As much as I’ve grown weary of Family Guy’s wacky-for-the-sake-of-wacky antics, and extreme tendency towards rape jokes, I still tune in every week. Why? Partially due to an obsessive need to see every episode no matter how bad it gets, but also because once in awhile the show can still be pretty damn good. Even in this dim season, there have still been a few standouts, like the one where Brian and Stewie traveled in time to the pilot episode, or when Stewie started dating a girl who was exactly like him, but turned out to be more evil. As awful as some episodes have been, there is still some occasional wit left in this show.
Unfortunately, that wit was nowhere to be found during this past week’s episode, in which Peter joined the Tea Party. Now, let’s ignore the fact that this story is about 2 years removed from being relevant, and focus on what actually happens. On the surface, the Tea Party would seem like the perfect thing for Family Guy to make fun of. It’s an entire movement full of nut jobs and racists. How could they lose?
By inexplicably choosing to ignore those elements entirely.
Oh sure, they made fun of the Tea Party, but not in a way that was intriguing or enlightening to anyone who had taken 8th grade social studies. Basically, Peter gets fed up with the government after they shut down the business that he started for no apparent reason, then he hears about how much the Tea Party hates the government, and joins up right away. So far, so good. Then, at the rally, his wealthy father-in-law, essentially working as a David Koch surrogate, disguises himself as a blue-collar worker, when really he just wants to eliminate government regulations and pollute more. Again, this works.
Unfortunately, at that point, all the satire grinds to a screeching halt. Numerous elements of the Tea Party are ignored; there’s no one demanding to see Obama’s birth certificate, and no comically misspelled protest signs. All of that is abandoned to make the extremely glib point that government is good. The Tea Party eliminates the city government, and anarchy quickly ensues. Things are solved when Peter starts a new system that is identical to the current model of American government. Essentially, in their quest to illustrate the flawed logic of the Tea Party, they basically said that our current political system is pretty much perfect, and has no problems that aren’t self-correcting. Way to stick it to the man!
This episode was a giant missed opportunity. They could’ve criticized government as well those who want to abolish it, they could’ve pointed out the hypocrisy of complaining about poor people getting government help, while not caring about big bank bailouts, they could have done something with the racist undercurrent of the movement, and they could have pointed out that the corruption and greed of the current system is why it’s so inefficient. But no, none of that was important. They merely wanted to point out that government is essentially good, and came out with an episode that felt more jingoistic than a Toby Keith single. It was one thing when the show was going too far with its over-lengthy cutaways and rape humor, this is the first time the show’s attempts at satire have truly felt limp. Which is a crying a shame, because that was one of the few things it was still good at.
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