Liberals aren’t laughing at Mike Judge’s new show, but not for the reason you think
Let me say one thing: I love Mike Judge. Love. I could watch his cubemate gangstas smashing that copier endlessly, and I can still hear Hank Hill’s voice drawling, “Bobbeh!” The man is funneh — which is why I had high hopes for last night’s premiere of The Goode Family.
ABCIt’s the show that promises to skewer cherished tenets of political correctness. And boy, did it succeed. Skewer, skewer, skewer — Judge and his co-writers crammed every possible stereotype into the pilot, from veganism to well intentioned racism. There was so much skewering going on, it hurt.
I don’t mean it hurt my feelings. There’s a reason I work at Grist, whose mission for ten years has been to help self-righteous environmentalists laugh at themselves and the issues they fret about. I just mean it … hurt. It hurt not to laugh. It hurt to think that Judge had swung and missed.
I’m not the only one who found the show funny-free. With the exception of a handful of positive reviews — Variety called the show a “smart, wryly funny comedy” that is “flat-out good” and the Miami Herald dubbed it a “scathingly funny report from the front lines of America’s culture wars” — most outlets gave it a serious drubbing. Slow, they said. Weak. Doesn’t live up to its name. Doesn’t hit the bar Judge has set for himself.
All of which is true — but this is where it gets interesting. Because as we all know, the media is full of liberal elites. No wonder they don’t like the show! Everyone knows they can’t laugh at themselves!
“Newspapers Bristle at Thought of Liberalism Being Mocked in The Goode Family,” tsks Newsbusters, while Fox News asks, “Can a show that so aggressively tweaks the values and heroes of liberal Hollwyood establishment ever get the guest stars that stop by Tinseltown-friendly animated shows like ‘The Simpsons’ and ‘Family Guy’?” The Herald muses that the show “will no doubt be labeled right-wing agitprop by some of its trashed targets.”
Right-wing agitprop? Hardly. So far, it’s just mediocre comedy. (And for what it’s worth, it took shots at the right as well as the left: flag pins! chastity! church!) But this little partisan media brouhaha does beg the question: Who is the show aimed at? One of the most thoughtful reviews — among the only ones that gets beyond whether or not the vegan-dog shtick is funny (hint: no) — comes from James Poniewozik at Time:
… much of the green-culture satire is so microtargeted that—even when it’s dead-on—only a handful of urban neighborhoods and college towns (say, my own Park Slope and Ann Arbor) will get the nuance of it.
Even at that, if liberal neighbors like mine even watch the show, they’ll probably quickly write it off as a mean-spirited anti-liberal screed, whereas the rest of America will largely see it as a show about sanctimonious ninnies. I suspect that the sight of the first gag—the Goodes’ bumper sticker, “SUPPORT OUR TROOPS… AND THEIR OPPONENTS”—will make red and blue Americans turn the channel in droves, for entirely different reasons.
Poniewozik aaalmost gets to the heart of the issue. It’s not that liberals will write the show off as mean-spirited — it’s well within the liberal DNA to want to be pointed at, made fun of, and kicked in the ass, and to show that we’re in on the joke. We’re like the perennial seventh-grade weakling in that sense. But if the show isn’t funny to its targets, and it’s just annoying to people who find liberals annoying, then … who’s left to watch?