South Park. Family Guy. The Simpsons. They’re ultra-liberal, filled with swear-words, innuendos and sometimes sexually explicit comments. A show like Family Guy, which has the word “penis” in half its episodes and utilises phrases like “your penis would shoot right off your body”, “my daughter’s womb is not a wildfire for you to douse with your adolescent seed” and show scenes of rape, sex addiction, kinky sex, and puppy-babies concieved by bestiality is not usually thought of as furthering the agenda of the religious right. But it does. Don’t get me wrong, Family Guy is my favourite thing on TV, IloveitIloveitIloveitIloveitIloveit. All these cartoons work against the right-wing agenda and mock it in many ways. But here is how it, and other adult cartoons, do further that agenda:
In The Simpsons, Family Guy and American Dad, the mothers are all housewives with no friends.
In all the above shows as well as the Cleveland Show, the focus is on a male character
The father is irresponsible, lazy and doesn’t do housework – especially Homer Simpson and Peter Griffin. The boys – especially Bart Simpson, Eric Cartman and Rallo Tubbs- cause chaos (which is not seen as deviant), while the girls are quiet (especially Lisa Simpson and Meg Griffin) or only cause ‘trouble’ to their parents by parental fear of their sexuality (Roberta Tubbs and Meg Griffin) or political views (Hayley Smith). In contrast, the mothers care for the kids and do not pull crazy stunts of their own – an exception is Family Guy’s Lois, but her stunts (kleptomania, revealing that she was in a porn film) pale in comparison to Peter’s.
In the first episode of The Cleveland Show, the mother is depicted as unable to control her children after becoming a lone mother. Only Cleveland, acting as a father figure, can restore discipline.
This ‘discipline’ includes controlling 15 year old Roberta’s sexuality by physically intimidating her boyfriend. This patriarchal control is juxtaposed with Cleveland’s freedom to have sex with Roberta’s mother at the very moment that Roberta’s sexuality is subject to his control
In contrast, Roberta’s 5 year old brother is encouraged by Cleveland to be sexual. Cleveland teaches him to invent a reason for having to peek up girls’ skirts, a behaviour which resulted in him being expelled in the first place.
Cleveland’s assertion that the kids “need some fathering” – mothering being inadequate
Robert’s absence supposedly caused the kids to misbehave; however, as a drunk who is disinterested in his children, how could he have disciplined them when he lacks discipline himself? The message is that even a drunk dad can parent better than a working, caring, sober mom.
Roberta is portrayed as accepting her boyfriend’s decision to take her home early/not have sex. Cleveland is controlling her through her boyfriend, and likewise her boyfriend is able to control her sexuality.
In one episode, Roberta is almost forced by peer pressure and a TV camera to flash her breasts, along with many other girls, but her stepbrother saves her by pretending to be a girl and flashing his chest. This implies that it is not good to flash your breasts for a TV show and that women are exploited in the adult entertainment industry. Roberta was portrayed as a victim with no agency who had to be saved by a younger male relative. The fate of flashing was portrayed as dire.
In Family Guy, Peter is pathologically possessive of his daughter Meg when she dates a trainee doctor – even stalking them in disguise- and attempts to shoot him when Meg is pregnant.
In the current season, both Peter and Lois stop Meg having sex with Glenn Quagmire even though she’s already 18. Meg is portrayed as accepting this.
While Glenn and Herbert are sex predators and Peter frequently uses very sexual language, the female characters are not permitted such expression. Even when Lois is revealed to have starred in a porn film, the revelation leads to her becoming a social pariah which is the main content of the episode. However, when male characters commit rape, cheat, repeatedly attempt child molestation, commit bestiality, abduct people for sex, etc, they suffer no consequences and their actions remain secret. These actions constitute very small portions of the episodes, in contrast to Lois’ porn movie, Lois’ sexy photo, Loretta’s affair, Meg’s boyfriend/subsequent pregnancy, Bonnie’s affair or Peter’s boss Angela sexually harassing him. The mens’ actions are not portrayed as problematic or deviant. They seem to happen as a result of the mens’ libido. However, the womens’ actions are problematized by the community and the family. Their actions seem to come from problems: lack of money (Lois making the porno), unhappy marriage (Loretta and Bonnie having affairs, Lois kissing Meg’s boyfriend) being naive and/or used (Jillian-Brian, Meg-Quagmire and Cheryl Teags-Brian) and being suicidal (Angela). The men suffer no consequences for their actions except Quagmire’s friends being annoyed with him when he is caught spying on Lois, and Lois being annoyed with him for trying to sleep with Meg. By contrast the women get publically shamed on TV (Lois’ porn film), lose public office (Lois’ photo), are discovered cheating (Loretta and Bonnie), have a pregnancy scare, a forced marriage, then lose their boyfriend (Meg) go to prison for harbouring a fugitive (Meg) accidentally make out with their brother (Meg) get dumped, get obssessed, perform a kidnap and get told to wait for the right man by Quagmire, a pervert – double standard much?(Meg), attempt suicide when attraction is unreciprocated (Angela).
When Lois briefly becomes a lone mother in the episode ‘Big man on the hippocampus’, the family’s income drops ridiculously low.
In South Park, being a slut is linked to being stupid and spoiled, and in a slut contest the male slut (Mr Slave) wins over the female slut (Paris Hilton). It is not suggested that Mr Slave is stupid or spoiled. The girls of South Park then immediately stop being sluts.
The only lone mother portrayed is Eric Cartman’s mother, and her son is completely out of control. She is also portrayed as promiscuos and as not knowing who Eric’s father is.