Posted in Boundless Line

When Satire Crosses the Line

~ originally posted on Boundless Line on February 27, 2010 ~

There is an unspoken rule about making fun of the special needs community: you just shouldn’t do it.

For example, when President Obama made the comment on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno last March that his below average bowling skills were “like the Special Olympics,” the Internet exploded with anger-filled defensive responses to his ill-timed wording.

During the 2008 election, it wasn’t a secret that former Alaskan governor Sarah Palin and husband Todd have a Down syndrome son named Trig. Palin and her family have endured excessive potshots from the media (David Letterman’s jab at her daughter, Willow, comes to mind), and the latest “kick in the gut” came from fictional characters on the Fox network show “Family Guy.” An article on extrapolated on the incident:

Former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin’s family on Tuesday said the creators of American animated show “Family Guy ” were “heartless jerks” after the show appeared to mock Palin’s Down syndrome son in an episode.

In a post on her Facebook page early Tuesday, Palin said it felt “like another kick in the gut” when a female character who apparently had Down syndrome made comparisons to Palin’s 22-month-old son, Trig, in the episode of the Fox network show.

“My dad’s an accountant, and my mom’s the former governor of Alaska,” the mentally disabled character said, without mentioning any names.

Rather than going into details as to how she felt, Palin posted her 19-year-old daughter Bristol’s response to the controversy, saying it was “a much more restrained and gracious statement than I want to make.”

Bristol wrote: “Are there any limits to what some people will do or say in regards to my little brother or others in the special needs community? If the writers of a particularly pathetic cartoon show thought they were being clever in mocking my brother and my family yesterday [Sunday], they failed. All they proved is that they’re heartless jerks.”

At what point does satire become cruel? People with special needs conditions deserve to be treated with as much respect as those without. When in doubt, defer to the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights …”

While I enjoy light-hearted satire, critical jabs at a 22-month-old boy with Down syndrome who can’t defend himself is pretty low, even if his mother happens to be a public figure.



Christ follower. Wife. Mama.

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