I had intended to update yesterday's post but there's apparently too much to say, so here are some of the responses to this I heard / saw / collected around the Web from vegans to last night's premiere of 'The Goode Family' on ABC.
First out of the gate, within an hour of the end of the show, was a blog post by Joshua Katcher that quotes Schopenhauer with what looks like an earlier version of the so-called Gandhi quote above, and also slams the "vegan dog" nonsense. The headline ("The Goode Family is Bad") tips you off that it's a total thumbs-down, but it's also pretty thoughtful: "Mike Judge's belief that do-gooders' motivation is simply guilt, is a childish failure to understand the very real ecological, economic, and political crises we face. In other words, most activists know there is more at stake than their own feelings."
On the other hand, a twitterer called KaraokeVegan said 'The Goode Family' "speaks my language... Trying to figure out how to be 'good' or make the right decision," and went so far as to post some of the punchlines as tweets while the show was on. So much for a unifed front!
Jennie Kerwood, president of the North American Vegetarian Society, started off by blaming me: "I tuned in on your recommendation [yo, Jennie, where did I recommend this???]. Sigh. It was awful. Forget the ridiculous, simplistic characterization of vegans in general, or the blood-thirsty vegan dog specifically. It just was tedious, poorly scripted and had no energy to carry it anywhere. I don't see this one lasting. Another carnivorous plot to advance the cause of meat-eating. Oh well. At least it was only half an hour.
Other opinions were more mixed. Joseph Manuppello, a research associate with PETA, found reasons to be cheerful: "Inaccurate and not very funny, sure, but I still think it's an admirable experiment. Only a tiny percentage of the population even tries, after all, so we can't be the intended audience. And the Goodes are at least portrayed sympathetically if not heroically. Of course, if we aren't the audience, it's difficult to imagine that there is one. ...One other point - while the producers were probably just trying to make the family extreme by making them vegan, doing so can also be seen to imply that being vegan is necessary to being environmentally conscious. I think getting this idea into prime time is fantastic, even if it was accidental."
Here's my take, for what it's worth: Having seen a lot of the best punchlines in the promo video, I did laugh occasionally, but not as much as I would expect to without those spoilers. Also, having already seen the "vegan dog" gag, there wasn't much else that I could call offensive to vegans or veganism. As to the family members, I didn't expect in-depth characterization for a Mike Judge cartoon (I mean, come on, they're literally 2-dimensional), but I was still appalled at how the mother seemed to have no intrinsic personality other than her moment-to-moment desire to conform to what she thinks people expect of her. The decision to have her, the most central character in the episode, drink herself into a stupor right out of the gate was either an intentional bad-boy move by Judge or just cynical plotting (she needed to be incapacitated for Ubuntu to get to drive). If she doesn't get credibly, sympathetically fleshed out by the second episode it will augur very poorly for the show as a whole.
Still, there was a moment where I saw signs of hope. When the dad was explaining, near the end, about how abstinence really can help, and for those liberal and/or vegan viewers who had been finding solace in mocking (the very real and very creepy) father-daughter "purity balls," we had to do a kind of 360 - wait, I thought abstinence was the enemy here? - that was fun and truly provocative. I might be giving him too much credit, but for that moment it seemed Judge was playing on the whole which-direction-is-the-finger-pointing dynamic, underlining our own tendency to classify "good" in terms of prejudices rather than real analysis, and there was real humor in that.
Having gotten the pilot out of the way (again, nearly always the most broad / extreme), he could use the show to dig out more of that kind of humor along with the more obvious jokes, and who knows? He just might. At any rate, I think it's worth tuning in next week anyway. What do you think?