Don't think of the children! Let's discuss The Walking Dead!


November 29, 2013

Let's discuss Family Guy (THE FINALE).


I guess I should probably mention that I’m the Mookie King.

My class and I were on a field trip to a three-day camp adventure so that hopefully us kids would gain a better understanding and appreciation of nature (you can probably guess how well that went).  On the first night, the kids in my group -- about thirty strong, if I remember right -- gathered outside with one of the camp counselors to play a game of “Mookie”.  The rules are simple: one person gets pulled out of a line of competitors, and has to stand his ground amidst his rivals and their attempts to make him laugh by saying “Mookie” as hilariously as they can.  If the single person doesn’t laugh, he moves down the line.  If he does, he goes into the line and loses his chance at winning the game -- at becoming the glorious, undisputed “Mookie King.”

I was somewhere near the start of the line -- second, maybe third -- but I played the game well.  I covered my face with a hat (in retrospect, building up anticipation) and then let it rip.  So I took the hotspot, and had a chance at winning the whole thing…assuming, of course, that I could clear some twenty-eight additional attempts, including the camp counselor.  As it turns out, it was a lot easier than I expected.  Nobody could get me to laugh.  Nobody.  The camp counselor -- who I rightly assumed would be my greatest challenge by virtue of commanding the game for years -- got a slight smile out of me, but that was it.  I probably freaked him out a little.  “How could there be a kid who didn’t laugh?” he must have thought.  “He must be a very sad child.”

No, I don’t think that’s the case.  Maybe it was just a signal -- early proof that I had needlessly-high standards.  I don’t think I’m funny, that much I’m sure of no matter how many people disagree.  But by the same token, I’m not usually the laugh-out-loud type, or even the laugh-at-all type.  I LOVE How I Met Your Mother, but even on its best days it’s barely gotten a chuckle out of me.  It’s not that I don’t think it’s funny; it’s just that whatever mechanisms there are that make people want to laugh (or even smile), I might be lacking.  It probably has something to do with me getting into my dad’s beer can when I was three, but whatever.  I’m sure that didn’t have too serious of an effect on me.

Now, you might be wondering what this little story has to do with Family Guy.  And the answer to that is…it doesn’t have anything to do with Family Guy.  I just thought I’d offer something that’s only tangentially related to the post at the beginning, because A) I do that a lot, in case you haven’t noticed, B) maybe it’s an insight to the madness of King (but not really King) Voltech, and C) it’s about to get worse.

It always gets worse.


9) Whose leg do you have to hump to get a good show around here?
Damn it, Family Guy.  You would do that.  You would claim to kill off one of your central characters almost as soon as I finish wondering if you’d kill off one of your central characters. 

So.  Apparently, Brian getting killed (let’s see how long that lasts, seeing as how he’s not only the central central character, but voiced by the show’s creator) is a thing that happened, recently.  Now, let’s go ahead and set aside the fact that killing off Brian is worthy of tears and genuine sorrow from the family, whereas killing off Meg is worthy of a mocking joke and a mashing of the reset button -- though technically Peter should be dead several times over, so whatever -- because hey, it’s not like Meg matters.  The question I have here is simple: if they really did kill off Brian, how would that change things?  Would that be a good thing in the show’s overarching scheHAHAHAHAHAHA, no, sorry, I can’t finish that thought.


Like I’ve said before, I’ve been checking the AV Club reviews of FG for the sake of this miniseries.  One of the things that I couldn’t help but take note of is this idea that “the characters are whatever the plot needs them to be”.  That is to say, there can be an episode where Peter considers Brian his best friend and partner, and a few episodes later he refuses to even recognize Brian as a sentient being.  As you can guess, I consider that a problem, and in more ways than one.  But in light of Brian’s “death”, I’ve been wondering something.

What if the malleability of these characters is a good thing?

Obviously, I prefer to have characters act consistently.  I prefer to have them in set roles, so that their place and effect on the story is clear -- and moreover, the story can build on the character and his/her traits so that there’s a sense of progression.  Character development, importance, what have you.  That’s probably why I hold How I Met Your Mother and Everybody Loves Raymond in such high esteem; in spite of being comedies, the core cast has their roles defined and collectively evolve/show entertaining sides of themselves over the run of their respective canons.  It’s proof that just because your work is a comedy, you’re not excluded from putting in deeper meanings, pulling at the heartstrings, and going beyond “throw more gags, more gags!”  A comedy is allowed to show ambition.


But just because I have my preferences and ideas about “how to do it right” doesn’t mean that those who deviate are automatically wrong.  Maybe FG has the right idea.  Maybe that “character malleability” is something to appreciate, when all’s said and done.  Characters can have roles, but they should have the freedom to move outside those roles.  You know, the chance to show those unexpected sides.  If they become limited, they run the risk of becoming boring.  Unfunny, uninteresting, unlikable.  No story, comedy or otherwise, can last for long if that happens.  So who knows?  Maybe that deviation is more forward-thinking than you’d expect.

That all said, there is at least one thing worth considering, if you ask me.  Assuming that there is something that can be done with that malleability, I think it’s safe to say that there’s a condition that FG consistently misses.  Simply put, there has to be a plan.  There has to be a reason for every shift -- and more importantly, those shifts have to be spot-on in quality.  Otherwise, it just comes off as random at best, and derailing at worst. 

So with that in mind, here’s the question that needs to be asked: what’s the plan with Brian?

The answer, of course, is that there is none.  It’s not just a matter of going all in with (terrible) gags.  And believe it or not, it has nothing to do with the incompetence or laziness of the men at the helm.  It’s because the show doesn’t have any courage.  At all.  And that SERIOUSLY pisses me off.


What is Brian to this show?  Once upon a time, FG had a solid answer -- he was a counterpoint to Peter, a wiser sidekick, but not without his faults and vices.  He was a character that tried to find his true self, but failed several times along the way.  He stumbled, he struggled, he strove for something more.  And that was fine.  It could have been so easy to leave him as a gimmick character -- talking dog, LOL -- but he became something more independent of his species. 

But somewhere along the line, Brian got lost -- because FG itself got lost.  What is this character supposed to be to the show?  Is he a mouthpiece for spouting political and religious views, no matter how problematic they might be (the infamous “no wars before religion” argument)?  Is he the only rational person in a world full of idiots?  Is he truly out to find love, or just looking for a one-night stand no matter what the price?  Is he someone to be taken seriously, or someone to be made fun of almost as much as Meg?    Is he a friend of the family, or a parasite who deserves a thrashing from Quagmire?


You know, if a show reaches a point where it has to do a course-correcting swerve as sharp as that, it’s probably a sign that they screwed up long, long ago and just kept coasting on Dead Man’s curve.  But hey, what the hell do I know?  I’m not a FG writer, so they can do whatever the hell they want, right?


Positive thoughts…optimism…breathe in, breathe out… *sigh*

All right.  Obviously, what I would love most out of this character is commitment to an idea.  If they’re going to do something with Brian, they should do it consistently.  They should find something that works, and stick to it -- because even though it’s possible that malleable characters can work, there’s probably a reason why the straightforward path is the one you see more often.  Because it works.  Brian in his current form doesn’t.  

He’s so wildly inconsistent that it’s impossible to form a connection with him -- yes, even beyond his preaching -- and there’s no internal logic to any of the humor, plot, or even moment-to-moment scenarios that involve him.  Why is it that Brian has problems being with a fifty-year-old woman when in an earlier episode he was with someone at least two decades older?  Why would he consider Stewie to be one of his closest friends in one episode, but very nearly leave him to die just so he can do it doggy style with a negligent daycare worker?   Why did they act like Brian was a human being for at least a season and a half before overloading the episodes to follow with reminders that he is, in fact, a dog?  The only consistent trait about Brian that I know will appear for sure, in the grand old history of FG, is that he’ll find new ways to be an asshole.  And given that every character in this show defaults to being an asshole, that’s hardly anything news-worthy.  


Far be it from me to sincerely wish for a character to die (and stay dead), but this whole “Brian is dead” thing is proof of something.  This is actually the one opportunity the show has to prove it has the balls to do something with its characters.  This is the one thing that’s gotten people talking, and can give FG the shakeup it so desperately, desperately, desperately needs.  It’s just a shame that the “proof” I’m talking about is the fact that several upcoming episodes have Brian’s name in the title, so unless A) those are decoy titles or B) they’re episodes that’ll flashback to the past to go “hey, remember that time Brian did this?” (which might as well be the same as having Brian in the present), then FG has preemptively found a way to ruin itself.  I have to admit, it takes a lot of skill to not only suck in the present, but suck months in the future.

But as bad as Brian is -- and trust me, he’s bad -- he’s not the worst this show has to offer.  Not even close.

Now it gets worse.  Because, as you know, it always gets worse. 


Always.


10) What the deuce?
I’d like to think that I can control my nerd rage when it comes to posts like these.  I’d like to think that I can at least pretend to be rational and neutral, even though it’s painfully obvious that I’m not.  I’d like to think that I can see the good in something, even when there’s absolutely nothing to work with.

But I know myself.  And I know that just this once, I’m going to have to drop all pretenses.



Here’s something I never thought I’d be typing out: fuck.  This.  Baby.

I hate this character with a passion.  I hate him.  He is one of the most unpleasant characters I’ve ever encountered -- and think about that statement for a while.  Think about what I’ve said about other characters, and other games, and all the weight behind those words.  But I mean it.  I fucking mean it.  If you were to ask me, “Why do you hate Family Guy?” and I had the ability to answer in less than thirteen thousand words, then I would hold up a picture of Stewie, point at it, shove it in your face, and shout, “This.  This is why.”

It’s not even fair to compare old FG episodes to new FG episodes, but I’m not feeling particularly charitable, so let’s do it.  I’ve heard the argument from the show’s masterminds that Stewie’s “evil genius” shtick would have gotten old after a while, and thus less funny.  It’s a shame, considering that -- even more than the talking dog -- the concept of Stewie was original, interesting, and even to this day holds potential.  It’s a shame, but it’s understandable.  Even the best jokes can run their course.  Better to keep things fresh.  Don’t run a character into the ground.

Hey, guess what?  They ran the character into the ground.


I’m not even mad over the fact that Stewie’s not the cutthroat mastermind he used to be, even if the only time they remember his awesome potential (and capacity for evil) is to set up or wrap up a “plot”.  I’m mad because apparently, they decided that they should replace the good bits about the character with traits that dilute, warp, or just plain ruin the character.  He has a lot of the same problems as Brian, chief among them the fact that the show can’t decide what he’s supposed to be or do.  Is he a child that’s left powerless in the face of bullies, or a maniac who’ll kidnap and torture his enemies, and willingly resort to murder to take out his rivals?  Is he an adult fully aware of the world around him with the only thing stopping him from earning respect being his lack of height, or is he a child that can’t feed himself in spite of somehow building a device that’ll let him travel to a parallel universe?  Again, the only constant trait to this character -- the same thing that every character has had in spades for years -- is that he’s a bitter asshole that’ll take shots at everything and everyone.

Actually, scratch that.  It’s not just that he’s an asshole.  It’s that he’s also gay.  Because that’s something FG has handled with tact in the past.



Stop.  Stop, stop, stop.  Hold on.  Now this is some red-hot bullshit. 

Look, I know that offensive humor can be done well.  I know it’s not a comedic dead end to rely on stereotypes and potshots.  There’s a joke -- at least one, no doubt -- in Street Fighter: The Later Years that works remarkably well because it’s so offensive…and in a way, actually becomes a plot point.  It’s a sick joke, but it’s also extremely memorable.  I laughed at it.  I felt bad for laughing, but it did make me laugh.  That stands for something -- especially because even though that joke was offensive, the web series at large wasn’t about making offensive jokes.  It was about the World Warriors trying to reclaim their former glory.

FG doesn’t have that distinction.  It might have at one point, even after its revival, but it doesn’t now.  I know I talked about this in earlier posts, but Christ does this piss me off.  I can understand a few offensive jokes every now and then, but the rate and frequency of them in FG is relentless.  There are so many jokes at the expense of women.  So many.  For dozens of episodes they managed to cram in a slight against the Jewish as if an entire denomination was a running gag.  The show clearly has no understanding of what homosexuals -- or beyond that, the LBGT community -- is really like, and has no desire to offer up anything to clear up the matter.  (And before you say anything, yes, I know shows like The Simpsons and South Park ALSO poke fun, but they do it with a level of class and intelligence that makes FG look like the slop in a pig’s trough.)


The furious rate of all these insults and potshots and slurs makes me wonder if FG -- if its writers at large -- aren’t quite as tolerant as they make themselves out to be.  Setting aside the fact that just because you can make fun of everyone (and will, seeing as how that’s what FOX wants) doesn’t mean that you should, especially if you don’t do it well, I’m starting to get the feeling that these people are actually starting to believe that women are terrible, or Jews are a joke, or har har he’s gay so he wants to do it with a bunch of doods. 

I don’t have any proof of this, but when your thought space is constantly clouded by this storm of negativity, that can’t possibly be good for your worldview.  And even if these people somehow manage to stay pure and saintly, I have to wonder: what, according to FG, are we allowed to like?  If the audience is supposed to laugh at how silly different genders, different races, different orientations, different religions, different political views, different countries, and even different times are, then what’s left?  What is the show trying to prove beyond how terrible everything in the world is?  In the grand scheme of things, is the show really about squeezing in every last joke it can, no matter how sour the taste?  Or is it dead-set on making a mockery out of our lives?  Will it only stop when it’s penetrated every conversation, every mind, and every fragment of the collective consciousness?  Is FG’s ultimate goal not to make us laugh, but to make it o we can never laugh -- no, never enjoy things again because of how flawed every aspect of our lives truly is?  Is FG’s ultimate goal the end of all hope?  Is it the show’s self-ordained mission to prove conclusively, without question, that it always gets worse?

Maybe it is.  Because I can tell you right now, I’m not feeling very hopeful.


…I feel like I went off on a tangent there.  What was I talking about again?  Sorry, my head hurts all of a sudden.  Getting kind of hard to focus…but I’ll manage.  So let’s see, I was talking about --


Oh, FOR FUCK'S SAKE!  NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!
    
11) No, seriously, what the deuce?  (For real this time, I think)
Okay.  Right.  Stewie.  Ugh.  This is seriously starting to get depressing.  But whatever.  Let’s go.  The sooner I finish this, the sooner I can move on to something else.  Anything else.

The only characters that really, truly matter in FG’s current state are Peter, Stewie, Brian, and Quagmire.  Maybe Joe on a good day.  Not even Quagmire on other days.  (That might as well be making the most of a bad situation, considering that since Cleveland’s departure the show can’t decide if he’s the rational, moral center or a sex-hungry tail-hunter.)  Setting aside the fact that four of those characters are voiced by Seth MacFarlane, the characters that get the most exposure, attention, and dare I say it effort are Brian and Stewie.  Especially Stewie.  The baby.  Stewie.  The baby.  The baby, the baby, the BABY THE BABY THE

Wait...what was I doing again?  Oh, right.  It's just...can't really focus...

Yeah.  Yeah, I'm okay.  Yeah, yeah.  Just hold on and let me do that thing.

*checks Wikipedia* 

Oh, so I did have it right.  Okay.  Sorry, for a second there I thought the title of the show was Family Baby, not Family Guy.  Whew.  

nrrrrrrrrrrRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRGH


The show (this show) seems utterly convinced that the only way it can be funny is to get Stewie on the screen -- which in a lot of ways is kind of true since that’s one of the few times there’s any effort on display, but it’s still a terrible idea.  Stewie is overexposed, used to start off, intrude upon, or cap off a scene he had no reason to even be in.  He adds nothing to the show that couldn’t be said by another asshole character, and ends up pulling away from the whole because he’s stealing time away from other characters (remember Chris?  I don’t either).  He’s a bear on a unicycle the show kicks onto the stage whenever a bit isn’t working.  It might work once.  It might work twice.  But when it’s done the eightieth time -- when Stewie just gets added to a scene for no reason other than “Heeeeeeeeeeeeeeere’s Stewie!  Now LAUGH, my puppets!  LAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAUGH!”  No, YOU laugh, you manatee-humping fuckwi

It’s my understanding that Stewie is one of the most popular characters in the show (if not the most), which, again, is understandable because he’s one of the only two characters that actually has any thought put into them.  But the show seriously overestimates the importance and effectiveness of this character; much like Meet the Browns, the words that come out of Stewie’s mouth aren’t jokes, but statements -- not so much a comedic bit as it is paying lip service to something that exists (Ball in a Cup) or just having a regular conversation with slightly tweaked circumstances (Stewie having an imaginary conversation with Grover while playing businessman).  It’s not funny.  It’s not entertaining.  I’d say it develops his character, but that’s a damn lie because he’s whatever the show needs him to be for the next stupid gag.   That's all this show is, and I hate it for it.  I hate it!  I hate it!  Where's the substance?  Where's the insight?  Where's the effort?  Where?  WHERE IS I


Shut up and keep typing.  Shut UP and KeEp TypINg.  TypING maKES tHe PaiN gO AwAy.

Okay.  Calm.  Happy.  Go.

He leaps from idiot to genius in the span of a few scenes.  His relationships (ha) are pointless even by status-quo-loving sitcom standards because A) his words and actions ring hollow because he’s so inconsistent, and B) it’s hard to accept Relationship Stewie for what he’s become because we remember what he was, and laughing (ha ha) at that whenever he’s on-screen, let alone having so much as a conversation with someone else.  Even if he’s practically the show’s co-star alongside Brian (heh ha ha ha), I refuse to believe there’s a bond between the two when the show’s misguided attempt at celebrating its 150th episode that it dragged itself to as a bloody, decaying stump that it dragged itself to as a bloody, decaying stump had Stewie telling a once-suicidal Brian he’s his buddy…IN THE SAME EPISODE WHERE HE FORCED BRIAN TO EAT HIS PUKE.  IT.  DOES.  NOT.  WORK.  THAT.  WAY.  SHOW.


It will never work.  NEVER.  You can’t go from puke-eating to discussing suicide in the same twenty-two minute block.  YOU CAN’T.  Am I living in goddamn Bizarro World here?  Why can’t they --?!

Stay calm.  Stay rational.  Stay optimistic.  Stay calm.  Stay rational.  Stay optimistic.  Stay calm.  Stay rational.  Stay optimistic.  Stay calm.  Stay rational.  Stay optimistic.  Stay calm.  Stay rational.  Stay optimistic.  Stay calm.  Stay rational.  Stay optimistic.  Stay calm.  Stay rational.  Stay optimistic.  Stay calm.  Stay rational.  Stay optimistic.  Stay calm.  Stay rational.  Stay optimistic.  Stay calm.  Stay rational.  Stay optimistic.  Stay calm.  Stay rational.  Stay optimistic.  Stay calm.  Stay rational.  Stay optimistic.  Stay calm.  Stay rational.  Stay optimistic.  Stay calm.  Stay rational.  Stay optimistic.  Stay calm.  Stay rational.  Stay optimistic.  Stay calm.  Stay rational.  Stay optimistic.  Stay calm.  Stay rational.  Stay optimistic.  Stay calm.  Stay rational.  Stay optimistic.  Stay calm.  Stay rational.  Stay optimistic.  Stay calm.  Stay rational.  Stay optimistic.  Stay calm.  Stay rational.  Stay optimistic. 

Just breathe.  Just breathe.  Breathe.  Breathe.  Breathe.  Breathe.  Breathe breathe breathe breathe breathe breathe breathe breathebreathebreathebreathebreathebreathebreathebreathe breathebreathebreathebreathebreathebreathebreathebreathebreathebreathebreathebreathe

It’s almost over It’s almost over It’s almost


It's you.

??) P_te_ gR_ff_N







Peter Griffin.  Heh.  Peter Griffin.  Heh ha ha.  Peter.  Oh Peter.  Peter, Peter, Peter.  You know, I may hate your baby, baby, but I've got juuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuust enough sense to know that you're the one I should set my sights on.
  
But you know what?  I should be thanking you, Peter.  Thank you.  Thank you so much.  Thanks to you, I know I’m right.

What have I been saying all this time, people?  What was it?  “You can’t have a good story without a good main character”?  Yeah.  Yeah, that sounds like something I would say.  Well, here you go.  Here’s the proof.  Here’s where it all starts…and here’s where it all.  Comes.  Tumbling.  Down.  I don't even need to say anything.  But I will anyway.  Because that's what I do.  I say stuff.

Because it's fun.  And this is the most fun of all:

knowing the
truth.

Peter Griffin.

Ha.

Peter Griffin is a god.


It makes perfect sense.  Especially now, since
my head’s as clear as it is.  I mean, isn’t it all so obvious?  Peter can do whatever he wants, not just because of something as

worthless as a
“writer”; he can do it because he controls everything.  Everyone. 

If he wants a blimp with his face on it, he’ll get it.  If he wants to meet and outwit celebrities who so clearly deserve it, he’ll do it.  If he wants to
win the
lottery, then he’ll win the lottery -- and he’ll have
free 
reign to shoot a friend in the eye just because he can.  Because he is the god of Quahog. 

He can’t die.  He goes on all the wacky adventures he wants.  He can
warp
space and time to show whatever he wants -- and can even use it to teleport at his leisure.  Anyone who opposes him is clearly in the wrong.  Even if he acts like a spoiled manchild
liv
ing
his Jackass fantasies, the world will bend to put him in the right -- if not immediately, then by episode’s end where he resets the world, and the Griffins, Quahog, and his entire little world can dance like puppets in his fat fingers.

He is a god of destruction.  One who wreaks havoc more than his infant son or his talking dog.  So long as he holds sway, Family Guy is his to command, and his to ruin. 

No one can stop him.  No one.  He is the engine of change, yet creates the worst sort of eternal recurrence -- one where he has no need for family, friends, or even a human heart.

It’s all for the sake of the next gag.

His life has become a gag. 

And by his hand, so shall yours.

No need for thought.  No need for reason.  Just
accept it.  
Drop
everything, and embrace his way of life.  His thoughts.  His truth.

That when all is said and done -- no matter where you go, or what you do -- you cannot escape the crushing despair of reality.  You can only laugh at it, knowing all too well that nothing will ever change.

Laugh, and laugh, and laugh.  Laugh until you --






video


2 comments:

  1. Dude, you got a nice voice. I think you could turn the blog posts into these short youtube videos. All you need to do is perhaps try a better microphone and fix your sound settings and it'll be awesome!

    I never really had a beef with Stewie, because I had given up on him ever since the writers forgot he was an evil bastard and turned him into a would-be homosexual that was useless at times. As for Brian, I only pretty much enjoyed him up to the 5th season. after that, things went kinda...foggy on him. Goddamn, have all these guys become forgettable.

    But the Peter bit? Holy shit, this was gold!

    ReplyDelete
  2. "I think you could turn the blog posts into these short youtube videos."


    *whistles innocently and tries to slip out of reality undetected*


    Yeahhhhhhhhhhhhhh...it's probably worth mentioning that I've got SOMETHING planned, and have been for a while. In fact, that video at the end was pretty much a trial run to see what would happen. As it turns out, it actually came together in the end...now I need to figure out how to make things come together well. Then again, I'm kind of stoked that I did something with Audacity after letting it sit on my laptop for at least a year and a half, so, yeah, baby steps. Just have to experiment with the program a bit and see what's up.


    I would say more about Brian and Stewie at this point, but I really don't want to. Like you said, the writers forgot who Stewie was, and Brian did get foggy. These characters are supposed to be the chief assets of the show, and yet they ended up becoming some of the biggest problems. And that's all I'm going to say about that. Doctor's orders.


    Also, I'm glad you enjoyed the Peter bit. I honestly didn't know how anyone would react to that, because that was more or less a last-minute addition as I plugged the file into Blogger. "Is this too much?" "Am I overdoing it here?" But I guess going OTT paid off in the end. Gotta raise that insanity bar somehow.

    ReplyDelete