Seth MacFarlane is busy planning a spin off, of his wildly successful show The Family Guy. The lucky character to get his own show is Cleveland. The working title is The Cleveland Show. Since the characters of The Family Guy are all white, and the characters from The Cleveland show are all black, I thought that this might be an interesting topic to analyze race and gender.
Lois is married to the idiot patriarch Peter. She embodies the good girl/bad girl dichotomy. During the day she is the doting stay at home mommy. She is always conservatively dressed, and intentionally blind to her toddlers attempts to kill her. Of course perfect mommies have perfect babies, so Stewies antics get ignored. So content is she in the role of wife and mother, that she never explores hobbies, or interests outside of her family. Despite the fact that she is more than aware that her husband the sole support of the family is an idiot, she never expresses concern that her subsistence is dependent upon him. Way to be subservient Lois.
At night she is often portrayed as a sexed up tart, who is ever ready to perform. Lois's alter persona is just so damn hot, even the dog wants to do her. Nothing like bestiality to affirm your sexual autonomy. Yeppers watch her give the dog a hard on; now that is female empowerment at its finest.
Too complete the role of female stereotypes on the show we have Meg. Her daily wallowing in teenage angst is mostly the result of her inability to get, and keep a man. On a show where women are judged on how they service the needs of males this makes Meg, decidedly a loser. She is routinely ignored by her father, unless she is the butt of his jokes. She has thus far not been able to give Brian ( the dog) an erection and is so "underdeveloped" that she has not drawn the attention of the neighborhood rapist Quagmire. How does Meg deal with the rejection of males? Well in the typical female way of course, she self-mutilates by cutting. Meg is what happens to girls when they don't learn the good girl/bad girl script that her mother has mastered. She is a lesson to us all.
With the role of women so perfectly sculpted by The Family Guy, one might wonder if MacFarlane has finally run out of stereotypes. I found the following brief rundown on the show at Racialicious which originated at Spill.
THE CLEVELAND SHOW (working title) (Sundays, 9:30-10:00 PM ET/PT): Many years ago, CLEVELAND BROWN (voiced by Mike Henry) was a high school student madly in love with a beautiful girl named DONNA. Much to his dismay, his love went unrequited, and Donna wound up marrying another man. Cleveland once told Donna he would always love her, and if this man ever done her wrong, he'd be there when she called. Well, this man done her wrong. Donna's husband skipped town with another woman, leaving Donna with a daughter and a baby. Now she's come to Cleveland and offered him another chance at love. Unattached after the Loretta-Quagmire debacle and true to his word, Cleveland joyously accepts and he and CLEVELAND JR. move to Stoolbend, VA, to join their new family. Once in Stoolbend, Cleveland has a few surprises in store for him, including a flirtatious new stepdaughter, a 5-year-old stepson who loves the ladies, as well as a collection of neighbors that includes a loudmouth redneck couple, a British family seemingly stuck in the Victorian era and a family of bears living at the end of the block. FAMILY GUY was only the beginning. Get ready for THE CLEVELAND SHOW (working title)!
Of course Donnas first husband ran off, and left her a single mother, he was after all a black man. The idea of more than one black man being faithful to his wife the way that Cleveland was is unheard of. And Of course Clevlands wife left him for a tryst with the rapist Quagmire. You know us black women, we simply cannot refuse sex with a white male, despite a history of slavery, rape and exploitation. I mean aren't white males the ultimate trophy to a black woman. After all, that's all that matters to black women, getting a good piece of dick.
Of course Donna had to turn to Cleveland for support. You know a woman cannot live alone without a man in the house. Heaven forbid she should be strong enough to stay single for a few months, while she gets over the betrayal of her husband. Better run and get a new master quick as can be, we wouldn't ever want too many days to go by where we actually thought for ourselves.
And finally the piece de resistance, the overly sexed up teenage daughter. Notice how Meg the white female is devalued for not being sexy enough, and the step daughter (the black character) is immediately sexualized. I get the math, white girl equals good and black girl equals bad. Black female bodies are always already sexualized by a culture that is predicated on our exploitation, and so it is no surprise that MacFarlane would immediately go there. I mean what good would it do to present a young black female as striving to get ahead, or even as simple as respecting herself?
Some reading this post will question why I am getting all worked up. Just like my survivor post, I am after all critiquing pop culture. Shows like Survivor and The Family Guy matter simply because we mindlessly consume them. It is in this consumption that we internalize messages that have a tendency to create certain segments of society as "other". In the case of The Family Guy, it sells itself as a comedy. Rape, ableism, racism, sexism, homophobia, and pedophilia are just a few of the issues that have been given the humor treatment by this show. The aforementioned are issues that have either stigmatized, or damaged many in our society in serious, and lasting ways. To turn the pain of others into a 30 minute laugh reel, is to reduce the lived experience of others into meaningless fodder. I am sure Seth, that you will have yet another hit on your hands. All I can do is hope that people will stop and think before laughing, what if this were me.