May 15, 2011

Home schooling in Family Guy

In Sunday's episode of Family Guy, titled Foreign Affairs (airdate: 5/15/11), Peter removes his kids from school to avoid the "goat flu." This leads to several references to American history.

Peter begins by saying, "All right, class, this course is gonna cover all the significant moments in human history. Startin' with the settling of the Old West, where brave pioneers survived against long odds."

The scene shifts to a Daniel Boone-style pioneer in a log cabin. The pioneer begins: "Honey, I have to go into town to get some supplies, so I'm probably going to die."

Peter's introduction is pure American propaganda, of course. He's touting the white Christian pioneers against the heathen Indian savages. There's no irony or sarcasm here; viewers are supposed to think that noble Americans did "settle" the untamed wilderness.

The scene ends with a bear mauling the pioneer, but I doubt anyone was fooled. No one thinks bear attacks were the primary problem faced by "brave pioneers." Everyone thinks Indian attacks were the primary problem. And Family Guy has subtly reinforced that belief.

Later Peter conducts an outdoor class and takes things "a step further" by having them "do peyote in the desert." Which is part of traditional Native religions, of course. Although no Indians are shown, the location is a stereotypical Indian environment of cacti and mesas. And a stereotypical hawk screeches overhead.

Finally, Peter quizzes Chris with a lightning round of dates. One of the things he asks is "Trail of Tears," to which Chris responds, "Never heard of it." Another is "Cortés reaches South America," to which Chris responds, "Pumping a dry well." A third is "Wounded Knee," to which Chris responds, "Stop!"

So the segment is infused with Native history, but no one ever mentions Indians or tribes by name. This seems to be Seth McFarlane's way of being "politically correct." He knows Indians were important in US history, and he probably wants to mock them. But for once he wisely resists the temptation.

For more on the subject, see Indians in Family Guy and TV Shows Featuring Indians.


Anonymous said...

To be fair, Peter and Chris are ridiculously stupid, and Peter's default alignment is Chaotic Evil.

Rob said...

Yes, but Peter and Chris didn't say anything particularly stupid in this segment. I'm talking more about what messages the show imparted.

Anonymous said...

The peyote scene is a reference to the film 'The Doors', hence 'Riders on the Storm' playing in the background while Meg is dancing.