Wouldn't it be nice if maybe, just mmmmmmmmmmmaybe we all backed off a little from our current cultural obsession with making every last little thing the subject of humor? Somewhere between early seasons of The Simpsons (still my pick as the best television of all time) and now, we've all apparently decided that the most important thing these days is to evoke the kind of gasping laughter that signals disbelief on the part of the listener. South Park (which is, God help me, genuinely funny) is responsible for much this, but I think it's reached its apotheosis in the oeuvre of Seth Macfarlane. Whatever happened to class?
Jonathan Chait flags the most recent frontier of sub-basement level humor over at TNR -- Trig Palin. From the Times Arts blog:
In the episode [of The Family Guy] , shown Sunday on Fox, the teenage son Chris Griffin courts a female classmate named Ellen who has Down syndrome. During a date with Chris, Ellen tells him, “My dad’s an accountant and my mom is the former governor of Alaska.” The joke appeared to be a swipe at Ms. Palin, whose son Trig also has Down syndrome.
The Palins (by way of Bristol) have responded by calling the writers of The Family Guy "heartless jerks." And they're absolutely right. I would say that Macfarlane and Company are actually something worse, and more reminiscent of the less pleasant digestive functions of large barnyard animals, but the sentiment is the same.
Here's the thing. I cannot stand Sarah Palin. She is (to date) the nadir of American politics, as far as I am concerned. And yes, I think there is room for legitimate criticism of how Trig Palin has become something of a talking point for her. (Somewhere within the murky depths of Andrew Sullivan's dark obsession with her are some honest and important questions.) But mockery isn't legitimate criticism, and nobody (nobody) deserves to have a loved one mocked on national television this way. When the odious Perez Hilton cackles along with you (and if you think I'm linking to his blog, you're nuts), you're on shaky ground. Furthermore, all this will do is add luster to Palin's claim that she is unfairly persecuted by the media.
So, go after Sarah Palin all you want. Tina Fey, you are a national treasure. Feel free to go after every wink and evasion and crib note. But Trig Palin has done nothing to anyone that merits his being the punchline of a mean, cruel joke (even if he never sees it and wouldn't get it), and seeing him used this way just makes me really, really angry.