ARTICLE SETH MACFARLANE
PHOTOGRAPHY BABAK RADBOY
STYLIST AVENA GALLAGHER
THE MEDIA’S INSATIABLE APPETITE FOR ELECTION CRUMBS IS CANNIBALIZING THE PRESS. FAMILY GUY CREATOR AND OUTSPOKEN ACTIVIST SETH MACFARLANE SOUNDS OFF ON REDUCTIVE JOURNALISM, LATINO POLLSTERS, AND SANTORUM’S OMNIPRESENT SWEATER VESTS
Vote FDR in ’12! Just kidding. Not that I don’t admire Franklin Delano Roosevelt—I happen to think he was the greatest president of the 20th century. But he could certainly never get elected today. He doesn’t have Obama’s imposing height, or Romney’s hair, or Santorum’s boyishness, or Gingrich’s legs. Actually, FDR doesn’t have any of their legs. Also, the primary criterion for a candidate’s electability today is whether the average American would want to have a beer with him (or her). And I don’t even know if FDR could have a beer, ‘cause of the polio. Can polio people have beer? I’m not really a polio expert.
But more importantly, FDR would have been done in by the 24-hour news cycle and the relentlessness (and destructive quantity) of today’s online media. When there isn’t enough to talk about, more news is, quite literally, invented. As a result, no one has that all-important breathing time to quietly process, internally cross-reference, and (God forbid) think critically for themselves. It’s only a slight exaggeration to say that pretty much everything that happens right now is broken down and analyzed for its potential impact on “the polls.” It’s called horse-race journalism, and it’s melting our brains.
The truth is, I wish the news and the Internet had a magic switch that would let me turn off all election coverage until…I dunno, September or so. Even the porn sites have spent the last month breaking down the prospect of a brokered GOP convention. Can’t Americans just enjoy some lactating Chinese chicks in peace?
Believe it or not, things happen every day that matter more than the latest twist in the race for the White House. A recent analysis by Climate Central projected that rising sea levels may inundate about 2.6 million American homes by 2030. That sounds kind of important. So is it finally time to place a non-tradeable cap on CO2 emissions? Maybe a universal carbon tax? Start handing out snorkels? I don’t know. But thanks to daily news reports, I do know that Romney’s current polling among Latinos is lagging behind McCain’s in ’08. Nothing against my Latino friends, but come the fuck on. All across this shattered nation, flanked by rising oceans, entering our second straight decade of perpetual war, and with 20 percent of our homes underwater (the financial kind, not yet the melted ice cap kind), who can deny that the average American wakes up each morning and asks himself, “Oh my God, can Romney get the Latino vote?!” (A negative side effect is that we’re becoming conditioned to treat elections as just another sporting event. We pick our team, and then blindly cheer them on, with no more thought than we would give to a football game.)
Why is modern journalism so reductive and sucky? There are many reasons. While it was once a journalist’s responsibility to tell readers and viewers what the hell was going on, now a newsman’s job appears to be simply to tell us what the two major parties and the pollsters are saying. But I think it really comes down to the fact that horse-race coverage is just way, way cheaper than reporting on relevant and substantive issues. Unless you’re Jack McGee, I suppose. His newspaper poured five seasons’ worth of funding into his unsuccessful pursuit of the Incredible Hulk. Beat that, CNN. Now believe me, I get cheaper. At Family Guy, we’re saving some dough by just reusing old shooting scripts from Small Wonder. But we’re just a cartoon show. America’s founders saw no solemn constitutional role for Sunday night cartoons with maybe-gay babies. The press, though, was given a job to do. It’s the fourth branch of government. It’s the eyes and ears of an informed populace, the sine qua non of a functioning democratic republic.
So seriously, you ever want another FDR in the White House? Then stop with the stories about Santorum’s sweater vest.
Seth MacFarlane wrote and directed the upcoming comedy Ted, in theaters June 29