The 'Family Guy' Controversy: Were the Palins Right to Be Offended?

The subversive animated comedy introduces a character with Down syndrome, and everyone is voicing their opinion

Fox's animated series Family Guy thrives on being offensive, and Sunday's episode -- in which teenage son Chris dates a girl with Down syndrome -- is a prime example of the show's twisted "yes, we're going there" humor. But not everyone was laughing. Sarah Palin (the butt of a joke in the episode) called the episode a "kick in the gut" and posted a strongly worded Facebook rant from daughter Bristol, calling Family Guy's writers "heartless jerks."

So does Family Guy owe the Palins, and other families raising Down syndrome children, an apology?

That depends how you look at it. A number of voices in the media have stepped in to defend the show, saying that the Down syndrome character -- a bossy, bright girl who proves too aggressive for Chris -- is actually a positive thing for disability awareness.

"The character is feisty and assertive," Joy Behar said on Tuesday's The View. "And who's to say that people with disabilities don't have a sense of humor about themselves?"

The Web site Jezebel agrees, pointing out that the character defies stereotypes about people with disabilities -- and the role was voiced by actress Andrea Fay Friedman, who actually has Down syndrome.

The show's most convincing defender is Huffington Post writer Ellen Seidman, the mother of a child with cerebral palsy. In an editorial, Seidman applauds the episode for spreading the message that "people with disabilities are just like everyone else," and says "the genius of this episode is that it made a girl with Down syndrome seem like just another feisty teenager with 'tude."

Whether you side with Palin or Seidman, the controversy has gotten people thinking about how special needs children and their loved ones feel -- and that's definitely a good thing.

Watch the episode that sparked the debate:

PHOTOS: Sarah Palin: Her Highs and Lows

Do you think the Palins are right to be offended by the Family Guy character? Chime in below!


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