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'Family Guy' Actress With Down Syndrome Diffuses Sarah Palin's Latest TV Outrage

by Danny Gallagher, posted Feb 23rd 2010 10:00AM
Family Guy, Down Syndrome, Sarah PalinSarah Palin, a media gadfly who seems to have found more things to be offended about on television than the Parents Television Council, seems to pop up every time there is a joke about her and her family.

This time, Ellen, a character with Down syndrome voiced by actress Andrea Fay Friedman who also has Down syndrome, goes on a date with Chris and says that her mother is "the former Governor of Alaska." This sent the Palin family into an anger spiral that prompted her to trash the show and characterize it as an attack on her young son Trig, who also has Down syndrome, and everyone suffering from mental illness.

However, what Palin and the rest of the outraged among us fail to realize is that they suffer from a far greater disability: a lack of a sense of humor.

Palin wedged her way back into the spotlight and sucked one more ounce of attention away from us at the expense of her own humility and reputation, the same way she did with David Letterman's "Jokegate". Thousands of jokes have been made about her and her family in the mainstream spotlight and never has she paid any attention to them until now.

And the sad part is, it's working. She got us all talking about her once again where she's the victim and the rest of the media universe is just one big soul sucking monster out to damage her precious little head by making fun of her ridiculous moments in the spotlight. She's even going on the opening week of Jay Leno's 'Tonight Show.' Is she going to call him out for all the jokes he has made at her expense?

It's as if she just got around to catching up on the shows she missed on her TiVo from the campaign and realized she's been the butt of some satirical humor for quite some time. Too bad TiVo doesn't come with an optional "humor explainer." It's a good thing, too, because it could rack up quite a bill during Seth MacFarlane's shows.

If she truly wanted to address the knock 'Family Guy' made at people with mental disabilities like she and her family claimed they were oh so nobly doing by calling out the reference, she could have addressed the jokes that didn't involve her and her family.

The episode had a five-minute musical number titled "Down Syndrome Girl" that featured fleeting references to people with mental disabilities as drooling, disheveled people who require more supervision than Nadya and the octuplets. Even then, the portrayal of the character actually felt very genuine, heartfelt and real and this is coming from someone who would rather watch a dog autopsy than watch 'Family Guy'.

And after all, the woman who played the character said she could see the humor in it.

It's not that I don't enjoy sick humor, but Sarah could have found far more to be insulted about than just one joke about her and her brood to boost her phony argument. Humor falls in the eye of the beholder. Like I said, I'm not a big 'Family Guy' fan and to be honest, I'm not even really sure what the joke was trying to accomplish other than just referencing the Fox News talking head. That doesn't matter. It was just that: a joke.

You know, just like the ones that Rush Limbaugh uses on his daily cavalcade of satire.

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Still, fhe Palin Episode of Family Guy was not only rude,but extremely distasteful. Seth Woodbury MacFarlane will have a special reserve in hell when he dies... if he does not change his ways. His father included. Hell is real, so maybe you should take that seriously Seth. Don't believe? Well, I guess there is no way for you to believe in eternal damnation until you actually get there to experience for all eternity.

April 04 2012 at 9:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Mental illness?

February 27 2010 at 9:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I would just like to point out that Down syndrome is not classified as a "mental illness" as you suggest. Mental illness includes disorders like depression, bipolar, and paranoid schizophrenia. Down syndrome is a chromasomal disorder

February 27 2010 at 8:37 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I thought that the reviewers on this site gave critiques of television programs. I did not realize that they also offered political opinions.

February 24 2010 at 4:43 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to jrd's comment
Sky Captain

Oh yeah, because only right-wingers are allowed to speak out about politics, and no one else is.

February 27 2010 at 2:17 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Dan H

Apparently all the people going after Palin forgot that Hillary Clinton was just as outraged (and got a broadcaster suspended) when someone on MSNBC said Hillary 'pimped out' Chelsea Clinton during the campaign for 2008. And Keith Olberman came on and sold out his fellow broadcaster for saying such despicable comments in referring to Chelsea as a prostitute. Clinton was going to boycott NBC. And Chelsea was over 21 and not disabled. And the comments were a legitimate point and not just a cheap shot.

I feel like I am in the sixth sense. "I see hypocrites. They're everywhere."

February 23 2010 at 8:43 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Katie M.

After watching the episode (the WHOLE episode), I got the joke as this: the girl with Down syndrome on the show (Ellen) was being sarcastic to Chris on their date by saying her mom was Palin (Chris didn't pick up on the humor). Taking Ellen's personality in context with the joke you realize she was making a jab at how dumb Chris is-- that he just accepted that "the former Governor of Alaska" was Ellen's mother-- obviously Chris doesn't get sarcasm.

Another way to interpret it is from the writer(s)' perspective: The fact that Palin brought all her children on the campaign trail and much was made by her and her supporters about the fact that she could've aborted Trig if she wanted, but didn't because of her religious and political beliefs. This gave the impression to some people that she was comfortable using her child to score political points, thus causing the writer of the joke to make a jab at Palin for using her son's condition in a cynical way. In no way did the show really make fun of people with Down syndrome specifically. The jokes about the syndrome were in Stewie's song near the beginning/middle of the episode and those were all generalities not specifics-- the only time Palin's name is mentioned is during that one joke. The episode had a somewhat refreshing message: Ellen treats Chris rather badly on their date and at the end Chris realizes that people with Down syndrome are the same as everyone else-- they can be just as mean and uncaring as the other people Chris has met in his life. Chris realized he was stupid for assuming that people with Down syndrome were nicer than other people-- people are just people.

There were also no political jokes on he show as far as I could tell, so you can't call the show "liberal"-- it makes fun of everyone and seems to delight in making fun of specific groups and even minorities in different ways that would most likely make certain liberals uncomfortable. I think it's a decidedly un-p.c. show and therefore handles topics that someone, somewhere is going to consider sacred, causing shock and outrage to said someone.

February 23 2010 at 4:19 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

JB--the problem isn't making fun of Palin. But the line was crossed by specifically making fun of Palin's having a downs syndrome baby.

The episode would have been completely unchanged without that one cheap shot. The worst part really is that it wasn't even close to being a good Family Guy episode.

But that joke was the exclamation point on a poor effort. To accuse Palin of not having a sense of humor when someone makes fun of the fact that she has a downs syndrome baby is ridiculous.

I'm all in favor of pushing the lines. Like I said, I laughed at the JFK/RFK joke. But that joke was actually very funny. And to show the other side, the Buckwheat got shot skit on SNL was very similar to the Ronald Reagan shooting, and that was a classic as well.

If they had made fun of Palin herself, I don't think anyone would be offended, but they brought in her downs syndrome kid, so yeah, I can understand the offense, just as I understood the offense over the Kennedy joke.

The problem with making fun of Palin herself though is that it's been done to death and is also not that funny. Hollywood is so liberal now that their jokes only result in people rolling eyes, rather than laughs.

With absolutely no objectivity, and a clear intent to basically be a commercial for democrats and misrepresenting Republicans, Hollywood loses much more in the humor department than a failed downs syndrome joke.

February 23 2010 at 3:30 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

1) This site has been liberal for sadly, too long.
2) What everyone fails to understand was not just that one liner about Palin but the fact that the character was played as annoying witch with a b. A spoiled annoying brat, who as she pointed it earlier in the date is the daughter of the former gov of Alaska. It's much deeper than a one liner.
3) Danny has a sick hatred of PTC (as you heard in this last podcast) and I think it's obvious he doesn't have children.
4) The reason they write political posts is because it gets 40 posts in 3 hours. Which is more than a post about Jim Belushi gets ...

OH and Joel ... one of my early favorites since the early days of this website. Don't pretend you can't do anything about an option you guys installed int he comment section. If people don't like it (and I think they don't) just disable it. It's very anti civil conversation.

February 23 2010 at 3:04 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The way I see it, the joke in no way made fun of Trig or those with disabilities such as Down Syndrome. Even if they were trying to, how in any way did that line about being the daughter of a former Alaskan Governor cross some sacred line? Knowing Family Guy they could have taken this situation in hundreds of different directions, but instead simply wrote the character as any other normal teenager they depict on the show.
So what exactly is it about this joke that is so offensive anyway?

February 23 2010 at 2:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

You seem to miss the point entirely. They weren't attacking Palin. They were making fun of the fact that she has a kid with down's syndrome.

You say Palin should have a sense of humor. She probably does--for things that are remotely funny. But to attack a toddler with down's syndrome? That's sick, and so are you for actually trying to condone it.

It's interesting that when McFarlane chose to make fun of the Kennedy Assassinations, he not only cut the scene out, but they won't even release the original airing on DVD. And unlike the Palin joke, that was actually pretty damn funny. That said, obviously I get why the joke offended the Kennedys, and I doubt you wrote an article saying that the Kennedy clan should lighten up.

I'm not even that big of a Palin fan, but if you can't understand how a mother can be offended by an attack on a child with down's syndrome, there's something wrong with you.

February 23 2010 at 1:58 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to MSBNYY's comment

Wrongo, bub. Last night I watched a rerun that had Mayor McCheese getting assassinated in the same way Kennedy was, and his wife getting out and eating the hamburger bits that were blown onto the trunk of the car. Yet I don't hear peep one from the Kennedys. Palin's used her son since his birth as a prop to get sympathy.

February 23 2010 at 3:41 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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