In the five years since Terri Schiavo was slowly dehydrated to death, her loving family has been subjected to repeated callousness and intentional cruelties–canards about their motives, personal vituperation, etc.. That’s life in the public eye. But now a new line of despicability has been crossed that cannot be allowed to stand.
Fox’s Family Guy stooped even beneath its usual scatological obsessions to literally mock a dead woman, whose only “crime” was to have been profoundly cognitively disabled. The episode–which I embedded below only after much thought, opens with a fictional school play, Terri Schiavo: The Musical. In it, Terri is depicted as having been hooked up to every conceivable machine, a total lie since all she needed to remain alive was food and water delivered through a tube. But the facts this case have been continually misstated from the beginning, so that is nothing new.
But what is novel–and truly beneath contempt, not only because it mocks and degrades Terri, but also, everyone now living with serious cognitive impairments–are the lyrics. “Michael Schiavo” says, “She’s a vegetable,” and the chorus responds, “We hate vegetables!” to which the audience breaks up in laughter. Later she is depicted as having “mashed potato brains,” which are poured into a bowl, and being “the most expensive plant you’ll ever see.”
This doesn’t just mock a dead woman who can’t defend herself. It is hate speech against people similarly situated. Indeed, the V-word should be rendered just as societally unacceptable as the N-word has thankfully become. Both epithets serve the same purpose, that is, to demean, dehumanize, and exclude–so as to open the door to oppression, exploitation, and killing.
And imagine how those with loved ones with these conditions must feel seeing such cruel mockery. I asked Bobby Schindler, Terri’s brother, to react. He told me: “These people have no regard for disabled people and their families, or the pain such mockery causes. What kind of a human being would think this was funny?”
And what kind of network would countenance such discriminatory hate speech on one of its prime time programs? Fox Entertainment. If you think the Family Guy should be jerked off the air–just as the show would if it mocked, say Michael Vick, over his race–you might want to make your voice known. Here is someone you might want to contact in protest:
Ms. Gail Berman, President, FOX Broadcasting Company, P.O. Box 900 Beverly Hills, CA 90213 (310) 369-1000E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
One final point: Don’t think the dehumanizing of the cognitively disabled in entertainment isn’t relevant to the current struggle over health care. I am not alleging a conspiracy, but Hollywood consistently pushes themes that are consistent with accepting the direction in which we are being taken politically. Shows like Family Guy soften the ground for the coming campaign, the effect of which will be to do away with the expensive for which to care, whether through rationing, futile care theory, perhaps even assisted suicide/euthanasia. Indeed, Hollywood has long pushed culture of death issues–such as the upcoming puff biopic of Jack Kevorkian, starring Al Pacino.