It’s old news, but the Sarah Palin v. Family Guy flap shows the danger of dabbling in pop culture references without doing some homework.
The former Governor of Alaska made headlines by smacking Family Guy for a Down Syndrome-afflicted character who claimed her mother was “the former governor of Alaska.” And all of a sudden, it’s the early 1990s again, when Dan Quayle (a Republican who was named as a Vice Presidential candidate despite doubts about his readiness for prime time) took a swipe at the TV show Murphy Brown when the title character had a child out of wedlock.
Family Guy is a poor target for Palin’s ire, featuring frequent jokes about a wheelchair-bound main character and occasional cameos from a Greased-up Deaf Guy. Why start hammering Seth MacFarlane and Company for making fun of the handicapped now?
Compounding the issue for Palin is the fact that the actress who claimed to be Palin’s daughter was voiced by an actor with Down syndrome. Suddenly, the actress is in the position of authority on how to handle the issue and Palin is an outsider to the Down syndrome community. If MacFarlane was looking to bait Palin into looking foolish, he could not have planned it better.
This also makes for another early 1990s parallel: one of the Fox Network’s first hits, In Living Color, featured a handicapped superhero played by Damon Wayans. Wayans escaped criticism because he had, as a child, suffered from a club foot.