If you look up the term fauxgressive, I am quite sure MacFarlane’s face would be front and center. He says all of the right bullshit, but when it is time for him to earn money, the man has no problem pushing every ism that he can think of. Some would say that he picks on everyone and that this therefore makes his television shows acceptable, but if you really study “The Cleveland Show” and “The Family Guy,” you will notice that the people he seems to pick on the most, constitute the most marginalized in society. When marginalized people complain about the way they are portrayed on MacFarlane’s shows, we are told that we are being to sensitive and that it is just a joke. Why take any of it seriously, they are after all just cartoon characters right?
MacFarlane recently gave an interview to Details magazine and in it he discussed the negative reaction of the GLBT community to his latest trans episode.
Details: You predicted that another episode—about a transgendered character—would make the LGBT community happy. It didn’t.
Seth MacFarlane: That surprised me. I don’t meet a lot of stupid homosexuals. They seem to be a pretty smart bunch. But it seemed that they were not picking up on the fact that it was a very sympathetic portrayal of a transsexual character.
Details: Maybe the fact that Brian barfs his guts out when he realizes he’s had sex with a transsexual threw them off.
Seth MacFarlane: Hey, we’re still Family Guy.We’re not suddenly going to become 7th Heaven. Actually, I guess on 7th Heaven they would probably burn the transsexual at the stake. Let me think of another example. We’re not Mr. Belvedere. Look, Brian happens to be a heterosexual character, as I am. If I found out that I had slept with a transsexual, I might throw up in the same way that a gay guy looks at a vagina and goes, “Oh, my God, that’s disgusting.” It’s just the way we’re biologically wired. They should give that another look.
I get not being able to change your sexuality to agree with your political beliefs. I absolutely believe that trans men are men — and yet I know within my heart, that I am in no way interested in having more than one vagina in my bed. I certainly would not feel the need to throw up or even be disgusted — for me it would simply fall into the category of something that does not float my boat; however, there are plenty of women that would be completely into this, just as there are plenty of straight cis men that are very interested in sleeping with trans women. Have a conversation with trans women and you will see that there are some who will speak of being specifically pursued because they are trans.
For a straight, cis man, MacFarlane makes plenty of assumptions about how the GLBT community feels. When he says that a gay man would be disgusted by a vagina, he seems to forget that plenty of gay men are having sex with trans men who have not had bottom surgery and that plenty of trans men are gay. From start to finish, his entire statement is cissexist. This is something I might not have seen a few scant months ago, because despite my belief that I knew a lot of about queer sexuality. The truth is, I was so filled with the same assumptions of MacFarlane, that I could not see the erasure or the rampant cissexism that I was engaging in. The difference between MacFarlane and I, is that I listen when someone says that I hurt them, no matter how inadvertent it may have been from my point of view. The GLBT community and GLAAD have repeatedly approached MacFarlane regarding his treatment of trans and gay characters and yet he still insists on naturalizing his position as a straight, cis man over and above those that he is hurting.
Privilege means being able to ignore the various ways in which your body is naturalized. It further means the ability to undermine and oppress others at will. As a White, cis, het man of class privielge, MacFarlane is filled with power and how he chooses to use it matters. His largest problem seems to be his inability to understand that certain things can never be a laughing matter. How many times have murderers used a trans panic defense to justify murdering a trans woman? Furthermore, Brian’s reaction is based upon the idea of a deceptive trans person, thus supporting the social meme that trans people must confess, because there is supposedly something artificial about their existence. How can anyone believe that what he chooses to present as comedy is indeed funny, when trans people are subject to such extreme rates of violence, simply for living and existing as trans in a cissexist world?
Every time I have written about MacFarlane, the comment section of this blog has turned into a hot mess. I am told that if I have a problem with what he puts out into the world that I should not watch it. That is certainly one approach to take, however doing so means ignoring that each and every time he engages in transphobia, the trans community is hurt. As a cis woman, I do have the privilege of turning my back because my gender will never be questioned — but having the ability to ignore and the willingness to are two different things. Isms flourish because we turn our back in the false belief that something is not our fight. I intend to keep calling out MacFarlane and asking people to think about what they are consuming. When you support this or laugh it away as funny, you are saying that someone is less than, and that their life means nothing. MacFarlanes cartoons are not nearly as innocuous as they seem, and in a culture that is based in hierarchy — every affirmation of so-called normalized bodies to the detriment of those we have chosen to “other,” at some point invariably leads to death. Have we not already shed enough blood to maintain a dangerously false vision what is normal?