Bugs Bunny death forces apology (Viewer discretion advised)

- March 2nd, 2012

The above video is from the popular, albeit controversial, animated series Family Guy.

It is very shocking, but at the same time, for anyone who watched Elmer Fudd endlessly fail to get Bugs Bunny, shockingly funny.

What can I say, I find dark things funny. The scene in Pulp Fiction where John Travolta accidentally blows a guy’s head off in broad daylight is one of the funniest in the movie, in part because of its shock value.

But back to Family Guy.

As I mentioned, it’s popular, and draws a lot of attention for its off-colour humour.

Global airs the show in Canada, and likely because of its popularity, airs syndicated re-runs on weekends in the late afternoon.

The above clip ran one such afternoon last June, and caught the attention of one viewer, who complained to the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council.

The council investigated the complaint, and found the content did not breach its codes. And yet the network still lost.

From a CBSC news release:

The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning Global Television’s broadcast of the animated sitcom Family Guy. The CBSC concluded that none of the content of the program violated any codes of standards, but that the viewer advisory on the episode should have warned viewers about a violent scene.

The CBSC received a complaint from a viewer about an episode that aired on July 23, 2011 at 5:00 pm. The viewer complained that the program contained language and other material that was inappropriate for that hour because children could be watching. Global acknowledged that this program “tends to push the envelope”, but pointed out that it had provided viewer advisories and rated the episode 14+.

The CBSC’s National Conventional Television Panel examined the complaint under various provisions of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ (CAB) Code of Ethics, Equitable Portrayal Code, and Violence Code. The Panel concluded that the coarse language, sexual innuendo and jokes relating to identifiable groups were all sufficiently mild so they did not violate any Codes. The episode included one scene that was a spoof of Bugs Bunny cartoons, in which Bugs Bunny was shot by Elmer Fudd at close range and then died in a bloody and prolonged manner. The Panel concluded that the viewer advisory that Global put on the program should have warned about this scene.

And as such, Global has been forced to offer a mea culpa:

Global is required to: 1) announce the decision, in the following terms, once during prime time within three days following the release of this decision and once more within seven days following the release of this decision during the time period in which Family Guy was broadcast; 2) within the fourteen days following the broadcasts of the announcements, to provide written confirmation of the airing of the statement to the complainant who filed the Ruling Request; and 3) at that time, to provide the CBSC with a copy of that written confirmation and with air check copies of the broadcasts of the two announcements which must be made by Global.

The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council has found that Global violated the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ Violence Code in its broadcast of Family Guy on July 23, 2011. The episode contained scenes of violence and Global failed to mention violence in its viewer advisories. Global violated Article 5 of the Violence Code.

First off, the notion that there isn’t due warning is ridiculous.

As a frequent watcher of Family Guy, I can say it has one of the strongest warnings among network programming, and it airs at the beginning of the program and at the end of every commercial break. It indicates that the humour may offend even some adults and that viewer discretion is strongly advised. It is unreasonable to expect several separate warnings for individual episodes.

And as for the complaint itself, as the CBSC notes in its news release, it doesn’t indicate kids viewed the episode and were scarred. It suggests the complainant whined that a child could have seen it. I am certain children have seen the above clip, and while it’s not the kind of thing I would show my son, I am at a loss as to why the complainant’s morality is being imposed on others.

But that’s the CBSC for you.

You may remember this regulatory outfit as the group that wasted time investigating the airing of the song Money for Nothing because one person worried about the satirical use of the word ‘faggot’.

You may also recall the organized hysteria campaign against Sun News Network’s Krista Erickson over her interview with performance artist Margie Gillis.

Thankfully, the CBSC came to the correct decision in both of those cases, but that ignores the larger problem.

In the Money for Nothing case, as in the Bugs Bunny execution, the worry of one complainant can have serious impacts for our private broadcasters.

There’s something to be said for the notion that the person with the remote control has the control.

If you’re offended, change the channel. And leave the dark humour for us who can read the warnings.

Categories: Politics

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