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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Palin Versus Peter, or How Family Guy Makes Fun of "Retards" (Not Really)

After having gotten up surprisingly early and checking Yahoo News as is something of a religious habit, I noticed Sarah Palin has been hogging the spotlight again. In this case, it may last longer than when David Letterman made a joke about her daughter Bristol, since this has more relevance (and I use that loosely) to her youngest son, Trig.

A Family Guy episode, Extra Large Medium has a subplot where Chris, after having survived with Stewie in the wilderness for almost 4 days (gasp!), decides to get up the courage to ask a girl in his math class out on a date. It just so happens that Ellen, the girl in question, has Down Syndrome, although I'm skeptical of that. Her portrayal starts out innocent enough, but then she takes a drastic turn towards outright bitch. She constantly derides Chris for not reading her mind and doing all these things during the date to pamper and otherwise treat her like a queen (pulling out her chair is one thing, but giving her a freaking shoulder massage; this is a date, not a spa visit). And at the end of it all, she is indistinguishable from a selfish whining brat who just wants people to treat her differently because she has "special needs" (and apparently make her an ice cream sundae at the end of a probably expensive date at a fancy restaurant).

And Chris' point seems to stand strongly against Palin's apparent desire to make her son so "special" that anyone else is not even close to his level. As he put it, they're the same as everyone else (though admittedly he uses stronger words, which I'll choose not to use, since I like to limit myself to “curse words” in my blog). Overall, the offensive nature of this episode seems excessively overstated by Palin, since the only thing that has any tinge of a personal insult is quoted in the Yahoo News article. That is, Ellen notes that her father is an accountant (which last I checked, Palin's husband isn't) and her mom is the former governor of Alaska (which while Palin fits that description, I imagine that she isn't the first former governor of Alaska).
Stewie, as per his musical character, does have a song that would appear to have some amount of offensive references towards the mentally handicapped, but his overall tone suggests that she is a good person, even if she has flaws that he brings up. The last lines before he concludes the song with its title "Down Syndrome Girl" are indeed "happiness and joy creating", which I imagine Palin can agree her son and all her children are examples of.

To say that this is the first time Family Guy has made jokes regarding the "retarded" is to be too lazy to make even a short Google search. The episode Petarded brings up that Peter Griffin, the main star, is special needs himself. Though admittedly, Palin hadn't had Trig at that point, so she couldn't make such a stand that she's supporting the rights of the mentally disabled. And I doubt she'd care about a joke towards Grimace from McDonald's franchise being "Ronald's retarded (or in some edits) autistic friend". And any jokes regarding a retarded horse would be least in her horizon of defending the human children with special needs.

My biggest gripe overall would be why Palin takes it upon herself to try to protect her son and all such people affected by Down syndrome by association. Considering there are plenty of organizations that do the same thing and make a similar effort to confront issues of people misusing or otherwise using the term "retarded" or "retard" in a context that is less than hospitable and benevolent to the special needs community. Though from what I recall, she didn't make a gripe about Rush Limbaugh calling "liberals" the same term that she had a problem with Rahm Emanuel using in what was apparently a not-so-closed strategy meeting over healthcare. But her political issues would be another thing entirely that I don't feel entitled to speak on.

Overall, I would think that like Focus on the Family, maybe Sarah Palin could deal with a secondary "kick in the gut" and align herself with Special Olympics or the Burton Blatt Institute in Syracuse University in order to promote what I find to be an otherwise respectable agenda. But if she uses her son as the only motivation to advance the rights and standing of the mentally handicapped, then she almost doesn't deserve to paint herself as a defender of the community at large. But she wouldn't be the only parent to overestimate how "special" her child is. She just has a failsafe to fall back on that few people would call her on initially. Because no one would bring up hypocrisy in a person who has a child that has Down Syndrome, oh no... That's just not right. But seriously, this is Sarah Palin, she's just digging herself into a bigger hole by the day.

1 comment:

  1. Well, when has Palin ever put her money where her mouth is? She's always one to pounce on anything that might remotely be seen as victimisation: What other sort of person would resign as governor after half a term, blaming "the Media"? And now she has a book and gets paid six-figure fees for speaking engagements.

    Step three: "Profit."