• Dads: More Bigotry from Seth MacFarlane

    by  • September 4, 2013 • Television • 3 Comments

    Seth MacFarlane has consistently blasted audiences with the foulest and most sickening content on broadcast TV, with his prime-time cartoons Family Guy and American Dad; and this fall, MacFarlane may have another opportunity to offend audiences with his first live-action comedy.

    As the PTC has previously demonstrated, it’s not news that Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane’s previous programs have consistently indulged in racial and ethnic bigotry. Thus, it cannot come as a surprise that his new show does also. MacFarlane’s new “comedy,” Dads, has a paper-thin plot device: two young friends are forced to accept their elderly, fathers as roommates. The show’s “humor” derives from the older men’s bigoted remarks: as the men watch a boxing match, one father asks if they are watching Punch the Puerto Rican, and mistakes a Latina friend of his son’s for the maid. Naturally, the program goes on to also denigrate African-Americans, Jews, and the handicapped.

    Yet notably, it’s not only the fathers who are bigots; at one point, desperate to land a lucrative deal with a group of Asian businessmen, the sons force their Asian-American co-worker to dress up like a sexy schoolgirl character from Japanese anime. (Audiences get to hear the woman note, ““That creepy translator texted me a picture of his tiny Chinese penis.”) So blatant are the show’s attacks on Asians that the Media Action Network for Asian Americans demanded Fox reshoot the pilot. Fox refused, on the grounds that doing so would interfere with the show’s “multiple levels” and “comic sensibility.”

    In the wake of the show’s sneak preview at the Television Critics Association tour earlier this summer, many TV critics blasted the show’s racist “humor.” So poorly received was the program that Fox Chairman Kevin Reilly later pleaded with critics to be patient and not “pre-judge” a show. And in a move that has become de rigueur for Hollywood, MacFarlane and his producers have defended the show’s lack of taste by pointing out that the classic TV comedy All in the Family also contained jokes about racial stereotypes.  

    Almost as offensive as the show’s bigotry is MacFarlane’s cynical attempt to wrap himself in the mantle of All in the Family to excuse his race-baiting. MacFarlane says All in the Family’s Archie Bunker was also a racist, and that show and character were really satire pointing out flaws in American culture; so by the same token, ANY program that features racist dialogue delivered by a white male must also be “satire,” right?


    For one thing, despite all the character’s flaws, actor Carroll O’Connor and creator Norman Lear also endowed Archie Bunker with several positive traits, which made him realistically complex and fully human. The same cannot be said of MacFarlane’s cartoon protagonists on Family Guy and American Dad, or the literally human but no less cartoonish protagonists of Dads

    For another, true satire always involves a degree of subtlety. While much of All in the Family’s content involved Archie’s over-the-top, malaprop-ridden rants, in every episode there was a telling moment in which Archie or another character was seen to have achieved a new understanding, often demonstrated by little more than a pregnant pause, facial expression, or glint in the eye. But MacFarlane’s idea of “subtlety” is a baby talking about sexually torturing his mother, or characters being riddled with bullets and having their heads graphically blown off. (Funny – we don’t remember Archie Bunker ever making references to the size of other characters’ genitals, or eating the contents of a dirty diaper, as MacFarlane’s characters have. Apparently, that just shows how much more “satirical” and “sophisticated” MacFarlane’s programming is.)

    Most importantly, true satire has a purpose. All in the Family employed comedy, caricature, and racist dialogue as tools, but genuinely intended to teach moral lessons about the evils of bigotry and the necessity for people to accept one another. By contrast, Seth MacFarlane’s programs have absolutely no purpose, other than to bombard viewers – many of them children – with ever-more obnoxious, crude, and disgusting content.

    It is clear that, in the wake of his $100 million dollar TV deal with Fox and the success of his mostly live-action film Ted, Seth MacFarlane believes he is invincible, that he can get away with anything in his shows, and that audiences are eager to lap up whatever garbage he pushes at them. But thankfully, if the reactions of TV’s critics are any indication, the Napoleon of trash TV may have met his Waterloo.



    Christopher Gildemeister is the PTC’s Head of Research Operations. He began as an Entertainment Analyst at the PTC in 2005. From 2007-2016, he was Senior Writer/Editor, responsible for communicating the PTC’s message to the public through newsletters, columns, and the PTC Watchdog blog. Dr. Gildemeister holds a Ph.D. from The Catholic University of America.

    3 Responses to Dads: More Bigotry from Seth MacFarlane

    1. mahbooba
      December 22, 2017 at 10:20 pm

      Dear Parent TV Council,

      My name is Mahbooba and I study Social Service Work program at Sheridan College. I would like to acknowledge and appreciate your efforts in pointing out the Fox TV Channel for their racial and Islamophobic stereotypes on American Dad and Family Guy. I had to do an assignment on the representation analysis on various stereotypes and I focused on Social Medias role in promoting Islamophobia.

      In my research, I found out that you have opposed and stopped FOX TV Channel on American Dad, Family Guy, and Homeland that had a lot of misinterpretation and stereotypes on Muslims.

      As a Muslim Canadian, I really appreciate your supports toward these kinds of bigotry. I don’t want my children and myself to live in fear every day facing with hate crimes and Islamophobia. I finally and strongly believe that no one should be allowed to mislead people especially children through media and entertainment industries. I wish you your ongoing success toward stopping any kind of oppression in the Western society. I look forward to hearing back from you.


      Mahboob Quraishi
      SSW student

      • Georgi Malchov
        June 20, 2018 at 12:38 am

        Homeland airs on Showtime though. Also, American Dad moved to TBS four years ago

    2. Patsy
      September 6, 2013 at 8:20 am

      It takes talent to successfully write programming. I am assuming that Seth MacFarlane has no talent so he has to try and focus on unsophisticated children. A true predator is among us.

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