Seth MacFarlane and Cognitive Dissonance


As you were probably able to tell from my last post, I have a pretty hard time stomaching Family Guy.  Believe it or not, but I used to be a big fan of show’s first four and a half seasons (including “I Am Peter Hear Me Roar”).  But as the show rapidly devolved over the following seasons, the only character I really found of any interest is Brian.  I think this is funny because most people I have run into really hate Brian because in this phase of the show, he developed into the not-at-all-subtle insert for the creator’s sociopolitical views and for the high-minded views he espouses that he himself fails miserably to live up to.  Many people point to Brian as one of the major things wrong with the show, but I think he’s the only thing that is moderately interesting about the show.  All the other characters on Family Guy devolved into either tired stereotypes or brutally mean-spirited caricatures, but Brian, through all his contradictions and shortcomings, feels much more real.  Y’know, like an actual person.  I suppose that makes sense considering that Brian is Seth MacFarlane after all, and not just because they share political views.

By his own admission, Brian votes Democrat and has climbed on top of his liberal soapbox on more than several occasions.  He once castigated Lois for finding a surgically-enhanced/narcissistic Peter attractive because he places the value of a woman to him on having a nice personality and being highly cultured and intelligent.  But when he tries to date one such woman, he is so threatened by the idea that she may be just as or more intelligent than him that he can’t hang around for long without bailing (well, there was “Brian Wallows and Peter’s Swallows”, but that Brian got retconned).  He only feels real satisfaction by dating conventionally attractive bimbos (and not minding if they’re bulimic because he finds the weight they lose through purging makes them look better to him).  Brian will call out Peter for making a racist remark, but he can’t help but bark uncontrollably at a black man he doesn’t know very well.  Brian has fought vociferously for LBGT rights in Quahog, but discovering that a woman he was seeing was trans* made him puke all over Stewie’s room for an extended period of time.  He touts himself as a laureate novelist in the making yet his writing is as amateur as you can get.  Heck, the crux of his liberal politics was revealed to come from a desire to simply be a contrarian rather than actually believing any of it.

Seth MacFarlane is the exact same way.  Unapologetic in his liberal politics, pro-choice, pro-gay marriage, voted for Barack Obama twice, will vote for Hillary Clinton in 2016, and connoisseur of old-time sophisticated big band music, Frank Sinatra, Broadway, or anything else you would hear on an episode of Playboy After Dark.  Yet he also created and produced The Cleveland Show, which examined stereotypes of the black experience through the detached perspective of the white person whose only interaction with black people was through watching BET.  Yet during his stint hosting the Oscars, he opened up the show by singing a song that giddily reduced the actresses attending the ceremony to their boobs (especially considering some of the examples he brought up in that song included rape scenes).  Yet the writing of so many episodes of Family Guy, American Dad!, The Cleveland Show, and even Ted look more like homages to cheap teen sex comedies from the ’80s like Porky’s or Losin’ It than any thing suit-and-tie or sophisticated.  Nor is there anything particularly sophisticated about the drawn-out, gratuitously violent scenes he’s been using as a crutch since the second season of Family Guy.  Whenever I watch Family Guy (or anything MacFarlane does these days), the content of the jokes and the sentiments being expressed bear more resemblance to Rush Limbaugh than anything resembling his purported politics or taste (it would explain why licked Limbaugh’s boots so much when he appeared on the show).

Why is there just a disconnect between the sentiments Brian and Seth MacFarlane espouse and their actions?  In Brian’s case, I think it has to do with deep feelings of despair and internalized self-loathing keeping him from living up to the person he wants himself to be.  In MacFarlane’s case, I don’t know him well enough to suggest he has the same feelings.  It may just be laziness.  It doesn’t take much effort to come up with the stereotype-laden blue comedy in his work.  Or maybe he’s just too well off financially to cater to anything other than the lowest common denominator.  Or maybe I’m just over-thinking the thought processes of the man I’m never going to meet.  *shrugs*

I’ll just leave y’all than this.

(yeah, well at least Brian never raped Marge Simpson or a dead virgin at her funeral…)

Seth MacFarlane and Cognitive Dissonance

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