Thursday, January 27, 2005

Related to one of yesterday's posts

I was just reading an interview with "Family Guy" creator Seth McFarlane at the online parody "news" site, The Onion (thanks Serge).

In the interview, Seth discusses the controversy behind the "infamous" When you wish upon a Weinstein episode which originally never made it to air, but was available on the DVD box set (though it was recently broadcast by FOX, but in a strategically edited form - if you've seen both versions and were paying close attention, you'll know what I'm talking about). In the episode, Peter wants his son (Chris) to convert to Judaism so that he will grow up to be financially successful; a premise for a cartoon that was as provocative as it was hilarious.

The episode proved to be so "controversial" as far as the heads in the FOX television network were concerned, that it did not make it to air during the show's original run (and as I mentioned earlier, the version which they eventually aired was not entirely in tact either.) Why the controversy? Because it might be offensive to Jewish viewers.

While I can understand this as being possible given that there world is filled with over-sensitive people (though really it's Peter and the gang that come off as morons; the writers were sufficiently apologetic enough and positive in their portrayal of Judaism and Jews themselves, to make it hard to understand just what was really so damned "offensive" about the episode), I found it odd how this episode never made it to air, but one I personally thought pushed things a little too far regarding Peter's "traditional Roman Catholic" father, did make it to air with no fanfare or surrounding controversy. Seth McFarlane (a self admittedly non-religious man) himself expresses puzzlement over this very thing, and cites the exact same example (refering to it as the "Pope" episode, since "the Pope" does appear in it...though the Pope in the episode comes off as a caricture of Pope John XXIII, rather than one of the living Pope, John Paul II).

SM: Absolutely. It was made out to be much worse than it was. It wasn't really the episode itself, it was the political battle that took place at Fox. There were two groups of people. There were the people who were saying "Absolutely no way," and people who were saying, "No, no, this is great." It went so far as us getting letters from rabbis who we had sent the episode to saying, "Yes, it's a little on the edge, but he learns the right lesson in the end, it's probably okay." We would send those letters to Fox. It became this battle of wills between the two sides. It really was an issue. Eventually, the naysayers won out. But that's the absurd thing. You look at an episode like the one with the pope, which skirts much closer to the line of being offensive to Catholics than the Weinstein episode does to Jews.

Well, while Seth might be puzzeled, I'm not, not in the least. Though on the whole Christians get it the worst in Holyweird, to some degree everyone is open to contemptuous parody when it's for the Jew, in particular when a big part of what is being parodied his is identity as a Jew. Once again, I feel compelled to repeat that Marlon Brando was right. You can have the pervert priest, the obnoxiously hypocritical (and imbecillic) southern preacher, the buffoon pakistani convienience store owner, the irrational Arab fanatic...but not a negative identifiably Jewish character, and certainly not one where part of the jabbing is directed at their identity as a Jew, Jewish culture, Jewish religion, etc.


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