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Fox Massacres Mother's Day



May 11th was Mother’s Day. In a Harris poll conducted on May 7th, nearly half of Americans stated that they would call their mother or send a card or flowers, and many others planned to buy their mother a gift or take her out to dinner.


In an interesting wrinkle, the poll also asked Americans which television mother they would have liked to have had as their own mother growing up. The top choice was June Cleaver, from the 1950s TV show Leave it to Beaver. Other top choices were Clair Huxtable, from the 1980s program The Cosby Show; Carol Brady from The Brady Bunch and Marion Cunningham from Happy Days, both 1970s programs; and two more 1950s icons, Donna Stone from The Donna Reed Show and Harriet Nelson from The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet. Clearly, Americans love and value their mothers, and cherish the TV programs which portrayed mothers in a respectful and positive fashion.


Unfortunately, the Fox network feels differently.


In 1987, TV’s respectful treatment of mothers began to be replaced by an attitude of mockery and contempt – and unsurprisingly, it was the Fox network that began the trend. Married with Children’s Peg Bundy was portrayed as shallow, vapid, incompetent at domestic chores (and everything else) and obsessed with sex.  Dressed to resemble a prostitute, the Peg Bundy character also seemed to act and think like one. The constant put-downs directed at Peg by her crude and moronic husband character were echoed by equally intense contempt from her children.


And in the two decades since Married with Children’s premiere nothing has changed, except that the mockery, contempt and even hatred shown towards mothers on Fox has become even more vicious and sadistic.


The May 11th episode of The Simpsons focused on the death of Homer’s mother, a former radical who abandoned him as a child. The now-deceased mother leaves her daughter-in-law Marge a purse made of hemp, as Bart informs his father that Grandma said “you don’t suck…THAT much.”


Yet The Simpsons’ depiction of motherhood was as nothing compared to that seen on Seth MacFarlane’s animated “comedy” Family Guy. In celebration of Mother’s Day, Fox chose to rerun an episode in which Baby Stewie murders his own mother – after plotting to torture her:


Stewie: "I'll teach that hussy to go on a boat ride without me. When she returns I'm going to put bamboo splinters under all her fingernails. And I'm going to strip her down and tie her to the bed."


Brian: "Okay."


Stewie: "Then I'm going to make her crawl on her hands and knees while I drip hot candle wax all over her back."


Brian: "And then what are you going to do?"


Stewie: "Let's see..."


Brian: "Are you going to shower her off after all of that candle wax?"


Stewie: "No. I'm going to keep her filthy."


Brian: "Yeah, she's been a bad girl."


Stewie: "And then I'm going to gag her with her own brassiere…What?"


Brian: "No, nothing. That's all part of your diabolical plan to humiliate her."


Stewie: "Yes, yes! She'll be humiliated."


Brian: "Maybe you'll handcuff her. She'll hate that."


Stewie: "Then I shall do that, as well."


Brian: "And call her a bitch?"


Stewie: "Until I'm hoarse with rage."


Brian: "Maybe smack her ass with a riding crop?"


Stewie: " Yes, and then…What?"


Brian: "That would show her."


Stewie: "You're getting some kind of sick sexual thrill off this, aren't you?"



After this delightful dialogue, Stewie points a gun at his mother Lois, pulling the trigger and graphically shooting her full of holes. As Lois falls overboard, blood gushes from her wounds.


The “creative” personnel in charge of writing today’s TV shows denigrate programs like Leave it to Beaver and The Donna Reed Show as being unrealistic and hopelessly naïve; but in fact, the depictions of mothers so often found on TV today are actually far less realistic than those found on programs from TV’s “golden age.” And, as this column has previously shown, Americans prefer upbeat, positive messages in their entertainment to endless profanity, violence and sex. The recent Harris poll underlines the point: while today’s entertainment industry encourages, even celebrates, a disrespectful portrayal of mothers as depraved and worthless, the Americans who make up their audience feel very differently. One cannot help but wonder whether the mothers of Fox’s writers are flattered by the way their children portray mothers on TV…or how long it will take the entertainment industry to return to making programs that their viewers actually enjoy.  


TV Trends: This column was compiled from reports by the Parents Television Council’s Analysis staff.


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