I recently came upon a 2010 episode of Family Guy, “Excellence in Broadcasting.” It tells the story of Brian (the dog) and his transformation from a liberal atheist to a Rush Limbaugh sycophant. What most offended me at first was the whitewash of Limbaugh himself, who does the voices for his own guest starring character. I’m really tired of this kind of thing. Conservatives are unacceptably offensive when talking to their fans. But the moment they get into the mainstream, they pretend that they aren’t really the bigots that their fans love. That’s totally understandable. People like Limbaugh live in a strata of the country where people may be economically conservative, but where sexism, racism, and homophobia (all linchpins of Limbaugh’s appeal) are unacceptable. What is not understandable is why liberals like Jon Stewart and Seth MacFarlane allow conservatives to run their cons.
But after thinking about it, the worst thing about this episode was not Rush Limbaugh. It was Brian. The denouement was that Limbaugh explained to Brian that he wasn’t really a conservative. Brian, like all liberals, has to be for the underdog and so when Obama got in power, Brian felt compelled to become a member of the now minority party Republicans. This is too offensive regardless, but coming from a “liberal” show it is shocking.
The theme here is one that Rush Limbaugh pushes on his show every day: conservatives think but liberals just feel; conservatives have reasons for what they believe but liberals are just touchy-feely; conservatives are fact based and liberals pretend the world is something that it is not. And indeed, in the episode, Brian is all of these things. He apparently dislikes Rush Limbaugh but has never heard his show or read any of Limbaugh’s books. He just somehow has the feeling that Limbaugh is bad, I guess because of all the bad portrayals of Limbaugh on TV. (Like this one on Family Guy.)
Clearly, Brian has no intellectual mooring. So even if the Republican Party is still controlled by a bunch of really wealthy and powerful people, Brian has no problem thinking that they are the underdogs. What’s more, we know from other episodes that Brian is quite liberal. Obama is far more conservative than he is. So the natural liberal position for Brian to take would be to start screaming that Obama is too conservative. In other words, Brian should be like me.
It’s always a mistake for shows like Family Guy to try to do something that is politically even handed. It ends up whitewashing people who really are vile. It denigrates one of their most appealing characters. And it makes a farce out of the actual political conflict discussed.