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Tuesday, September 30, 2014 

Simpsons/Family Guy crossover contains rape joke

I've long lost interest in the Simpsons and never cared for the Family Guy, and this stupefying news gives me no reason to revise my decision to leave the former behind and not bother watching the latter. In this story, they brought back a routine that was mostly dropped for many years after 1994, where Bart Simpson would make prank calls to Moe's Tavern, and make it worse coming from the mouth of the son on the Family Guy:
It punctuates a scene in which the incorrigible Bart is instructing Stewie Griffin in the art of the prank phone call. Bart dials the owner of Moe's Tavern and asks whether there is anyone there with the last name Keybum, first name Lee. When Moe calls out to his patrons, asking for a "leaky bum," everyone gets a laugh.

Stewie thinks that's cool, and asks to make his own prank call.

"Hello, Moe?" he says. "Your sister's being raped."

Tim Winter, president of the advocacy group Parents Television Council, said he's a longtime fan of Matt Groening, creator of "The Simpsons," and sought out the trailer when it was released.

"I was blown out of my shoes when I saw the scene with the rape joke in it," Winter said. "It really troubled me."

He said he found it particularly offensive in the context of stories about sexual assaults on college campuses and, most recently, talk about abusive treatment of women by some players in the National Football League. He said when rape is accepted as a punch line for a joke in entertainment, "it becomes less outrageous in real life."

Winter said he wrote to Groening, "Family Guy" creator Seth MacFarlane and Fox in August, asking that the joke be removed when the episode is shown on television. He said he received no reply.
Those TV producers can be so callous, sometimes I wonder if it's worth the effort speaking to them, and better to speak with the public instead.
Katherine Hull Fliflet, spokeswoman for the Washington-based RAINN (Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network), said she did not find the line offensive.

"I think the show is making it clear that rape is not funny by how they are positioning the joke," Fliflet said. "It's my hope that would be the viewers' take-away."

RAINN, which says it is the nation's largest anti-sexual assault organization and operates a rape hotline, works with creators in Hollywood to help them depict sexual assault realistically. The group lists actress Christina Ricci as a national spokesperson.
I'm sorry, but it's just no use. Given how offensive the Family Guy's been over the past years, with one joke about joining the army in Iraq made on the show where Peter Griffen said there'd be "all the brown people you can rape", that's why I'm disappointed with Fliflet for letting MacFarlane off the hook too easily. It's true there have been sitcoms that dealt with serious issues over past decades (All in the Family, Three's Company and Diff'rent Strokes come to mind) and did deal with them successfully because the writers understood the seriousness, but coming from animated sitcoms that focused far more on humor than serious issues, that's why I find this stunt inexcusable.

In fact, this isn't the first time the Simpsons ever featured tasteless jokes. Back in the late 1990s, the scriptwriters were injecting sick humor trivializing Nazism and sexual harrassment. Yes, even back then, Matt Groening's staff was already pushing their own envelope, and it finally had the effect of alienating me altogether from that kind of animated fare and feeling regret I ever bothered in the first place.

And the Parent TV Council has a point about a certain segment that may not understand without proper guidance - children:
...the Parents Television Council believes the biggest danger of joking about rape is the lasting impression it could leave on younger viewers.

“We don’t mock certain groups because we realize that it is highly insensitive and morally wrong,” said the PTC’s Winter. “Why wouldn’t we do the same thing about sexual assault?”

While the joke crosses a line, it’s a line MacFarlane has danced with plenty of times in the past. In fact, several individuals have created petitions on Change.org urging MacFarlane to stop using rape jokes in his content. “Sexual assault is nothing to laugh about,” Alyssa Soren of Louisville, Ky., wrote in hers.
Considering how offensive Family Guy was in the past decade, and how unremorseful its creator's been, that's why I don't see the point of letting this crossover off the hook. If Stewie's "joke" goes by without challenge or consequence - meaning, no rebuttal from Bart for how reprehensible it happens to be - then the objections are valid. Of course we should be concerned if mental adolescents see the episode and don't understand what's wrong. It wouldn't be the only abomination this crossover features. Here's an article on Vox that tells more. For example, during a brawl between Homer and Peter:
Look, yes, Family Guy is known for its ultra-violent chicken fights, for its endless repetition of gags that worked at one time, and for gags that go on too long, seemingly just to pad out episodes. But seven minutes of Homer and Peter beating each other up, spreading action-movie chaos throughout Springfield, also featuring Homer biting Peter in the crotch, before he collapses and foams at the mouth? Please no more.
I don't see how the gags could've worked if they included that kind of vomit. I'll have none of it. There's also how Family Guy treats its own daughter character:
This is one of Family Guy's longest running gags, and having Lisa befriend Meg made it seem as if the Griffin daughter might finally find a true friend. But the scene concluded with Peter yelling, from offscreen, "Shut up, Meg! You don't matter!" It would be one thing if this gag had ever been funny, but it's just not, and the show keeps turning to it. And Meg's saxophone, the new thing that might bring her joy, got thrown in the trash. Ugh.
Being an animated cartoon is no defense for this negative attitude it's got towards a girl either. Some racism even finds its way in here:
6) The casually racist treatment of Apu

Whether it was Stewie locking the guy in a cage for a cheap laugh or the line "I come from a country where the word for sewage and beverage are the same," the show treated Apu, a rich, developed character on his own show, like the punchline to a joke told in 1972.
To be honest, I don't think Apu's ever been that well developed at all. And if Ned Flanders was ever loved by the producers at one time, they went right back to denigrating him in the past decade.
7) Peter and Homer drank gasoline out of the hose after buying far too much, then got turned into a German porn

Yes, this also happened
. (Really, this list could just be "everything the show had Peter and Homer do together.")
That sounds repellent too.
8) Lots and lots and lots and lots and lots of "politically incorrect" sexist jokes

At this point, Family Guy is trying so hard to cheekily offend that it's long since moved past being transgressively funny and past being genuinely offensive. Now, it's just tired when Brian wants to see Lois's breasts, or the show has Stewie make a rape joke in a prank call to Moe's.
If even ten percent here is correct, it's not just the rape joke by Stewie that's a problem. The whole crossover special is littered with scores of other reprehensible excuses for comedy, and anyone who thinks this is pardonable ought to have their heads examined. Certainly the Family Guy's awful, but the Simpsons was never far behind, and got increasingly worse towards the end of the past century. Yet the networks continue to carry these worthless "experiments" in cartooning, one for over a quarter century and the other will probably reach as long a period soon enough, even though it doesn't deserve to. The time's come for people to avoid both cartoons like the plague.

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I suspect that if a right-wing radio talk show host or a Fox News commentator had made a similar joke, RAINN and NOW would be up in arms about it.

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