators do “not comment on social issues as much as they [do on] the media imagery around a particular social issue” (296). Peacocke thinks that Family Guy does just the opposite; the creator of Family Guy relies on his viewer’s ability to analyze what they are watching and to understand the shows pokes at the defects of the modern American society (263).
I think that Peacocke would really enjoy Fred Allen’s “Reality Television: Oxymoron.” The piece, like Family Guy, makes social commentary on America’s culture. However, it reviews relity television instead, explaining that Americans have become targets of “shock culture.” We are constantly waiting to be shocked by what we view, but we are desensitized to sex, violence, and degradation that nothing effects us anymore (Will 295). I’m sure that Macfarlane has targeted this in some episode of Family Guy before. However, Family Guy is one of those shows that Allen is talking about. It relies on shock value to satire society.
Peacocke, Antonia. “Family Guy and Freud: Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious.” Gerald Graff, Cathy Birkenstein and Russel Durst. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2009. Print.
Will, George F.”Reality Television:Oxymoron”. Washington Post (2001). They Say/I Say with Reading. Gerald Graff, Cathy Birkenstein and Russel Durst. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2009. Print.