The Arty Semite

Is 'Family Guy' Anti-Semitic?

By Mark I. Pinsky

  • Print
  • Share Share

Sunday night’s episode of “Family Guy,” the long-running animated comedy, included a 25-second segment that illustrated once again creator Seth MacFarlane’s unapologetic anti-Semitism.

In the episode, main character Peter Griffin and his friends are off on a typically absurdist search to find God and to get Him to stop thwarting their favorite football team, the New England Patriots. In a Jerusalem square they spot Mort Goldman, the obviously Jewish pharmacist from their hometown of Quahog, Rhode Island.

Actually, they spot a “flock” of bobbing Morts, whom they attract by tossing pennies, as you might use popcorn to draw pigeons. The message being, Jews love money. MacFarlane used similar imagery in a much earlier episode, in which Peter’s anti-Semitic father-in-law tries to use a dollar bill tied to a string to distract his wife, who has just told Peter’s wife Lois that she was raised Jewish.

Anti-Semitism is a serious charge, made too quickly and too often. But as someone who has followed MacFarlane’s career, I think it is well past time to call him out. His star is clearly on the rise in Hollywood — he has hosted a major awards show, been writing and directing movies and, most recently, produced the Fox series “Cosmos.” And thus far he has been unimpeded by his consistent record of anti-Semitism.

At the 2013 Oscars, MacFarlane drew criticism for a bit in which Ted, the stuffed bear namesake of his hit movie, tells the movie’s co-star Mark Wahlberg that if he “wants to work in Hollywood” he has to be Jewish. In an infamous 2012 tweet to Emmy voters, MacFarlane posted a copy of a “For Your Consideration” he claimed the Hollywood trade press had rejected. It pictured Peter Griffin, whose “Family Guy” was in danger of being shut out of awards nomination, with the caption: “Come on you bloated, over privileged Brentwood Jews. Let us into your little club.” Typically, the words and the voice are MacFarlane’s, but they are spoken by his creations, which enables him to escape responsibility.

It is in MacFarlane’s cartoon series that anti-Semitism is most consistent and pronounced.

Although Mort and his family are regular characters, Peter claims never to have met a Jew, much less found one to be his accountant, in the 2002 episode “When You Wish Upon a Weinstein.” In the episode, Peter sings “When You Wish Upon a Jew,” crooning that he needs a Jew “to teach me how to whine and do my taxes.” His prayer is answered when chance brings him together with the amiable Max Weinstein, who helps Peter with his finances and even helps his equally doltish son Chris with his homework. This good deed prompts Peter to exclaim: “My God! Is there anything you people can’t do? I mean, other than manual labor?”

Fox executives blocked the episode from first-run broadcast, although it later appeared in syndication and on a DVD compilation. In the DVD commentary, Fox’s decision still rankled MacFarlane, who said the episode was based on his personal experience as a gentile in Hollywood. “This thing made me so angry. It was disgusting.”

In a 2009 episode, “Family Goy,” Peter dresses up as a Hasidic Jew and, standing outside of a synagogue, tells worshippers that he “went shopping and they wanted $800 for a TV, but I us’d them down to $500,” prompting a beating.

True, other faiths take their knocks in “Family Guy,” and some of the representations of Jews and Judaism in the series are favorable. Other animated comedies poke fun at Jewish foibles, as well. The Simpsons’ Krusty the Clown is a lapsed Jew and a committed reprobate. South Park’s Kyle Broflovski is a conflicted Jewish kid with a yente mother and a lawyer father who wears a kipa. Another character in “South Park,” whose co-creator Matt Stone is a secular Jew, is a despised anti-Semite and occasional neo-Nazi. But the satire in these shows, often written by Jews, is knowing and good natured.

In “Family Guy,” in contrast, there is consistent meanness that reinforces classic, anti-Semitic stereotypes: greedy, cheap, cowardly, whiny, averse to physical labor, and in control of Hollywood.

Seth MacFarlane, it seems, is simply a wittier version of Mel Gibson.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Television, Seth MacFarlane, Family Guy

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • "I’ve never bought illegal drugs, but I imagine a small-time drug deal to feel a bit like buying hummus underground in Brooklyn."
  • We try to show things that get less exposed to the public here. We don’t look to document things that are nice or that people would like. We don’t try to show this place as a beautiful place.”
  • A new Gallup poll shows that only 25% of Americans under 35 support the war in #Gaza. Does this statistic worry you?
  • “You will stomp us into the dirt,” is how her mother responded to Anya Ulinich’s new tragicomic graphic novel. Paul Berger has a more open view of ‘Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: Hundreds of protesters marched through lower Manhattan yesterday demanding an end to American support for Israel’s operation in #Gaza.
  • Does #Hamas have to lose for there to be peace? Read the latest analysis by J.J. Goldberg.
  • This is what the rockets over Israel and Gaza look like from space:
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.