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Family Guy: Reaching new transmisogynistic lows

a screenshot from the episode. Brian is projectile vomiting onto the floor and Stewie watches him looking concerned.

I like cartoons, and watch several less-than-feminist animated series, but as far as Family Guy goes, I watched my last episode years ago, fed up with its recycled gags and the way it confused political incorrectness with edgy humor (has somone already made the joke "So crass, so old" about Fox's new "So brash, so bold"? Probably?). But the show, and creator Seth MacFarlane's spinoff shows The Cleveland Show and American Dad are, incredibly, still airing. Of course, to sustain the same offensive jokes over the course of three very similar shows and numerous seasons, its creators have to devise punchlines that are equal parts lazy and offensive, and most recently, at the expense of trans women in Sunday's episode, "Quagmire's Dad."

Creator Seth MacFarlane prefaced the episode (which is on the Internet elsewhere, feel free to Google it yourself) when he responded to AfterElton.com about the show's gay jokes:

You have … the [gay] news anchor partners on American Dad, you have Bruce the performance artist on Family Guy, and you have my own personal abhorrence for Prop 8. That always distresses me when I hear that the gay community is upset with us, because that's one group of people I hope would know we're on their side. … I can safely say that the transsexual community will be very, very happy with the "Quagmire" episode that we have coming up in a couple of months. It's probably the most sympathetic portrayal of a transsexual character that has ever been on television, dare I say.

Ever been on television? Dare you say indeed. That's a pretty hefty wager, especially for a show that has garnered popularity based on its controversial punchlines, or considering that just a few months prior, a transmisogynist plot was featured onThe Cleveland Show.

Well, how did the episode stack up against MacFarlane's claim? Quagmire's dad Dan is a decorated military veteran. Given Quagmire's womanizing, everyone expects him to be the epitome of masculinity. It turns out he's rather effeminate, and while some folks assume he's gay (cue dick'n'balls jokes!), Dan announces that he's "a woman trapped in a man's body" and that he plans on having sexual reassignment surgery there in Quahog and whose chosen name is Ida.

There's much attention to the surgery, from a blood-covered surgeon, to Peter asking Ida if she misses her penis and what her breasts are made out of at the dinner table, with no one but Quagmire objecting (out of discomfort).

To the show's credit, it makes the distinction (that is, Quagmire attempts to make the distinction to a disbelieving Lois and Peter) that a gay man is different than a transgender woman. Ida never apologizes for who she is, and she tells her son she would be miserable should she continue to live as a man.

Unfortunately, this ends up being the catalyst for the worst part of the episode, when Ida sleeps with Brian Griffin, the anthropomorphic family dog (why it's Brian and not one of the show's human characters is another issue). Upon returning home and informing his family about meeting his possible soul mate, Brian is informed by Stewie that he slept with a trans woman–that is, after some more cracks about "real women." Brian immediately begins to throw up. And not just throw up, but throw up until the cartoon floor is covered in cartoon vomit, a full forty seconds later, followed by an irrational screaming match.

Let's not leave out Lois telling Meg to throw out the dish Ida brought (irrational fear of trans people), Brian yelling "When they move to a new place, they're supposed to notify the neighborhood!" (conflation of trans people with sex offenders), and cis characters comfortably switching back and forth between "he" and "she" when referring to Ida (casual misgendering).

Quagmire and Ida are the most sympathetic characters in the episode, which is hard to swallow since Quagmire is such an unsympathetic character in every other episode (and if my memory serves me correctly has also been at the center of other transphobic jokes). You can see the service MacFarlane thought he was providing during some of the scenes, such as when Quagmire tells Ida that he just wants her to be happy, and shares her joy at meeting a partner. What's so problematic is that this "acceptance," about this supposedly over-arching "sympathetic portrayal" does in no way erase the other harmful jokes and subplots in the episode. And whereas other episodes that dealt with racism or abortion are usually used as envelope-pushing ploys and publicity stunts, this is completely self-unaware, it disregards previous outcry about the representation of trans women on The Cleveland Show, and of course, the slap-in-face ignorance from MacFarlane himself who thought he was being a crusading ally.

But why is this a big deal? Doesn't Family Guy offend everyone? As Lisa at Questioning Transphobia points out, "That's bullshit. [MacFarlane's] humor is crafted for a cis, straight, able-bodied male audience. Everything you see on his shows is meant to affirm that perspective." But isn't it satire, isn't the Griffin family a bunch of bumbling buffoons? Really, is Family Guy's fan base (who, let's be honest, includes those far younger than the typical 18-34 male demographic) really "getting" that Lois and Peter are bigoted when they insist Quagmire's dad is gay? That Stewie is most definitely uninformed when he says Ida's genitals are like a "casserole of nonsense"? That when Ida suggests that Meg is also a trans woman that there are acceptable times to misgender another?

And the ends–that Quagmire comes around to accept Ida–do not justify the transmisogynist means. The other characters' uninformed transphobia is never reconciled or problematized, and episode concludes with Brian sneering at Quagmire, "I f*cked your dad." Now who's vomiting?

Family Guy's Transphobic Mother's Day Episode [Queers United]
May 9ths Episode of Family Guy [Questioning Transphobia]
Is "Family Guy"'s Seth MacFarlane a Complete Idiot? [AfterElton]

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Comments

48 comments have been made. Post a comment.

Thank you

Thank you so much for writing about this episode. I will admit, I have defended Family Guy in the past, and I truly believe that past episodes from earlier seasons were much more about envelope pushing for the sake of satirizing racism, homophobia, etc etc. However, recently, there is nothing satirical about any of it, and I have decided this will be my last new episode ever. I was appalled that after all that went on and on and on in this, that only Quagmire seemed to learn a lesson by the end. The entire Griffin Family was given a pass for all of the transphobia, so I don't really know how MacFarlane could say he was trying to satirize their own misguided ideas. No one LEARNED anything; the whole train wreck just ended. If this is what passes for progressive ideas about transgender people, the whole world is fucked.

Ugh made me so mad. Thanks for voicing this so well.

nice work.

This is an excellent deconstruction - I'm a little bummed you beat me to it! :)

eep!

Sorry Rachel! I'm really looking forward to your other TV posts though, I love Deeply Problematic.

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Kjerstin Johnson, editor-in-chief
Did someone say "Comments Policy"?

:)

No eep or toes stepped on - this is great! Sorry I implied otherwise. I will still be covering Family Guy, just different episodes. Thanks for the love :)

I'm so glad you commented on

I'm so glad you commented on this! I too was shocked not at the lame joke, but at the hateful undertone of the joke, the whole episode actually.
Its a brilliant defense that they are supposed to offend anyone. Like a carte blance to just go anywhere, say anything. Can't say I appreciated it though. I have always liked family Guy and defended it as clever and all that... but on the whole, this show has sort of jumped the shark for me. They always keep pushing it for the sake of pushing it. I mean besides being offensive, whats so funny about Brian barfing for 1 and a half minutes straight? why is that supposed to funny? seems like its just inane filler. Either that or I've just grown up and realized what juvenile crap looks like.

So loving a person that just

So loving a person that just so happens to have been misgendered from birth is unnatural and wrong, yet bestiality isn't? Oooookay.

I'd argue that to some

I'd argue that to some extent Brian is Seth MacFarlane's persona on the show. Although MacFarlane does almost all the male voices, Brian's voice is MacFarlane's voice without affect. Brian is a liberal quasi-intellectual atheist who often schools the rest of the family on his traditional liberal viewpoints. I've often seen the fact that Brian is a dog as a clever counterpoint to this persona. When he's not railing against Fox News, Brian will bark at the vacuum cleaner, chase his tail and a variety of other characteristic dog things. It's a funny gag. However, if we look at Brian as Seth MacFarlane's self-effacing doppelganger, I think it becomes further evidence of Kjerstin's argument that MacFarlane does not deliver on his "sympathetic portrayal." It's sad that the Brian character, in particular, would be so violently transhomophobic. To the extent that Brian is the creator of this show's voice and has here-to-fore been the show's voice of reason, how other than negative would we interpret the show's attitude toward transsexual people? How is that a sympathetic portrayal?

Good perspective

Thanks jordanb, that helps explain why I had another issue with the vomiting scene. It seemed like Brian's character (who now can be seen as self-proclaimed queer ally MacFarlane), was sort of (sort of) grappling with trans identity from a cis perspective while he talked to Stewie, and then to watch his character - the audience knowing that he's had positive experiences with a trans woman - choose not to reflect on his own experiences or offer a nuanced perspective, and instead react in a disgusting, unquestioning way...was as disturbing as the sight gag.

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Kjerstin Johnson, editor-in-chief
Did someone say "Comments Policy"?

Appreciate the deconstruction, but...

Just wanted to let you know that it is transgender or transsexual woman not "transgendered". Transgendered is not a word. Many would prefer the more encompassing trans, in general.
Thanks for the deconstruction. It's good to see that people object to this especially terrible episode.

Thanks

Thanks for the heads-up Max, I'm always learning. I changed it in the post above.

____________
Kjerstin Johnson, editor-in-chief
Did someone say "Comments Policy"?

i haven't seen this episode

i haven't seen this episode but i like the show overall. it can be offensive but in the end, it's just a tv show. anyone who takes tv that seriously could probably use some chilling out. and before you jump on my guns, i'm trans as well and informed about "the issues." it's just that i don't think this isn't even something worth making a fuss over. if their demographic is the straight white cisgendered male then i don't think an opinion is going to change the audience's preferences, and any effect this opinion would have on viewers would only be minor damage to its overall ratings and popularity.

Well...

...this is a blog that does take the time to critique television shows. We have (and have had) guest bloggers devoted solely to this very medium in fact! We also cover pop songs, chick flicks, and other pop culture that some folks don't think is worth making a fuss over. We, however, do.

____________
Kjerstin Johnson, editor-in-chief
Did someone say "Comments Policy"?

The problem being that these

The problem being that these shows make it okay for people to use trans people as the butt of jokes. Like we don't have value as people.

Another problem is that, while, yes, Peter is a cis, white, male and is an idiot, viewers know that he doesn't represent *all* cis, white, males. With the tiny amount of representation trans women get, the trans women in shows *are* representative off all trans women. When they make fun of the trans woman character, Ida, they're really making fun of every trans woman out there, and reinforcing the cissexist entitlement to make a joke out anyone not cissexual.

The problem is the representation. The problem is that it's on a major network broadcast. (It will also be broadcast on Cartoon Network which has less stringent censorship.) The problem is that we can't let this go unchallenged.

also

There is a comment in the Questioning Transphobia thread written by a trans woman who had to sit through a business meeting threaded with the transphobic jokes that were aired in the Family Guy episode. It's psychologically scarring to have to sit through that just to work.

That is a REAL WORLD consequence of these things you describe as not worthwhile. It made it normal to repeat transphobia and trans people pay for it terms of mental health and physical safety.

Thank you. THAT is the

Thank you. THAT is the point of this.

It's not just that, oh here's this one isolated shitty episode of a show that has an admittedly terrible record on all kinds of crap, it's that there's a constant stream of transmisogyny on television. Off the top of my head, repeat offenders include South Park, 30 Rock, How I Met Your Mother, The Daily Show, Colbert Report, My Name Is Earl. Not to mention whatever beer ads are running, and whatever standup comics are on the Comedy Channel. That shit takes its toll. And you know, TV networks are so ok with transmisogyny they'll have a word like "tranny" or "shemale" in a promo which is very often bloody hate speech when used in real-life.

Some days I tell my wife, let's put on a DVD of something we've already watched because I'm just not up to waiting for the inevitable reminder that I live in a culture where I'm not really considered human.

It never ceases to amaze me

It never ceases to amaze me that people honestly believe that "It's just a TV show/movie/book/joke" is a justifiable defense for the assumptive undertones in those very mediums. The reality is, items like TV shows and movies not only represent our cultural attitudes, they help to shape them for more impressionable groups that might not have any other way of determining what to believe, follow or invest in.

So, insisting that something is "just" doesn't invalidate the litany of worthy complaints against what the "just" median is. It's only through reviewing these medians and offering up a constructive criticism that we can hope to effectively challenge their assumptions and establish change. Real progress doesn't happen until socially accepted norms are, well, no longer socially accepted norms.

What bothers me is McFarlane is seen as something of a liberal, enlightened icon. There's no way to determine how many individuals he ultimately influenced to shift political polarity away from a conservative base. And this is the progressive message we want to send? That trans folks deserve a 40-second wave of vomit, conflation of their actual gender identity and are only suitable for sexual relations with a dog (admittedly, this is somewhat a stretch, only because Brian is less a dog and more imbued with the abilities and functionality of a human, but on top of everything else, just seems particularly tasteless).

uhhhh, context?

...except that Bitch Magazine's tagline is feminist response to pop culture and, last I checked, Family Guy IS POP CULTURE. So, yes, it is worth "making a fuss", as much as any other topic covered by Bitch.

Vomit

I just finished watching this episode of The Family Guy and couldn't get over how excessive the vomiting scene was. Then I watched the transmisogynist episode of MacFarlane's Cleaveland Show (A Brown Thanksgiving), to find that over the top vomiting was used TWICE to display characters disgust with Auntie Momma being a trans woman (Cleveland vomits at the dinner table after realizing Auntie Momma and his dad had sex, and later in the episode, upon finding out that Auntie Momma is trans, Cleveland's dad vomits for a good fifteen seconds, covering the front porch).

So I'm trying to wrap my head around this vomiting thing. Why was the decision made to have it last for FORTY seconds? It seems to me that if MacFarlane wanted to create a "sympathetic" episode, he really did ruin it with the projectile vomiting. Instead of providing viewers with an opportunity to think about trans issues, he gives them forty seconds to laugh at the fact that a straight male had sex with a trans woman. Am I missing something with the vomit? Are most Family Guy audience members actually laughing throughout the entire forty second sequence? I can't fathom how someone could watch Brian vomiting for THAT long and not feel somewhat uncomfortable.

Ashley McAllister, Outreach Coordinator

Over Seth.

I decided there was nothing redeeming about any MacFarlane project when I saw an entire Cleveland Show making light of domestic violence and mocking its victims. The guy peddles schlock.

Why is it that peope that

Why is it that peope that don't see transgendered individuals as the reassgined sex are instantly labeled as transphobic. Having problems sleeping with a woman that used to be a man doesn't make one transphobic; it just is one person drawing a personal boundary, not enforcing it on others; that's still acceptable in a free society last time I checked. I swear sometimes this site goes nuts on mountain/mole hill issues, like Glee and the venom this site spits at it. I'm surprised we haven't had criticism of the overweight girl imagining her friends as food when she starves herself because it stereotypes fat people; or the paralytic drag of the most recent episode. Seth McFarlane is like the guys on South Park, they expect you to take a joke and not have a freaking meltdown; equal rights means equal opportunity for criticism, not exemption from it! Those are special rights.

did you not read any of the

did you not read any of the previous comments?

You know, this comment is making me wonder why I can't flag comments on this site for moderation.

Your transphobia and privilege are showing!

Working on it!

@sebastianbound, we're working on implementing a flagging system (and working on finding the money for it...) so fingers crossed we should have something in place soon. Thanks for jumping in here!

@Anonymous, @sebastianbound is right. The issues Kjerstin took here with Family Guy really are about privilege and transphobia, and the transphobia expressed in this particular episode went way beyond "personal boundaries." In fact, it went all the way to making barfing jokes on national television at the thought of being with someone just because of their sexuality–which to Kjerstin (and me, and many others) is transphobic and offensive.

There's a difference between jokes made at the expense of, say, politicians or celebrities on shows like Family Guy and South Park (which are the jokes I believe you're referring to when you ask people to not "have a freaking meltdown") and jokes made at the expense of marginalized individuals like transsexuals. There's also a difference between laughing with a group and laughing at them (something I believe RMJ will be discussing on her guest blog soon). They are not the same, and asking people to "get over it" is not acceptable.

Kelsey Wallace, Web Editor

____________
Kelsey Wallace, contributor

Ask me about our Comments Policy!

Thanks for the reply,

Thanks for the reply, Kelsey. :-)

spit and venom

Yes, thanks for your reply! It's clear they didn't read through the post or the comments...or have any real plan to engage with the issues at hand.

Thanks also for your great input sebastianbound and Tabloid Scully.

____________
Kjerstin Johnson, editor-in-chief
Did someone say "Comments Policy"?

"Why is it that peope that

"Why is it that peope that don't see transgendered individuals as the reassgined sex are instantly labeled as transphobic."

Because transphobia is motivated by the assumption that sex and gender are biological, and what you're born as accurately reflects who you are. But that isn't the case. Failing to recognize trans folk for who they really are is asserting your assumption of privilege (that you DON'T have) over their right to claim their identity. It's akin to those who attempted to deny women and African-Americans and any other minority group acknowledgment as people.

Any explanation someone could offer up ("I just don't believe in sex reassignment;" "The body you're born into is the gender you are") is guaranteed to be tinged with ignorance, misinformation, fear, judgment and prejudice. These are the core tenants of transphobia. Whether you (and others) choose to recognize trans for who they really are is your prerogative of ignorance--it does not invalidate that trans folk are who they are, even if it blows your concept of the gender binary. Charity Bono is really Chaz. Alexis Arquette is the third Arquette sister. Period the end.

"Having problems sleeping with a woman that used to be a man doesn't make one transphobic; it just is one person drawing a personal boundary, not enforcing it on others; that's still acceptable in a free society last time I checked."

Except that in this context, McFarlane and his creative writing team went to great lengths to try and use Brian sleeping with Ida as comedic fodder. Up until the revelation, it was peppered with a lengthy discussion that described Ida's "parts" as a mess, joked about "real women" and of course, eclipsed by a lengthy, unnecessary vomiting sequence. There's no actual dialogue about trans folk, or how gender works, but a lot of one-liners ("Aren't they supposed to notify the neighborhood when they move?!") which demonstrate anything but a progressive view of transfolk.

It would have been understandable if, upon discovering Ida's past, Brian had handled it maturely to own up to his lack of comfort with who Idea was before. It would have still been disappointing, because Brian is supposed to be the voice of liberal reason, but I don't think people would still be labeling it as transphobic because it would have done what you suggested. It, in fact, would have been Brian drawing a personal boundary, rather than the show using him, in the fashion of caricature, to illustrate why no one should willingly invest in a sexual relationship with a trans individual. Or, better yet, Brian taking a moment to process the information before defending his decision to be with her. That not only wouldn't have been transphobic, it would have been transpositive.

"...they expect you to take a joke and not have a freaking meltdown; equal rights means equal opportunity for criticism, not exemption from it!"

Right. There is no exemption for "Family Guy," either, just because it tends to promote more liberal ideas than conservative ones. That's precisely why we do criticize television shows, right down to every joke they crack. And when they cross lines, you have to "have a freaking meltdown" in order to be taken seriously in the shouting match of rights and validation.

When I watched the episode "Dial Meg for Murder" which involved an aggressive bull raping Peter, one of the people I was watching it with immediately announced that that bull was his "hero." I switched off the TV and immediately explained why that joke was NOT funny and just this side of triggering--though I'm not sure whether my message got across, it struck me almost immediately just how reflective "Family Guy" is of our culture attitudes and, more to the point, the role it plays in shaping them.

We have to criticize all elements of pop culture in order to break down the pervasive assumptions that continue to define who is a person and who isn't, who is entitled to rights and who isn't. If pop culture wasn't so insistent on allowing these backwards ideas to exist and thrive, if they actually relied on things that are funny (who doesn't like a good knock-knock joke?) as punchlines, we wouldn't have to have a meltdown in the first place.

Seriously?

[This comment has been removed by Bitch moderators because of its douchey nature. Thanks for reading!]

XO,
Bitch web staff

Oh, gosh.

I have no idea how you drew the conclusions about the previous poster that you did, and I won't touch your defending points about the episode because they were more than addressed in the original post.

This, though...
Go take a Xanax, lighten up, and maybe see a psychologist [...]

Way beyond offensive. I can't believe I'm seeing this in a comment meant to convince us that its writer is *not* a bigot.

Transphobia

I have not seen the episode, so I want to put that disclaimer out there from the get go. However, I was interested in the larger point that ANONYMOUS was attempting to make. It seems the issue is whether a sis person can object to having a physical, sexual relationship with a trans person and not be transphobic. On the one hand, it seems that we should respect the personal decisions people make with regards to their sexual orientation. On the other hand, if someone's objections are based on misinformed stereotypes or other forms of naivety, it is right to object.

Now, projectile vomiting, as demonstrated in the show, clearly rises above personal objection, so I am not speaking to that. But if I, as a heterosexual, cis male decide that I am comfortable sleeping with cis women but not transwomen, does that mean I'm transphobic? Does it mean that I am somehow, consciously or not, rejecting the womenness of these transwomen? I'm not asking these questions to be snarky, I am genuinely curious. Transphobia is definitely a very real threat and should be confronted and rejected as such. But, I also balk at labeling things with '-isms' prematurely and ultimately watering down our larger mission countering these issues. And, personally speaking, I wonder if I must do more to understand my own sexual preferences and what they might say towards my underlying attitudes towards trans folk.

Relating to the show, I will speak to a point someone made about Brian being the "voice of reason" on the show and still demonstrating such deplorable behavior and attitudes. That is actually a common tactic on the show, which I always interpreted as showing that even the best among us (and being the 'best' among the Family Guy bunch isn't saying much) are still likely to harbor some pretty distasteful feelings at one time or another. Yea, Brian is generally the first one to call something out rightfully; but he's also home to his own biases, just like we all are, so sometimes the show seems to juxtapose Brian's apparent wisdom against a very ugly side to demonstrate this. So, that doesn't excuse it, obviously. But I don't think the choice of Brian, the otherwise smart one, putting these behaviors is a way to lump them in with his other "smart" ideas, but instead to stand out in contrast to them.

No, it's not transphobic, not

No, it's not transphobic, not because you should, but because you're looking at it wrong. Why do you not want to sleep with men? Because... they're men. You're not attracted to them. Transwomen are women, they are not men. They don't act like men at all. Let's pretend you were born with a disorder where your penis fell off when you were five. You would know you were a man because-you know you're a man. Would you somehow be not considered part of the group of 'men'? Would you instead perhaps be considered a woman? If so, why?

I'm saying all this to be derogatory of your sexuality. I think you put yourself very well in your comment. You may say to yourself 'but I'm just not attracted to the way transwomen look'. Unfortunately, there's been a lot of bad stereotypes portrayed in the media. Trans woman most of the time do not look like the stereotype, and in fact, you wouldn't be able to tell the difference. There are transwomen and transmen of all shapes and sizes out there. They look and act just like anyone else.

But no, it wouldn't be transphobic, all it would show is that you've still got rather a skewed view that needs a little adjustment.

I know this is years later, but if you ever read this, I hope it helps.

wondering about some of these responses

I have to wonder about the number of commentators that take time out of their supposedly busy schedules to tell other people that the episode was "just a joke," that "[you] are too sensitive" etc. I wonder if instead of reading through anything else and feeling it unworthy to comment (because I doubt these people comment on every single post or article they find on the internet) it does strike a cord, touches on 'maybe that wasn't okay,' but out of love for something familiar, like Family Guy, they are instinctively pushing it away: "No! You're all wrong! The episode/Seth MacFarlane/Family Guy is great!"

Anyway, was the misgendering of Meg as a transwoman, in consideration of the ongoing "Meg is the most horrendously ugly person on the planet" 'gag,' supposed to be reinforcing that transwomen are unattractive? And Meg's reaction just reinforcing that being misgendered is the most offensive thing that can ever be done to a person? Way to go for extending a hand to the "transsexual community" there.

Enough already.

Disagreeing with the TOPIC of a post is one thing, but disagreeing with the EXISTENCE of the post itself is quite another. If you think critiquing pop culture from a feminist perspective is a ridiculous waste of your precious time, then don't visit this site.

People who are complaining about transphobia on South Park being "just a joke" or Kjerstin's post being "ridiculous" in this space need to knock it off. Your arguments won't get you anywhere this community, anyway. After all, this is a site for feminist responses to pop culture, so, you know, we care about RESPONDING TO POP CULTURE.

Kelsey Wallace, Web Editor

____________
Kelsey Wallace, contributor

Ask me about our Comments Policy!

Thank you for posting this

I have not read through the plethora of comments, and am sad, skimming, to see the hatred displayed here. Thank you, Ms. Web Editor, for posting a stop to it.

I clicked over here from feministing and am VERY glad that someone else saw this episode and posted about it. I watch Family Guy very occasionally, when I want to get my dose of (somewhat) satirical pop culture; seeing this episode made me never want to watch it again.

I basically agree with everything the OP said; I'm only adding a couple of things. First, I appreciated some of the transphobia being so obvious; because it exists. Watching the episode, I fully expected there to be resolution at the end; I was happy that they showed transphobia as opposed to just pretending everything was all peachy. Showing the struggles of characters is important, I think, and the relationship changes between Quagmire and Ida were, IMO, beautiful.

I was shocked, appalled, and very disappointed when the episode ended with Brian's "I f*cked your dad." What? No resolution? No talking with the rest of the characters clearly struggling with this transition in their lives - and especially no resolution between Brian and Ida?? She is so happy about him; they should at least talk, and we the viewers, also dealing with trans issues in our own lives and in the lives of the people around us, I feel should see the resolution after the breaking of relationships.

So, the transphobia didn't bother me until it wasn't resolved, at which point it bothered me A LOT. And, I agree with the OP - this isn't satire. It's being politically incorrect for the sake of being un-PC, and not for supporting any issues whatsoever. So disappointing.

They had such opportunity to show healing, especially between Brian and Ida - and they *didn't*! I felt betrayed, and again, disappointed.

This raises the question:

Okay, so what is "the most sympathetic portrayal of a transsexual character that has ever been on television"? If you assume we're supposed to restrict our list to network shows, it's a pretty short list. Alexis Meade from Ugly Betty, I guess?

VM wins again

I found Julia Smith from Veronica Mars extremely sympathetic. The title character -- and the one with whom watchers are meant to identify -- was immediately supportive and not too phased upon learning she was a woman, and the one person (her son) who didn't accept her was shown to be clearly in the wrong until he reformed his mindset at the end of the story arc. Julia was also in a long-term, apparently happy relationship -- and yes, her partner clearly *knew* she'd been born male (ahem, Family Guy.)
The bummer, of course, is that Julia only appeared in one episode.

Although way old school, I

Although way old school, I think there's also an episode of The Jefferson's that I saw here or on Racialicious or somewhere that is pretty sympathetic. The episode is about a male friend of George's who comes back to visit and is now a woman. George, as you might guess, is visibly uncomfortable around her. However, it's probably a better example of a show that pulls off a sympathetic portrayal while also depicting a lot of negativity, because it does a much better job of following through with the idea that George is being a bigot.

just so you know, i suck at

just so you know, i suck at computers and couldnt figure out how to comment besides replying to another comment.
on that note, i wanted to say that i have never taken Family Guy or mcfarlan"s other incarnations too seriously. as a black woman, his "jokes" about racism always seemed to me to be commentary on the insensitivity of people who actually believe those racist things and at society at large for accepting them. now, that doesn"t mean that i am necessarily ok with his portrayals. i think it is just the sort of hipster racism that i encounter with my co-workers everyday, the same racism that i have to call out.
that being said, although i am not a trans woman/man, i have deep sympathy and understanding for the struggles of their community. and i can say that the message i got from the episode was not that being trans was "gross" or "unnatural," but a complex issue which can take some persons their entire lives to come to grips with, an issue that is not easy for their families to deal with either. and that it is something that people need to become more educated about so that they don"t throw away entrees (or whatever it was) from said transgendered persons. i also thought he could have done the episode with a little more compassion, but it is, after all, a cartoon, on FOX, and he has to appeal to those among us who only want to mock the misunderstood things in life, and also rupert murdoch and his advertisers. not a perfect system or episode, but...

Are you people being

Are you people being serious, or is this blog satirical?
Because, frankly, it is obvious the show was meant to be satirical, ignorant, and repugnant, but it wasn't these things solely to offend people, it was these things to be, itself, comical, and, in addition, to cause humourous offense. Also, it is indubitable that Seth MacFarlane's comment about the show regarding the transgender's interpretation of the show, was obviously comically sarcastic and satirical. If you people truly don't understand that the show, and Seth's comment about the show, is suppose to be mocking the ignorance and repugnance towards transgenders, then I suppose the comedy is a bit over your heads, and perhaps you shouldn't watch it. ---

The show was mocking ignorance towards transgenders; it wasn't mocking transgenders.

Is this supposed to be

Is this supposed to be satirical? You talk about understanding context - do you even realize that you're at a blog about feminist analysis of pop culture? I mean, seriously. Try some reading comprehension.

@RMJ

Oh, this is a feminist blog? I see. I didn't know. Makes sense now. I mean, there's no way us superior males would not understand the satire the episode creates. Only women would have such low IQs to think that the episode was mocking transgender, when in reality it is mocking the ignorance toward them. Wow, women should just stay in the kitchen.

P.S. The entire last post was an example of the sartirical comedy used to mock ignorance that is present in Family Guy. I wasn't actually mocking women, even though it seems like that. I was actually mocking the ignorance men have toward women. It's exactly the same as this episode of Family Guy. It mocks ignorance towards transgenders, not transgenders themselves.

Missing the mark

Similarly to the way Family Guy often fails to make a relevant satirical statement, your comment comes across as mean-spirited and rude. As RMJ has pointed out in previous posts, an oppressive joke must be critiqued/rebutted in a valid way within the context of the show in order to be subversive instead of offensive. Your comments about Family Guy and trans people are missing the mark then, because in that episode the group doing the mocking (Peter and co.) was not critiqued in a meaningful way.

Kelsey Wallace, Web Editor

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@ Kelsey Wallace

You've only prove the the fact my statement is correct. It's suppose to come across with rude, mean-spirited, degrading, ignorant, offensive, sarcastic, and/or ironic tones. It's Satire, more specifically "Juvenalian Satire"; Juvenalian Satire is one of the two common categories satire is categorized into. Horation satire is satire which playfully criticizes some social vice through gentle, mild, and light-hearted humour. It directs wit, exaggeration, and self-deprecating humour toward what it identifies as folly. Juvenalian is more contemptuous and abrasive than the Horatian. Juvenalian satire addresses social "evil" through scorn, outrage, and savage ridicule. This form is often pessimistic, characterized by irony, sarcasm, moral indignation and personal invective, with less emphasis on humour. Family is an excellent example of Juvenalian satire, albeit, it can be indescribably abrasive. I mean, common uncomprehending responses to satire include revulsion (accusations of poor taste, or that "it's just not funny" for instance), to the idea that the satirist actually does support the ideas, policies, or people he is attacking; but that is even more laughable to the satirist. Look at, Stephen Colbert’s television program, The Colbert Report, it's instructive in the methods of contemporary American satire. Colbert's character is an opinionated and self-righteous commentator who, in his TV interviews, interrupts people, points and wags his finger at them, and "unwittingly" uses a number of logical fallacies. In doing so, he demonstrates the principle of modern American political satire: the ridicule of the actions of politicians and other public figures by taking all their statements and purported beliefs to their furthest (supposedly) logical conclusion, thus revealing their perceived hypocrisy. ---
Satire is complicated, it can often offend people because they often don't understand the message the satirist conveys, or they become upset if they think the satirist is being serious, thusly finding the joke in poor taste; but while the comedy of the satire is quite hilarious, the comedy of the offense to the satire is also quite laughable.

I hear you! Thanks for

I hear you! Thanks for addressing this.

I've wondered for awhile whether Family Guy and the like are satirising bigotry or just embodying it. After watching this episode I've decided it doesn't matter what the creators may believe/claim they're doing - I still don't want to ever see another one! Watching it was a stomach-turning experience. I found the tone really hateful and felt like I'd wasted 25 minutes of my life.

This show and others like it try to have it both ways. They claim they're making fun of bigoted people, and yet still churn out lines aimed at making bigots themselves fall about laughing. The "casserole of nonsense" line is a classic example.

"It’s probably the most sympathetic portrayal of a transsexual character that has ever been on television, dare I say." Now that's kind of funny.

I felt the episode did a

I felt the episode did a decent job of *at least* pointing out the hypocrisy rampant amongst privilaged white liberals.
I view it in the same vein as having friends who are so PROUD of the number of Brown people in their social sphere but dismiss us at the drop of a hat as irrational or paranoid when we encounter instances of real-life prejudice that aren't klan related. Or in the case of my self-identified feminist male friend who now express bitter hatred of women because his sensitive guy image failed to get him laid in his 24 years of life.
For Brian, expressing sympathy for the obstacles a person like Quagmire's dad must face is all well and good until *God forbid* he has an intimate encounter with one of "them."

...Which was of course the

...Which was of course the entire point of the episode. I'm astonished that so many people misunderstood this one, the joke was never about transphobia particularly, the joke was that Brian is when all's said and done a hypocrite. He pretends to be tolerant but when he's actually put in a position where that's tested it is swiftly exposed as a lie, it also highlights the idiocy of straight white (cis...I suppose, never liked that word for some reason) males pretending towards a tolerance that is never ever tested and frequently turns out to be a sham.

Also it's important to understand the idea of the different types of satire, this episode was very telling, very accurate and scathing. It was not, however, laugh out loud funny because it wasn't supposed to be funny, it was supposed to be a one-two punch of showing how bad ignorant people can be BUT THEN hitting you with the realisation that fake tolerance frequently hides something far worse than the Griffin's insensitivity.

Vomit

As a trans woman and activist, I have to agree with some of the opinions expressed above.... Yes, this is satire, and I believe that the point that Seth was making by showing the puke scene was actually the one statement in the show that was satirical towards the decision of some trans women to not disclose to their partners the fact that they are trans.

Granted, Seth is no genius on gender issues, and has fairly muddled his arguments with his attempts at making them satirical, but I think that part of the reason that some find the puke scene so offensive is because it is intended to offend.

That is to say that I think Seth is trying to describe and express honestly the level of physical angst that is produced in people who experience the cognitive dissonance that comes from having something as deep as their own sexual orientation being challenged.

I do think that it is fair for an individual to decide that they are not sexually attracted to someone on the basis of the fact that they are transgender. As a metaphor, consider the case of a woman who cannot bare children: if a potential romantic partner decides that they do not want to engage in a romance with this woman because they eventually want to be involved in a monogamous relationship with a person who will help them to create genetic offspring, are they also wrong to do so? Should the possibility of children not be a part of any discussion surrounding the initiation of a romantic relationship?

Surely there are many, many, many other reasons why it is important for trans people to disclose their status to potential romantic partners.

In the example given by the show, it is clear that Brian would not have had sex with a trans person if he had been aware of their status. Once that status is revealed, he realizes that he has been denied that choice and experiences severe (albeit disproportionately exaggerated) physical discomfort.

If McFarlane had wanted to be completely sympathetic to trans women, he would have had Ida disclose her status prior to engaging in romantic liaisons with Brian, and allowed Brian to let her down easy when he decided that Ida was not for him.... and then perhaps allowing Ida to pursue some other, hopefully more responsive, romantic interest.

The fact that he did not write it this way would seem to indicate to me that he was not only being satirically critical of externalized transphobia as presented by cisgender persons, but also internalized transphobia as presented by transgender persons who choose not to disclose their status as transgender to sexual partners and yet somehow still expect their sexual partners to be accepting of them once all of the cards are on the table.

Agreed, he sucked in the execution of making this point, and who knows what he was really thinking at the time anyway, but this is one way the vomit scene might be interpreted in a more positive light.

Tranmisogynistic. I'm truly

Tranmisogynistic. I'm truly impressed: feminists and gender-Nazis are creating new forms of misogyny to fear and rant about every time I turn around.

"They say the empty can rattles the most, the sound of your own voice must soothe you...."

Be Calm

Relax on life, it's just a cartoon... no need to get all but hurt about it

Ooookay, Calm Down

I know that there are some people out there who are easily offended. And I do not agree with family guy. However, this is how Seth MacFarlene chose to potray pop culture. In many ways, this is how many people view Americans; it is distasteful that Brian vomited for so long after he realized that Ida was a a trans-gender, but guys, we're making it a bigger deal than it actually is. For starters, Family Guy is a cartoon. Its not real. The jokes and one-liners may be taken literally. But we are in control of how other people affect us. Sure, Macfarlene is fifty percent the problem. He's the source. But it takes two to fight. Two to tango. You are that other fifty percent. You control what ticks you off. What shapes your personality.

We act like gods, dictating what is okay and what is not okay. A lot of us act like we own the world but we don't. The world is not made of black and white, just grey. We shape our own perdpectives and we are so thin-skinned that we let one mans comedy show hurt us. We are nothing but ants in this universe and we are going to let one TV show squish us? There's more to life than this. We can not change someone elses mind unless the opppsite affects them. People,your not God. Stop dictating other peoples lives.

And for those who have been the victims of poorly written jokes and one-liners, I hope you find peace and happiness in this unfair world of ours.

Love the Mediator