Surprise Witness: Crass Cartoons and Reprehensible Rappers

GORDON: Friends, Romans, Countrypersons! Lend us your ears! We come to try out a new twist on our weekly discussions!

EVAN: Given Kat’s absence that I mentioned prior, I took a page from what’s been going on over at Marvel to really shake things up hereabouts [while still keeping the spirit of the blog you all love so much].

So Gordon and I got to brainstorming a feature to replace Culture War Correspondence for now [?], and what we settled on was a riff on a little something called “Defending Your Sh*tty Taste”, a podcast on Cracked.com.

GORDON: As the name would suggest, “Defending Your Sh*tty Taste” simply entails each of us bring up one or more cultural elements- shows, music, trends, etc.- which are generally despised, devaluated, or looked down upon by the general public, and proceeding to talk about what value we see in ’em and why we personally enjoy ’em.

EVAN: Before we get started in earnest, I think it would be good to lay down some ground rules, and sort of explain the general format.

Like you said we’ll each be bringing up our own topics [which we’re well aware have their problems] and extolling their virtues. It will be up to the other person to point out the flaws. What I’m going to insist on is that we solely target the cultural element itself, not bringing up or comparing anything else [ex: “But as a communist doesn’t this conflict with your belief that _____?”]

GORDON: I’d also point out that this isn’t really a debate. We’re not here to bash each other’s pleasures, no matter how sick and indecent they might be… Evan.

So let me get the ball rolling with what I KNOW will draw ire from at least a few of you- my co-writer included: Family Guy (and Seth MacFarlane’s other spawn).

EVAN: I want to start with the fact that I actually don’t have much of anything against The Cleveland Show, which I rather enjoyed, or American Dad, which I haven’t seen almost any of but have heard good things. My main issue is with the show that started it all.

Sure, in the beginning Family Guy may have been the sort of refreshingly edgy cartoon that The Simpsons ceased to be, but nowadays it’s following that show to television zombie-ism. So many of the jokes appear to be for the sake of shocking or digusting viewers, and the ones that aren’t appear to be written via some sort of Mad Lib.

Not only that, but they’ve resorted to one of the worst gimmicks of my favourite medium [comic books] which is the death of an established character, swiftly followed by their return and a reaffirming of the status quo. A lot of tugging on the heartstrings to get people talking and score more views.

And of course all of the racist stuff, which you know I can’t abide.

GORDON: I’m not going to prop up Family Guy as having the satire of South Park or the charm that The Simpsons had once upon a time. People- even fans of the show- argue (correctly) that it’s largely a bunch of random humor, more often than not relying on shock value for entertainment.

That said, I recently rewatched a bunch of the more recent episodes, and I can honestly say I found myself chuckling. Beyond that, I DO think there’s a certain intelligence there that a lot of people overlook. It’s not an intelligence that gets used for satire or anything remotely noble, but I think there’s a sizable hunk of truly decent stuff that gets ignored.

When Brian- as obnoxious a character as he is- actually gets screen time, I think we get a surprisingly compelling look at who’s probably the most human character in show. He’s a hypocrite, a phony, but his motivations are easy to sympathize with and his fears of mortality, insignificance, and the like hit closer to home than I think most of us would care to admit.

To cut to the chase- I think people’s tendency to bear down on the potty humor means a lot of genuinely good stuff gets thrown out with the bathwater.

EVAN: Seeing as how I could write the rebuttal for you, my pick this time around is Eminem.

GORDON: I imagine you’re already aware of most of my complaints here. The misogyny, the homophobia, the way the man manages to be self-pitying and self-aggrandizing at the exact same time… I mean, do the clever lyrics really redeem him here?

I’ve heard some of this guy’s music and it’s… vile? I mean, I like some truly edgy and dark stuff, but this stuff just strikes me as being about as meaningful and deep as a toddler’s temper tantrums.

EVAN: I think that cleverness actually goes a long way, especially when you take a closer look and realize that it probably lies somewhere between clever and genius. Great rap goes beyond just words connecting because they rhyme and focusing also on how they relate otherwise, and when it comes to wordplay he goes into double and triple entendres. He has a real grasp of the English language.

As far as some of his stuff being vile, sure, I’m not going to defend a lot of the lyrics he’s spouted. It could be argued, however, that they’re part of a manufactured person or character he utilizes. Which isn’t to say that it’s this same facade that’s resulted in a lot of his really touching, emotional tracks. When it comes to his upbringing and his family he’s gone to some pretty raw places for his music, and it comes through as being really genuine.

– – – – – – –

And that’s about as far as we’re going to be getting this time around, just one criticism and one rebuttal apiece. We started a little late due to some truly heinous connection problems on my end, but we’ll try to let things expand a little more next week.

GORDON: And of course, feel free to chip in with a defense of your own perverse tastes. You all sicken me.

EVAN: Thanks for stopping by, and we hope you enjoyed this new feature!

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