Family Guys? What Sitcoms Say About America Now (2012) Movie Script

'Days to go to the Presidential
'It's no surprise the candidates
disagree with each other,
'but if you watch the news channels,
'it looks like the whole of America
is tearing itself apart.'
The American people are boiling.
The American people are furious.
We in America are going to have to
choose between
a homosexual agenda and liberty.
Did I slip through a wormhole
in the middle of the night
and this looks like America?
The news is always about conflict.
It's about division, it's about
people screaming at each other.
'The America that we see on the news
is a very different place'
from the country that I see out
here on the street.
I think there's another way
to understand America.
'Don't just watch the news,
watch the sitcoms.
'This is the sitcom both
presidential rivals love
'and America adores.'
'Republicans especially. They've
listed it as their top sitcom.'
Get down here.
Why are you guys yelling at us when
we're way upstairs? Just text me.
'Yet it's got teen sexuality.'
Wow! You're not wearing that outfit.
What's wrong with it?
Honey, do you have anything to say to
your daughter about her skirt?
Sorry. Oh, yeah, that looks really
cute, sweetheart.
'It's got a gay couple
who have adopted a baby.'
Don't you love it?
What the hell is that?
I had Andre do it
while we were gone.
Is that us with wings?
We're floating above her.
Always there to protect her.
OK, well, that's reassuring,
right, Lily? Yes.
We tore you away from everything,
but don't worry. Your fathers
are floating fairies.
'And it's got an interracial
I come from a small village.
Very poor, but very, very
It's the number one village in all
of Colombia for the...
What's the word? Murders.
Yes, the murders.
'Modern Family is more like
the America I know,
'because the sitcoms explore the
common ground in American life.
'They reflect the loves, hates
and fears of the American family.'
The truth of how Americans
live are built into every sitcom.
'Charlottesville, Virginia.
'The President's in town,
'and thousands of Democratic
party supporters
'are hanging on his every word.'
You guys have more at stake
in this election than anybody.
When you step into that voting
booth, the choice that you make
in that one instant,
is going to shape your country,
it's going to shape
the world for decades to come.
'That same day, Barack Obama's
Republican rival Mitt Romney
'said much the same.
'I'm right. The other guy's wrong.
The choice is that simple.
'It's how two-party politics works.'
The greatest nation on earth.
God bless you.
God bless the United States
of America.
'But these speeches tell you more
about the candidates than they do
about America.'
If you really want
to understand America,
I wouldn't watch the news,
I really wouldn't.
I would, I would watch TV,
and sitcoms. I get so much
more out of it.
'Sitcoms are the closest thing
America has to the soaps in Britain,
'and they're made here, in the
entertainment capital of the USA.
'Los Angeles, California.'
Sitcoms are just about the biggest
phenomenon on American TV.
They cost millions to make,
and the fates of whole networks
rest on finding the next big hit.
'And the biggest hits come
when a sitcom is in perfect tune
'with how American families
are living at that moment.
'The sitcom writers say
they have to be hard-wired
'into the lives of their audience.'
The politicians and the parties
are after the American family.
They're after their votes,
but they're after a definition
of what it means to be
an American family.
It's exactly what
the sitcoms are doing,
defining the American family
in various different ways.
'Dan Bucatinsky is a leading
sitcom actor and writer
'who's appeared in shows like
Frasier, Will and Grace
'and Curb your Enthusiasm.'
It's political.
You know, the making of a television
show, the popularity of a sitcom.
It's political, even if they don't
want it to be, because of that fact,
and because the American family
in sitcom, the portrayals of
the American family on TV, that cuts
right to the core of everything.
'Sitcoms react fast.
'The Middle,
first broadcast in 2009,
'took the pain of the recession
straight into the living room.'
Oh, my god, Mike. It's 2009.
What? Already?
Yeah, Mike. 2009.
How did this happen?
No payments till 2009!
No payments till 2009!
No payments till 2009! The economy's
going to be great by then!
Great. Now, with interest,
we owe 650 on a VCR we sold at the
garage sale last year for two bucks.
You know what? It'll be fine.
The secret of comedy, I'm about to
give you the secret of comedy...
is reality.
Barnet Kellman is an Emmy
Award-winning writer and director
who's worked on The Middle.
Any real concerns
in people's lives...
will appear eventually
on the screen in front of us.
It's fine. It'll be fine.
We're fine.
These things have a
way of working themselves out.
As long as the dryer hangs on
and I sell a car this month,
we're going to be fine.
'Frankie Heck and her family
are fighting to survive
'in credit crunch America.
'For eight million viewers, it
captures the spirit of the times.
'For 25 years, Howard Rosenberg was
one of America's most influential
'TV critics.
'In the Los Angeles Times,
he made or broke TV sitcoms.'
The comedies that have
always worked for me,
no matter how surreal
they may be on one level,
always have an undercurrent
of plausibility,
which is something that I can relate
to, I can say, "Oh, yeah, you know."
"Maybe the rest of it is sort of
silly, but that has happened to me."
We will open the doors
of opportunity to everybody
who's willing to work hard
and walk through them.
I will do everything in my power to
get our economy going again,
so people can have good jobs
and don't have to worry about living
pay cheque to pay cheque.
'The candidates talk about the
economy, but it's a sitcom,
'The Middle, that best brings alive
the fears of ordinary families
'and helps explain the urgency with
which the candidates tell voters
'they get how tough life is.'
The recent recession has been
a profound shock for America.
Four million families have had their
houses foreclosed by the bank.
There are millions of houses
like this right across America.
The trauma of the recession has
forced sitcoms to show
just a little of how many
people are now forced to live.
Oh, you're home early. And you make
dinner. What a nice surprise.
Yeah, well, it's really more
of a bad surprise.
Oh, you forgot ketchup!
Oh, this sucks.
I'm out of a job.
Wait, found it!
It was under the French fries.
Their closing
the quarry down for a few months
so scientists can come
and dig up the rest of it.
Dude! Yeah.
Oh, my god, you lost your job?
Are we going to be OK?
Don't worry. It's just a few months.
We'll be fine. Absolutely.
Nothing to worry about. Mike, can I
see you in the kitchen for a sec?
'The Heck family say something
politicians can't.'
Oh, my god, Mike. We're screwed.
Yeah. I would not want
to be us right now.
'Economically, it's a tightrope act.
'They've got all the elements'
of the American dream...
although it needs a paint job.
But how do they keep it together?
What does it cost to maintain this in
daily struggle, and daily strife
and daily tensions,
and daily abrasions?
First step, a trip
to the Frugal Hoosier,
Indiana's number one
expired food store.
So are we, like, poor, now?
No, we're not poor.
We're just thrifty.
We're trying something new called
living within our means.
You mean we were living outside
our means? Oh, God!
You should be thanking me.
Listen, smart consumers,
they're the kids who are popular.
'During periods when it gets heavy
and the economy's coming down'
you see that integrated
into storylines.
You see people, you see divorces,
you see food stamps,
you see public assistance,
you see where that kind of
works its way into the humour of
"I can't afford that".
'Rodney Barnes is an award-winning
sitcom writer and director.'
If you pay attention to the
storylines and story arcs, you can
kind of gauge what's happening in the
psyche of the country at that time.
Mum, are we going to be OK?
I don't know.
I don't know
if we're going to be OK, Sue.
I really don't. Frankly, I have no
evidence that we will.
That's not what you're
supposed to say.
Oh, I know, I know.
I'm just supposed to pick you all up
and tell you everything's going
to be fine, but you know what?
I don't know any more!
You want to know the truth?
Your dad's big on truth.
Basically, our lives suck right now.
I'm not into sugar-coat it.
2009 has been a rotten, rotten year.
We can't afford a new dryer,
we can't afford unexpired food,
I can't even afford the LCD
light-up angel that
I ordered on the TV to surprise
you all at Christmas!
If I don't sell a car,
that means no job.
That also means maybe no house,
but the tornado will probably blow
it all away anyway.
Oh, my god.
Let's just pack it all in.
Let's just give you kids to
Madonna or something,
and your dad and I will go
and live in a tent city somewhere,
because the truth is we're screwed!
'I think the idea of the American
dream has changed,
'that your children will do
better than you did,
'that you will provide for them
the opportunity for them'
to go on and advance their lives
and create a legacy for them.
I don't think people believe that
so much any more.
'David Isaacs is an Emmy-winning
writer and producer
'with credits from MASH
to The Simpsons and Mad Men.'
The title is, to me, very prophetic,
because is there really
a middle any more?
Is there a chance for you to carve
out not a rich in dollars life,
but a healthy economic life
free from fear,
free from fear of falling
off the edge?
Ours is a fight to restore
the values that built the largest
middle class and the strongest
economy the world has ever known.
This Obama economy has crushed
the middle class.
Big decisions will be made
in Washington on jobs, the economy.
Today more Americans wake
up in poverty than ever before.
'To many working-class families,
the presidential rivals
'look like a different species'
'Rich, powerful and seeing
every issue
'as part of a grand
ideological battle.
'Not just the economy, but race,
gay marriage and abortion.
'That's how the party
machines like it.
'Homer Simpson knows what
he's dealing with.'
America, take a good look
at your beloved candidates.
They're nothing but hideous
space reptiles!
It's true, we are aliens. But what
are you going to do about it?
It's a two-party system.
You have to vote for one of us.
He's right. This is a two-party
Well, I think I'll vote for a
third party candidate.
Go ahead. Throw your vote away!
'The Simpsons have got it right.
'But though the candidates insist
there are only two ways
'of seeing America,
'don't be tricked into believing
that's what all Americans think.'
What I believe is that there are
millions of ordinary Americans
who don't think this way.
They could be the 40% of Americans
who refuse to align
with either party.
They could be the millions
of Americans
who don't bother to vote at all.
But I see plenty of evidence
that these people...
if you like, the "ignored middle"...
do not see their lives as a struggle
between the conservative
and the liberal.
And what is more, they're moving in
a way that leaves the politicians
and the news media behind.
There is a divide between the
American family that is being
pushed down our throats
by the politicians
of what feels like
the right way to live,
and what we're seeing on television,
and what people in America...
the same people voting for those
actually believe in their hearts
and are seeing on their TVs
as what makes a family.
There's a huge chasm.
'Sitcoms are all
about the American family.
'And while there are 60 million
married couples,
'what really excites the pundits
and politicians are the one million
'gay couples, and whether or not
they count as family, too.'
What would you do if one
of your children came to you
and said they were gay?
You can't separate what
happens in marriage
and in families from how it affects
everything in American life.
We have to choose between the
homosexual agenda and freedom.
We have to choose
between the homosexual agenda
and the constitution,
because we cannot have both.
'The sitcoms show us
a different picture
'of who Americans are
willing to call family.'
'This is the story of two sisters...'
'Years before politicians would deal
seriously with gay issues,
'sitcoms got there first, even if
the character, Jodie Dallas,
'was a 70s idea of what
being gay meant.'
If anyone's interested, I've thought
it over and I've definitely decided
to go ahead with a sex-change
He's starting with that
sex-change stuff again!
Can we talk about this later?
People are eating.
'Soap included a character
played by Billy Crystal
'who was identifiably gay.'
My hips will become rounded.
'He wanted a sex change,'
also implying that all gay men
wanted to change their genders.
I just got used to you being a...
I always thought you'd outgrow it,
that it was just a phase.
And now, when I'm finally used
to you being a...
You're going to get a sex-change
operation and be a girl?
Jody, for God's sakes, what am
I going to tell people?
Oh, my god, I think I'm having a
cerebral haemorrhage. I can feel it.
He couldn't just be gay.
He had to be crazy, flamboyant,
cross-dressing gay.
'But that's what he had to play and
it was always played for laughs.'
I'm sorry, I didn't realise
you had company... Good God!
What the hell does he think
he's doing?!
He's not going out
dressed like that, is he?
No, it's too chilly.
I'll take a wrap.
'In fact, Jodie Dallas
offended just about everyone.
'He failed the reality test.'
He's sick! So am I.
He looks better in
that dress than I do.
I think the tremendous amount
of controversy and backlash
and complaint around the character
of Jodie Dallas on Soap
may have just kind of scared
people off for a while.
I think that it made them
realise that,
"Mmm, these gay characters might be
just a little bit too dangerous,
""a little bit too complicated,
a little bit too dicey.
"If we're doing a gay character
and we're pissing off everybody,
"including the gay people
and the anti-gay people,
"we might want to rethink this."
You may kiss!
'But in the 1990s, increasing
numbers of gay people came out
'to their friends and family.
'And the sitcom writers were quick
to tune into this trend.'
So, how was dinner with Richard?
Oh, it was great.
We had dinner at the restaurant...
'In this episode of Ellen, sitcom
fiction would mirror real life.'
No, they're nice. They're big.
'Jonathan Stark is an Emmy
Award-winning writer
'who co-wrote one of the most famous
storylines in sitcom history.'
She was an everywoman.
She dated guys.
She had normal friends,
a normal, normal life.
Well, we went back to his room
so we could continue talking.
Ellen, you didn't!
Oh, didn't I?
'The real Ellen DeGeneres
was different.'
'We knew she was gay.'
I'm sure people knew she was,
but it was never talked about,
it was never discussed.
It was like, "Well, that's what
she is, so, you know,
"but that's only the comic,
not Ellen we see on TV."
'In 1997, four seasons into the
show, Ellen DeGeneres, the actress,
'came out as gay.'
When she came out as a person
on the cover of Time,
it was huge. It got international
media coverage,
it was all over the national news.
I mean, I know people who came out
to their families
by handing them that magazine.
'The ABC network decided
the fictional Ellen
'could also come out.
'It was a risk. Half of Americans
believed gay sex should be a crime.'
Ellen, are you coming out or not?
Yeah, Ellen quit jerking us around
and come out, already!
Come on!
What is the big deal?
I've got a whole hour.
This risk in this was beyond any risk
I've ever seen in television.
'The basic story for Ellen
was she goes out on a date
'with an old friend of hers,'
who's in town shooting something,
and his producer is Laura Dern.
Interrupted. Nice sweater.
Thank you. Who are you?
Ellen, this is Susan Richmond,
my producer.
Hi, Ellen. Yeah.
Of course, one thing leads to another
and she tries to convince herself
that she really likes this guy.
Did you ever go out with him, or...?
'42 million people were watching.'
Yeah, that's a bad idea, I guess.
I don't date men.
The laugh is the truth.
The laugh signals acceptance,
the laugh signals recognition.
The laugh signals
personal identification.
And when she says, "I'm gay."
Yes, I'm gay.
When she says that,
you realise, "Oh, my god,
"It's all come together.
She's letting it go."
I know this is a big shock.
I really don't expect you
to accept it right away.
Take your time, let it sink in.
Well, I, for one, think it's super.
'I remember the audience
standing up cheering.
'I remember Ellen crying.'
'I remember half the cast crying,
and I remember shivering.'
It was one of those things in
your life, not just in television,
but in your life,
where you really say,
"Wow, this is really, really
something. Don't forget this moment."
'The episode reflected
and accelerated change
'that was already happening.
'Today, four in ten Americans
have close friends or relatives
'who are gay.'
Just one thing.
Are you sure this is what you want?
Aren't you sweet?
Yes, I am sure, thank you.
Everybody, pay up!
Television is one of those mediums
that goes back and forth.
It's always a little bit
behind society,
so society will change and then
television will be right behind it.
'In the 2000s, for many
younger Americans,
'different was the new normal, and
they expected to see that on TV.
'The sitcom writers
came up with a show
'that perfectly captured
the attitude.
'Will & Grace gave us a lead
character who was a regular guy
'who just happened to be gay.'
What are you doing?
Hanging out.
Come over. Will, I can't.
'Come on, Grace.'
You know you want to.
Of course I want to, but...
It's going to be a good one.
I can feel it.
It's always good.
Well, if you're not going
to come over,
do you want me to talk
you through it?
It's tempting,
but I think I'll watch ER here.
He was normal, and just like us.
He worried about his clothes,
he worried about his job,
he had problems with his parents.
'Janis Hirsch is a leading sitcom
writer who worked on Will & Grace.'
Suddenly, gay people
are just like you,
but dressed better and are funnier.
'In this episode, Will, Grace
'and their gay friend Jack
settle down to watch a sitcom.'
"I think I'm about to be kissed."
Gay sex is so hot.
'They expect to see a gay kiss.'
This is it! This is it!
This is not it.
Where is the camera going?
Why are we looking at a fireplace?
Get off the flames
and follow the flamers!
Oh, come on!
They didn't show us anything!
I can't believe this!
Oh, come on, Jack.
What did you expect?
I expected a kiss!
And this closet case upstairs...
'Later, they go to protest
outside the network.'
and I want to know how long I'll
have to wait until I can see
two gay men kiss on network TV.
Not as long as you'd think.
'Once again, a show had reflected
change, and then consolidated it.'
Not your boyfriend, my ass!
When you're laughing, the next day
when you see someone who's gay,
instead of going,
"Eugh," or whatever
your reaction was going to be,
you're interested, you're talking.
You know, when you see gay couples
now with kids,
you know, your first instinct
isn't necessarily to say,
"Where's the mum?"
You just go, "Oh, cool,
these are your kids."
And I think that started with
Will and Grace, I really do.
'The politicians argue
over gay rights,
'but when asked whether a gay couple
raising a child counts as a family,
'two-thirds of Americans say yes.
'In the last decade
'the proportion of gay couples
raising children has doubled.
'One in four of them
are now doing it.
'In this episode
of Modern Family,
'Mitch and Cam bring home
their newly adopted baby.'
She barely slept on the plane
and she's still wide awake.
Oh, stop worrying.
Cam, that orphanage was all women.
Maybe she can't fall asleep
unless she feels a woman's shape.
I guess that's possible.
So, here.
What the hell is that
supposed to mean?
Yes, I've gained a few extra pounds
while we were expecting the baby.
Which has been very difficult,
but apparently your body does
a nesting, very maternal,
primal thing
'where it retains nutrients...
'some sort of molecular physiology
thing - but that's science.
'You can't fight it.'
I'm not saying anything.
You're saying everything.
'Some people feel
TV's treatment of gay people
'is "typical liberal bias".
'Pat Buchanan is one of the biggest
names on the conservative wing
'of the Republican Party.'
'This isn't the good country
we grew up in.'
There's no doubt that
the idea of homosexuality
and gay marriage, it's portrayed
as positive and healthy
and happy and a normal lifestyle
and even a commendable lifestyle,
and Hollywood
plays a major role in that.
I mean, homosexual marriage,
is overwhelmingly supported by
Hollywood and the people who make
and create the culture, the popular
culture which we all consume.
No doubt, you don't need a weatherman
to know which way
the wind is blowing.
'The sitcom writers insist, "We're
just holding a mirror to society."
Hollywood gets a lot of criticism
for being overly liberal
and pushing an agenda, but America's
watching, the ratings show that.
If they did not like the message,
they would not watch,
and if they did not watch
we would be shut down.
It happens all the time.
One of the jobs of comedy
is to patrol moral boundaries.
Boundary keepers, to test the
limits, to find out where we are,
that's one of the endeavours.
That's what we're exploring.
We're trying to find the compass.
When we go too far,
we get called back.
When we say something that nobody
else is saying, when we acknowledge
a previously unacknowledged truth,
we get rewarded for it.
So patrolling that boundary,
finding out where the limits are,
is what the business of comedy is.
'Sitcoms need to stay close to
the boundaries of public opinion.
'Cross those boundaries
and the public switch off.
'And in some places,
the boundaries have shrunk.
'While sitcoms have caught
the more liberal attitude
'to gays and lesbians,
on other issues
'they've reflected a different
movement in public opinion.'
Whereas in Britain we have
become ever more liberal,
in the United States,
attitudes on some key issues
have actually hardened.
In America, the story of change
isn't one of constant progress,
of always moving in one direction.
It's more complicated.
'Back in the early 70s, one of the
most popular sitcoms was Maude,
'a show that confronted one of the
most controversial issues of all.
'The central character
was played by Bea Arthur,
'better known these days for her
role in The Golden Girls.'
We've been through an awful
lot together.
A lot.
Six husbands. Your two, my four.
For 22 years, Vivian, we've been
everything to each other.
I mean, there wasn't a confidence
that we couldn't share,
we've been like sisters, Vivian.
Like sisters, Maude.
Then can I trust you
to keep a secret?
'When this episode was
broadcast in 1972,
'abortion had already been
legalised in some states,
'but it would be another two months
'before it was made legal
across the country.'
I'm pregnant.
'This was a woman in her late 40s,
this is a woman who had wrinkles,'
and so when she got pregnant...
"What? She got pregnant?"
"Yeah, she got pregnant."
People expected, well, naturally,
if she gets pregnant,
this is American television,
she will have the child
and give it up for adoption.
No, she has an abortion.
This was a stunner.
You know, I've been thinking.
There is no earthly reason for you
to go through with this at your age.
You know it, I know it,
Walter knows it.
I don't want you to talk.
Just don't talk about it!
I didn't say anything,
but now that you mentioned it,
it's legal in New York now,
isn't it?
Of course it is, Walter. Mother, I
don't understand your hesitancy.
When they made it a law,
you were for it.
Of course, I wasn't pregnant then!
What's ironic about
the Maude episode,
here is something that happened,
what, 40 years ago on television,
and even if it was controversial,
it was deemed ultimately acceptable.
That same episode could not play
on television today,
would not even be attempted today
because the atmosphere in this
country is so poisoned,
it's impossible for people to have
a rational discussion
about anything without being shouted
down, and that includes abortion.
Just tell me, Walter...
that I'm doing the right thing,
not having the baby.
For you, Maude, for me.
And in the privacy of our own lives,
you're doing the right thing.
I love you, Walter Findlay.
'Now, in 2012, abortion divides
America like no other issue.'
You don't care.
He was running a legal system.
You know who has blood on her hands?
You. That's ridiculous, Bill.
You don't care about these babies.
It isn't ridiculous.
You're the zealot.
As President, I'll protect
the sanctity of life.
I'll honour the institution
of marriage.
Washington politicians who want to
decide who you can marry or control
health care choices that women
should be making for themselves...
Only you can make sure that
doesn't happen.
'The sitcoms have largely avoided
the subject of abortion since
Maude in the '70s.'
'It's an issue that tears America
apart, with roughly half
'the country passionately opposed
to it and half in favour.'
'TV producers don't like
those odds.'
Most networks would probably
not deal with that subject matter,
because they don't want the backlash
that comes with it.
You know, I think Family Guy
had an abortion episode
and the network wouldn't
let them air it.
If you have a few moments, I'd like
you to watch this video presentation.
Yeah, I got a few minutes.
My wife's getting an abortion.
'This is the episode of Family Guy
that the network wouldn't run.'
Hello, friend. I hear you're
contemplating having an abortion.
But before you do, remember,
science has proven that within
hours of conception, a human foetus
has started a college fund and has
already made your first mother's day
card out of macaroni and glitter.
Ah! But don't take my word for it.
Just ask my little friend Ziggy.
Hi, I'm Ziggy the zygote.
I'm looking forward to being
an active member of your community.
Can I hug you?
Ha-ha! Of course you can, Ziggy,
because even though they're not
visible yet, you already have
tiny arms, arms that will one day
work, play and fold in prayer.
'The creators of Family Guy did find
a way to get past the ban.'
We're doing a live reading
of an episode
that will never air on television.
'When it does get on air,
'the show pulls in seven million
So, how did it go at the clinic?
Fine, at first,
but then there was a complication.
We have decided
against the procedure.
Really? Why?
Because it's killing babies, Brian.
If God wanted us to kill babies,
he'd make them all Chinese girls.
All we're doing is holding
a mirror up.
'So while traditional sitcoms
avoid abortion,
'satirical cartoons do want
to talk about it.'
'That's because younger Americans
want to see taboo subjects on TV,
'and cartoons top what they watch.'
'80% of South Park's viewers
are under 35.'
'The show articulates
the visceral discomfort
'that many Americans feel
about abortion.'
All right, Miss Anders.
All ready for your abortion?
Ready as I'm ever going to be,
I guess.
Well, try to relax.
It will all be over very soon.
Doctor, can we turn off that
Oh, yes, I'm sorry.
Well, here we go.
'The sitcoms reveal an America
that is embracing gay rights
'but still uncomfortable
about abortion.
'That might have something
to do with religion.
'Gay rights can be seen as
"learning to love your neighbour",
'while for many people in this
country, abortion will always be
'about the destruction of life.
'And religion matters.
'76% of Americans expect
to meet God on Judgment Day.
'Homer Simpson's beaten them to it.'
God, I got to ask you something.
What's the meaning of life?
Homer, I can't tell you that.
Come on.
'It's Sunday morning at Brentwood
Presbyterian Church in Los Angeles.'
This city isn't Alabama
in the Bible Belt,
yet this place is so popular that
it has to hold two services
just to fit everyone in.
'Three quarters of Americans
pray every day.'
'God is everywhere. It's no surprise
that he makes guest appearances.'
'In this episode of The Simpsons,
Homer stops going to church.'
Thou hast forsaken my church!
Well, kind of, but...
But what?
I'm not a bad guy. I work hard
and I love my kids,
so why should I spend half my Sunday
hearing about how I'm going to hell?
Hmm... You've got a point there.
'Homer and God chat about a common
experience for the 11 million
'Americans watching -
the ups and downs of church.'
You know what I really hate about
church? Those boring sermons.
I couldn't agree more.
America is a more religious society.
All the puritans came over here -
what do you expect?
We were started by people
in belt buckle hats or whatever
they were, I don't know.
It's strictly religious.
'For many Americans, church
is at the centre of family life...'
You used to drive that blue car.
Kids, could you wait outside...
'..and by rejecting church,
Homer rejects his family.'
Homer, please don't make me
choose between my man and my god
because you just can't win.
There you go again.
Always taking someone else's side.
Flanders, the Water Department, God.
I'm only going to ask you
one last time.
Are you sure you won't
come with us to Church?
"Coming up next,
Make Your Own Ladder."
Very sure.
'The sitcoms reflect the fact
that almost half of Americans
'attend church or some other
place of worship.'
'For many, life without faith
is unthinkable.'
'Although, unlike Homer Simpson,
'it doesn't take the house burning
down to convince them.'
You know I have a feeling
there's a lesson here.
Yes, the lesson is...
No, don't tell me, I'll get it.
Oh, I know.
The Lord is vengeful!
Oh, spiteful one, show me who to
smite and they shall be smoten.
Homer, God didn't set
your house on fire.
No, but he was working in the hearts
of your friends and neighbours
when they went to your aid, be
they Christian, Jew or miscellaneous.
Hindu! There are 700 million of us.
Oh, that's super.
I was rude to everyone of you
and you've saved my life
when you could have just left me
to fry like the proverbial pancake
that I am.
Oh, Homie, I'm so glad to hear
you say that.
Now, would you give church
another try?
I'll be there next Sunday,
front row centre.
'The Simpsons remain an
all-American, God-fearing family.'
There is an undeniable
love for each other.
You know, Marge and Homer are never
going to split up.
They're going to be together
the rest of their lives.
The presidency has a funny way
of making a person feel
the need to pray.
'American politicians often work
God into their speeches,
'because they know he's a lot more
popular than they are.'
In the wake of failures
and disappointments,
I've questioned what God had
in store for me.
And, suddenly, God
and Jesus appeared before me!
And they said
I should start my own church,
because none of the others
had it right.
'Mitt Romney, Barack Obama's rival,
is a Mormon, a faith whose founder
'this episode of South Park
mercilessly ridicules.'
And please bless mother and father
and please keep our bellies full of
yum yums and luscious goodies.
Oh, my gosh!
I am Morona. I am a native American.
A native American?
But your skin is white.
Yes. Long ago, all native
Americans were white.
We all came to America
from Jerusalem,
and while we were here
we were visited by Christ.
Jesus lived here in America?
'You might wonder how a man
who is a member
'of such a controversial church
'could be nominated for President
by the Republicans,
'the most religiously conservative
of the two parties.'
'Here's his explanation.'
We were Mormons, and growing
up in Michigan, that might have
seemed unusual or out of place, but
I really don't remember it that way.
My friends cared more about what
sports teams
we followed than what church
we went to.
Keep him away from me!
'South Park's Mormon character Gary
explains that what matters
'to Americans isn't
what faith people have,
'but that they at least
have a faith.'
Look, maybe us Mormons do believe
in crazy stories
that make absolutely no sense,
and maybe Joseph Smith
did make it all up.
But I have a great life
and a great family.
And I have the book of Mormon
to thank for that.
The truth is, I don't care
if Joseph Smith made it all up
because what the Church teaches now
is loving your family,
being nice and helping people, and
even though people in this town
might think that's stupid,
I still choose to believe in it.
All I ever did was try
to be your friend, Stan,
but you're so high and mighty you
couldn't look past my religion
and just be my friend back.
You got a lot of growing up to do,
buddy. Suck my balls.
Conservatives have accepted
Romney's faith,
but other forms of reconciliation
can be harder to achieve.
But tonight, because of what we did
on this day, in this election,
at this defining moment,
change has come to America.
When Barack Obama won in 2008,
many Americans hoped it would end
the country's oldest division -
Today, optimism among black
people is at a high,
but 80% still think their country
has a race problem.
I don't think you can
legislate feelings,
I don't think that you can
legislate a point of view.
If you don't like people of colour,
if you don't get it,
if you don't associate
with people of colour,
you can have a President that's blue
and that's not going to change how
you personally feel
about your neighbour.
'The reality is that race remains
the wound that will not heal.
'And you can see America's racial
divisions reflected in its sitcoms,'
'but in ways that are more complex
'and more surprising
than you might expect.'
'Back in the '70s, sitcoms appeared
'that brought the lives of ordinary
African Americans to the screen.
'And these mainstream shows,
like Good Times,
'were popular with both black
and white audiences.'
I said, hold it.
Hold it!
Well, it's comforting to know there's
still some respect for
Black Power around here.
When I was a kid and
I was watching Good Times,
I was sitting on the floor watching
TV and I asked my mother,
"Where's the ghetto?"
And she said "You're sitting in it."
And I had no idea, you know,
you're just a kid watching
something funny.
Alyson Fouse writes for TV sitcoms
and Hollywood feature films.
They were struggling, but to me
it always felt like
this is a family trying to make
it where they are.
What is it? Another eviction notice?
Well, it ain't no Valentine card.
Oh, baby, we got two of those
while you was in the hospital.
But my friend Manny, who
works down in the projects, he said
don't worry about it, because
they know I'm a hard-working man.
They'll extend me.
Yeah, they'll extend you,
right out into the street.
'Good Times was about the lives
of African-Americans
'stuck in the inner cities.
'In the '80s, a show hit the screens
that was set among a black
'professional class that was reaping
the benefits of Civil Rights.'
During the '80s and '90s, America
was in love with the family
that lived in this Greenwich
Village Townhouse.
The father was a doctor, his wife
was a successful lawyer,
and they were bringing up
their five kids to be respectful,
hard-working and ambitious.
They were almost the perfect family,
the physical embodiment
of the sense of hope and aspiration
that swept America
during the Reagan years.
Heard from the oldest, lately?
Sandra? Yeah, she called last night.
Doing OK?
Four As and a B.
Four As and a B? All right!
She like it up there?
Oh, yeah, lots of friends.
And your second daughter?
Where's she going to go?
Denise? Well, she's talking
about Princeton, Yale, Talladega...
'It was part of the '80s optimism
that anything was possible,'
there was a belief that
you could be anything.
It was just expected you were
going to go to college,
they wore college shirts,
you could go to Princeton,
you could do this,
you could be in the Naval Academy,
you could do anything
that you wanted to be,
and your race really wasn't a factor
in what you could or could not do.
All right. Now, binoculars,
everybody raise your binoculars.
All right, down. Cameras, up.
And down.
All right. Let's head out!
Oh, wait. The guest of honour. Theo!
'Cosby created a show
that wasn't about being black.'
And I hadn't seen many shows,
up until that point,
that dealt with African American
in a way that wasn't painful.
All right, there you go.
'In 1992, 44 million people
tuned into the final episode
'of this national institution.'
'It seemed to prove that whatever
their colour, the lifestyles
'and tastes of Americans
were converging.'
'But The Cosby Show turned out
to be one of the last sitcoms
'that was a hit among both black
and white audiences.'
'In 2000, the number one sitcom
among white audiences was about
'a group of friends living in an
apartment block here in Manhattan.'
'Despite being a huge hit
with white Americans,
'and a ratings success
across the world,
'Friends ranked as only
the 64th most popular show
'among African Americans.
'Friends was not a hit
among people of colour.
'Big with white people,
not as big with black people.
'Friends appeals to the people
'who look like the people
on Friends,'
and I don't think it
crosses colour lines.
I don't think it's intended
to cross colour lines.
Ross can wrap...
'Built around the foibles of its six
central characters,
'the friends seem to
live in an insular world.'
Monica's going to make you pack.
She's got jobs for everyone.
Now, it's too late for me,
but save yourselves!
'Often, you'd never know that it was
set in one of the most
'ethnically diverse cities
in America.'
'Friends is great, but Friends didn't
look like the New York I knew.'
So many sitcoms are so white.
'The failure of Friends and
of many mainstream sitcoms
'to attract black audiences
reflects some hard truths
'about race and culture
in modern America.'
Although the US is in many ways
a divided country,
Americans today are now less likely
than ever to be living in
racially segregated neighbourhoods,
but behind their curtains, they're
more likely than ever before
to be watching television aimed
squarely at their racial group.
Black and white Americans
live in different TV universes.
'Sitcoms like Living Single
explain what's happened.
'As cable TV has offered
Black Americans more choice,
'they've opted to watch sitcoms
about themselves.
'Living Single topped what
African Americans watched,
'but only reached 56 in
the national ratings.
'Emmy Award-winning writer
Ken Levine has been writing
'for black and white audiences
since the '60s.'
Sitcoms need to reflect the fact
that, in America,
there are very different cultures,
because even though there
is integration,
still, people are more comfortable
living in their own culture
and they develop their own culture.
Living Single was centred around
the lives of six twenty-somethings
living together in a
New York apartment,
and was seen by many
as similar to Friends,
but with a black cast.
That was during the time when you
saw black versions of those shows.
If they didn't have any black
people on the show,
but the concept was solid, well,
make a black show that's
kind of just like it,
with the same problems, but more
of a cultural point of view that
feels like us, that looks like us.
'Another example of this phenomenon
was Girlfriends,
'which followed the friendships
of four black women in New York.
'It was widely understood as black
TV's response to Sex and the City.'
Joan, you don't have to sell your
Yes, I do.
But Joan, there's so many memories
My first three-way.
My first four-way.
My first doorway.
If we're not going to deal with
each other one on one,
and you don't see it on television,
and the only time you see us
is in the news if there's a problem,
or politicised on one extreme
or the other, you really start to
lose the stuff that makes America
important, you know, the diversity,
and so to me, that's a problem.
'America's racial divide is visible
not just in the way audiences
'watch sitcoms, but in
the storylines, too.'
I want to thank you
for including me
in your little Sunday sports soiree,
and I'll have you know that I don't
feel at all uncomfortable
being the only white person
up in here.
OK, well, a little uncomfortable.
Hey, now I know how you feel
at the law firm, Dan.
Not that anything's going to change.
'I wish it were otherwise, but I
think sitcoms have it about right.'
I still think that, sadly,
black people and white people
meet in the office,
work very, very well together
in the office...
and then go to separate
'Happy Endings is a new sitcom
that shows how younger Americans
'are more becoming relaxed
about race.
'Today, one in seven
marriages are interracial.'
Listen, I'm sorry. I shouldn't
accuse you
of not communicating if I don't give
you a chance.
It's OK, babe. I'm sorry, too.
I need to be better at letting you
know you can always talk to me.
Oh, I love my black Han Solo.
As funny as that show is,
somebody's still thinking,
"Wow, they let him kiss her on TV."
It's still a big fricking deal
because we're so not used to it.
Oh, and thank you for pushing me
to open up to Carl.
He opened up to me...
'In sitcoms, we are a lot more
'with gay relationships
than biracial relationships,
especially when that mix
is black and white,
because, you know, things
in the news still remind you
that black people are scary
and they're dangerous
and you don't want them
dating your daughter.
It's just how it is.
'But eventually there will have to
be a change
'in the mainstream sitcoms
to keep up with society.
'By 2050, America will be
a majority non-white country.
'Immigrants and their descendants
from south of the border
'will make up 30%
of that population.
'So it's interesting that
when Modern Family
'decided to show a mixed-race
'it went with an older white guy
with an attractive Colombian wife.'
My first husband, he was very
handsome but too crazy.
It seemed like all we did was fight
and make love, fight and make love.
One time, I'm not kidding you,
we fell out the window together.
Which one were you doing?
I'm hearing this for the first time.
'Time and again, the sitcoms show
Americans dealing with the challenge
'of a fast-changing culture.
'And there's a lot of fun to be had
with the corresponding growth
'in political correctness.'
Well, that's the end of our tour.
Now do you see why tolerance
is so important, boys?
I guess.
We have to accept people for who
they are and what they like to do.
Hey, what the hell are you doing?
I was just...
There's no smoking in the museum.
But I'm not in the museum.
Get out of here, you filthy smoker!
Yeah, dirty lungs!
Go ahead and kill yourself,
stupid tar-breath. Dumb-ass.
Get out of here!
Have a great day, everybody.
'South Park's satire of American
political correctness
'has become something of a mission.
'Nick Gillespie, the editor of
the Libertarian magazine Reason,
'is a fan of the show.'
So, Nick, at face value South Park
looks really liberal.
It's got kids swearing, it's full of
profanity, people take drugs.
But is it technically liberal?
No, it isn't.
I mean, it makes fun of liberals
and political correctness,
the idea that you have to act
a particular way
otherwise you
are a horrible human being,
as much as it attacks conservatives.
And from one episode to the next,
it's going after different targets.
What it's about it attacking
the idea of authority
from whatever direction it comes.
And it's only anti-authority when
authority tells you how to behave
And tries to kind of cover up the
fact that it's full of malarkey. OK.
Let's look at that in an episode.
In this one, Mr Garrison is trying
to get sacked from his school job...
he's a teacher -
in order to get a big lawsuit.
So he's coming on stage, he's doing
a big presentation, and he's trying
to be as offensive as possible, but
the liberal audience won't buy it.
It is my honour to present
the Courageous Teacher award
to Herbert Garrison.
'He comes out literally
riding his bondage slave,
'and he's dressed like a drag queen.'
Oh, my God! That's what our boys
were talking about?
Ding ding! Ding ding!
He is so courageous.
'He gets applause from the adults,'
which is the type of thing, the type
of statement that South Park
makes over and over again,
that we have gotten to a point
where adults in particular
are doing the most insane things
in the name of forcing tolerance,
forcing acceptance on to people
in a way that they just shouldn't be.
God dammit, don't you people get it?
I'm trying to get fired here!
Oh, that's courageous.
'This kind of behaviour should not
be acceptable from a teacher.'
Just because you have to
tolerate something
doesn't mean
you have to approve of it.
If you had to like it, it would be
called the Museum of Acceptance.
Tolerate means
you're just putting up with it.
You tolerate a crying child
sitting next to you on the airplane
or you tolerate a bad cold.
It can still piss you off.
Jesus tap-dancing Christ!
In any given season, it offends
everybody across
the political spectrum,
because they are very consistent
in that Libertarian idea of
we should be tolerant of people,
but we don't have to embrace and
accept and love everybody equally.
'So many of the sitcoms
are about family.
'And in a fast-changing world,
'tolerance is necessary
to hold the family together.'
In Modern Family,
Mitch decides it's time to tell his
relatives about his adopted baby.
OK, people, let's all chillax. Hey,
where's Uncle Cameron? Thank you.
Thank you. Someone who's not
insulting me notices he's not here.
'His conservative father Jay
jumps to the wrong conclusion.'
You two broke up. Well, a baby
wasn't going to help that anyway!
Let me tell you,
you're better off because he was
a bit of a drama queen.
No, no, no, stop.
You come into my house
and you insult me
and my boyfriend,
who by the way is not that dramatic.
We adopted a baby.
Her name is Lily.
Just turn it off.
I can't turn it off.
It's who I am.
The music!
Oh, yes, the music.
Come say hi to Lily!
'Jay is there to represent
a raised eyebrow at all of this.
'He's tolerant
and he loves his son,'
it's just a new world for him.
But it's not something
that he particularly embraces.
He accepts,
he doesn't embrace it.
The fact that Modern Family
is a favourite among Republicans
is perhaps because, like Jay,
they and millions of other Americans
are coming to terms with changes
within their own families.
What do I know?
'The truth of Modern Family is,
it's "tolerance is OK." '
"You don't have to love everybody.
But at least accept."
Do you want to meet Grampa?
Are you kidding?
She's one of us now!
Let me see the little pot-sticker!
What it boils down to is,
what's a few dead babies
among friends?
Obama's got no problem...
Americans might accept a message
of tolerance in their private lives,
but it doesn't necessarily extend
to their politics.
Yet beneath the noise,
profound changes have happened
that politicians have been powerless
to control.
In the future, the sitcoms will
continue to reflect these changes,
often far better than the new shows,
because they'll show families,
evolving, struggling, and dealing
with whatever life throws at them.
'Cos it doesn't matter
how big the storm
'or how much stuff
gets blown your way...
'if you have each other,
that's everything.
'Because there's nothing
more important...
'Holy crap, is that a dryer?!'
You see it too, right, Mike?
The tornado gave us a drier.
Quick, get it inside
before anybody sees.