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August 21st, 2013
06:53 PM ET

MacFarlane offends with show that hasn't premiered yet

Seth MacFarlane is known for crude humor and he has made a career out of pushing envelopes. Sure, his previous productions have focused on families and teddy bears but those wholesome topics are Trojan horses for much edgier content, and MacFarlane’s new sitcom is no different.

The Family Guy creator will debut his first multi-camera sitcom, Dads on Fox next month. The pilot episode is still weeks away, but there are already objections to its controversial content.

Scenes of a provocatively dressed Asian woman, giggling demurely amid a group of men are among a handful of clips used to promote “Dads” on Fox’s website.

Instead of the laughs executives may have expected, FOX recently received a letter from Guy Aoki, the founder of the Media Action Network for Asian-Americans.

"Our community can't continue to be the target of racially insensitive jokes," Aoki wrote, "We are asking you to re-shoot the inappropriate scenes of the pilot."

FOX declined and the network insisted its show will be "evocative and will poke FUN at stereotypes and bigotries," adding that it needed time to develop the characters.

Naeemah Clark, author of Diversity in U.S. and Media and Associate Communications professor at Elon University understood their point. “That organization is well within its rights to complain, to ask FOX to reshoot” she said, “but if the show makes money for FOX, which Seth MacFarlane makes a great deal of money for FOX, they’re not going to change the program.” CNN reached out to FOX for comment on this story but did not receive a reply.

Controversial content has become synonymous with McFarlane. His hugely successful series Family Guy isn’t afraid to offend. In fact, race has been a common topic of the series’ jokes. But is it racist? Is it making fun of racism? Is it both?

Either way, Family Guy has been going strong, attracting loyal viewers since 1999.

“If it were just racism for racism’s sake, that would stop,” said Clark. "You know, people would say we’ve had enough of that. But if you look at a program like All in the Family or The Jeffersons or other programs that really challenge the conventions of race and gender, those shows make people question what’s going on in society, and honestly, that’s what Seth MacFarlane is trying to do.”

MacFarlane expanded his repertoire of risky productions last year with his first feature film, Ted. The film told the story of a cuddly, stuffed bear with, you guessed it, an offensive side. The child’s toy purchased prostitutes, did drugs and made lewd gestures towards women.

Whether this uncouth comedy comes from a teddy bear, a cartoon or a multi-camera sitcom, the question remains: how far is too far for audiences?

MacFarlane seemed to find out just how far he could go in front of his largest audience of all, this year’s Academy Awards where he appeared as host.

The comedian was criticized for his bits about Jews and women, many feminists and others objected to his “we saw your boobs” song, during which he singled out actresses in the audience who had done nude scenes.

He ignored the fact that some of the aforementioned nude scenes were used to depict rape.

Despite the offense taken by some of his audience, MacFarlane’s television ratings for the Oscars showed nothing but success. More than 40 million viewers tuned in and the comedian’s presence on stage attracted 20% more young viewers than the previous Oscar telecast according to Nielsen ratings.

So as is often said in Hollywood, it’s called show business, and if the business model works, the resulting outrage is just free publicity.

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