This Valentine’s Day, the FOX cartoon “Family Guy” was anything but heart and roses when the sitcom aimed a not-so-subtle shot at Sarah Palin, parodying her 22-month old son who has Down syndrome.
In the episode, one of the main characters, Chris Griffin, is on a date with a mentally disabled girl, who drew a clear comparison to Palin’s son Trig, when she said, “My dad’s an accountant and my mom’s the former governor of Alaska.”
Palin resigned from governorship in July 2009 after only 18 months as Alaska’s executive leader, naming her family as well as public criticism as factors in her decision.
The following Tuesday, Palin addressed a Facebook note to Fox Hollywood in response to the jab, referring to the episode as “another kick in the gut.”
Just two weeks before, Palin called White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel to be fired after learning that he had called liberal groups thinking of organizing healthcare-related ads against Democratic lawmakers as “f—ing retards” during a White House strategies session last summer.
While posting her preliminary reaction to the “Family Guy” taunt, the former vice presidential candidate passed the buck to her daughter Bristol Palin, explaining that Bristol’s reply would be “more restrained and gracious.”
“My siblings and I all have that, but insults directed at our youngest brother hurt too much for us to remain silent,” wrote the seventeen year old. “If the writers of a particularly pathetic cartoon show thought they were being clever in mocking my brother and my family yesterday, they failed. All they proved is that they’re heartless jerks.”
Although MacFarlane initially failed to respond to the Palin family’s outrage, the writer did issue a statement through his publicist which said, “From its inception, ‘Family Guy’ has used biting satire as the foundation of its humor. The show is an ‘equal-opportunity offender.’ ”
But, while such a ‘philosophy’ may work in regards to a broad generalization of the masses, MacFarlane’s stance does not hold true for an infant with Down syndrome. Moreover, by narrowing this particular insult to the child of the former governor of Alaska, “Family Guy” was taking a shot at one individual in particular, Trig Palin.
Whether one takes it as a matter of pity or compassion, the fact is that Trig—nor any other kid with a recognizable surname—should not have been construed as open to offense, even in the name of questionable humor.
On top of that, exploiting any sort of mental disability is an insult in itself. As the prohibition of particularly stinging words has become more and more popular, many public figures have begun to campaign to take terms like the ‘r-word’ or the ‘n-word’ out of the public vocabulary.
For example, the actor John C. McGinley (formerly Dr. Perry Cox on Scrubs) is an ambassador for the Spread the Word to End the Word campaign. McGinley’s son, Max, was born with Down syndrome.
In fact, despite her early hesitation, Palin later made a point of going on record to criticize the popular television show on Fox News, where she currently acts as a political analyst. Understandably, Palin did not hesitate to emphasize how Trig’s condition makes Family Guy’s barb that much more insulting.
A couple of days later, MacFarlane fired back in an interview with Bill Mather by labeling Palin’s public outbursts as “phony pity.”
Unfortunately, MacFarlane isn’t the only celebrity who unwisely decided to involve the Palin brood into his special brand of humor.
Early this year, David Letterman, in a Monday night monologue, remarked that when Sarah Palin attended a Yankees game in New York City, the then 2008 presidential candidate sported the style of a “slutty flight attendant.” The CBS comedian also took at shot at Palin while joking about the Yankees’ third baseman.
“One awkward moment for Sarah Palin at the Yankee game,” Letterman said, “during the seventh inning, her daughter was knocked up by Alex Rodriguez.”
The immediate backlash was further fueled when it became known that the daughter accompanying Palin during her New York trip was 14-year old Willow Palin and not 17-year old Bristol, the unwed mother of Palin’s first grandchild.
When the “Late Show” controversy first broke out, it was overwhelming understood that the Palins have every right to call “Family Guy” out for crossing the line. Many even went so far as to accuse Letterman of making light of sexual abuse of an underage girl.
Overall, America has done a pretty admirable job thus far to respect the children immersed in their parents’ recent political scandal or reign over the celebrity hot sheets
But the Palin family is proof that the public’s integrity is slipping when something like Family Guy is divided into those who were incensed and those who were apathetic.
Yes, it can be argued the Palin placed herself in the public eye and as such, she should not only have expected but also be resigned to the consequences. However, it cannot be argued that she should have known her children were likewise fair game.
Families of politicians and celebrities, especially children, have to be made off-limits. If that had been the standard in the first place, then this entire debacle would have, thankfully, been avoided from the start.