Monday, November 30, 2009

Family Guy again making brilliant social commentary....

While the point of the latest Family Guy episode was to comment on society valuing the life of a human more than the life of an animal (and paired with the fact that it was seen from another dog's point of view, though more a human than a dog, it was brilliantly executed), the aspect I was really amazed at was the commentary of trends in current literature.

They paired this valuing with the hiring of a Hispanic housekeeper who barely speaks English and is treated as a second-class human (to parallel with the animal vs. human argument). Then they went so far as to have Brian, the dog in question, become the star and studied author of a "special literature group." While he believes the group is a gathering of intellectuals discussing his book, in actuality the group is a bunch of mentally disabled citizens who enjoy books of ease, straightforwardness, and simplicity--the antithesis to what Brian believed he had actually written.

Now without delving too deeply into the political incorrectness that Family Guy so often wallows in, the fact that Brian is an unappreciated author whose work is misinterpreted and misread speaks a great deal about our current society.

The biggest-selling books of this year belong to the Twilight saga and books written by Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck. Hardly books that I would call challenging or deep reading--but provocative. A human falling in love with both a vampire and a werewolf is certainly literature that distracts from the recession and the two ongoing wars. And books that challenge the status quo and offer hard-nosed attacks on liberalism (being interpreted as socialism) are popular because they offer a back-to-basics, simplistic point of view which appeals to many who think the world is becoming too convoluted and intricate, with too much technology and too many taxes and bills.

Their material isn't thought-provoking, isn't filled with examples of literary terminology or dynamic characters, nor does it has a lasting effect once the book closes. Instead they rely on shock, sexual tension and gossip to propel up the charts and captivate an audience that is majority interested in such things. Very few readers these days really want to challenge themselves with a book when they set up to choose one--is this a result of painstaking analysis in English class, or by overexposure to standardized testing which zaps the fun out of reading? Is it the result of a society that focuses on gossip and bluntness? Or is it that reading as a form of entertainment has sagged so far that twittering (160 characters or fewer) is more popular than reading-for-fun?

Whatever the reason(s), our society is obsessed with entertainment and when they turn to books, they choose those that are simple, blunt, and shocking. We choose fewer and fewer deep, challenging or inventive novels. While Harry Potter was a mini-breath of fresh air, and Dan Brown's half-truthful reporting which overloads his books with fact and simplistic action is a middle-of-the-road I'll settle for, I refuse to allow my students to obsess over books like Twilight and to become enamored with a world that shuns books and difficult material because reading is interpreted as 'work.'

Family Guy does a fantastic job of echoing this sentiment because only the mentally handicapped would enjoy a difficult read, while book clubs like the one Brian actually believed he was coming to speak to are fewer and fewer. Where they do exist, they are only a very small minority that struggles to hold their niche in a world obsessed with literature that is anything but intelligent.

No comments:

Post a Comment