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Shocking news: Seth MacFarlane's “Ted 2” is taking fire from a not-insignificant number of critics who have taken issue with the film's gleefully un-P.C. humor. The charges: sexism, homophobia, transphobia and racism. But especially racism.
The comedy sequel, out in theaters today, revolves around the foul-mouthed teddy's quest to be deemed a person in a court of law — a struggle that in the film draws parallels with the plight of black slaves. It's a point that MacFarlane makes explicit, as in the following scene described (and subsequently criticized) by New York Times movie critic Manohla Dargis:
“Mr. MacFarlane aligns Ted”s struggle with enslaved black Americans so that, while watching a scene in “Roots” in which Kunta Kinte is whipped, Ted jokes that he”s just like the brutalized slave. The joke is absurd, weird and unfunny, and it exemplifies Mr. MacFarlane”s reliance on surface shocks as well as his assumption that engaging with race is merely a matter of putting black people on-screen; or having a black woman 'comically' explain the history of slavery; or having Ted and John repeatedly employ a vulgarism for black penises. It is a particularly blunt example of the white appropriation of black lives – except without all the bad stuff or, as the writer Greg Tate once put it, with 'everything but the burden.'”
Another scene drawing scorn is one in which Wahlberg gets doused in the rejected semen of men with sickle-cell anemia (a disease affecting predominately black men) at a sperm bank, after which Ted jokes: “You”re covered in rejected black guys” sperm. You”re like a Kardashian!”
“First off, how is Kanye West a reject?” writes the Village Voice's Alan Scherstuhl. “Second, the idea that black sperm is more disgusting than white sperm is baked into the joke, although I'm sure the writers would contest this. Third, MacFarlane's shock humor often depends on people we know are ignoble idiots saying things the rest of us know to be reprehensible – that we're laughing at these small-minded Boston chowderheads. But we're not asked to laugh at the characters' reprehensibility. No, the joke is the joke – it's comedy writers' idea of what's funny, not comedy writers' idea of what Boston bros think is funny.”
Here's a sampling of other responses in the same vein:
“…'Ted 2' is one of the most consistently and chronically racist movies in years. Its repeated jokes about black men are so prurient, so phobic, that it feels almost antebellum. This is the kind of comedy in which a savage black judge can be soothed by soul music — and that's one of the less offensive jokes. You have to wonder whether Morgan Freeman, who briefly plays a civil rights lawyer, read the full script. …If 'Ted 2' were simply a blindly racist comedy, it might almost earn a pass. By paying lip service to tolerance, however, MacFarlane shows that he knows better. Somehow, that seems worse.” – Rafer Guzman, Newsday
“…MacFarlane – writing once again with Wellesley Wild and Alec Sulkin – isn”t sophisticated or honest enough to unpack his sexual and racial fantasies and hangups. He just spews them. Ted becoming a person includes the acquiring of a surname. He chooses Clubber Lang, after the villain Mr. T played in 'Rocky III.' Samantha”s [Amanda Seyfried] full name turns out to be Sam L. Jackson, but she”s been too busy getting high and studying the law to know who that is. Either way, her cluelessness is the premise for a series of limp jokes predicated upon racial ignorance.” – Wesley Morris, Grantland
“If 'Ted 2' was funny, clever or even sweet, it would be easy to forgive its hateful main character. Any humanity has been ejected to make way for jokes at the expense of every minority in existence; this is a movie made by smug white guys for smug white guys. There's nothing wrong with crude jokes, but these barely qualify as jokes. This is bottom of the barrel finger-pointing.” – Jacob Hall, New York Daily News
“MacFarlane is a strange blend of zing-filled pop culture references and stale sexist, homophobic and racist shtick. “Ted 2” harbors little favor to dispel that 'Family Guy' brand of humor into anything sustainably funny. For every good idea (like shouting sad suggestions at an improv show) there are three cringe worthy jokes about black men.” – Monica Castillo, International Business Times
“Elsewhere, MacFarlane falls back on similarly tired tropes: weed jokes, blatant sexism, racism and misogyny, geeky shout-outs (particularly in the Comic Con section) and gags that are supposed to be edgy but instead just come off as gross and offensive.” – Drew Taylor, The Playlist
“When Ted sits on his couch watching a clip from 'Roots' and compares his situation to that of Kunta Kinte getting whipped, you may want to sink into your seat. When the names 'Ferguson' and 'Dred Scott' come up (the latter mentioned at least twice), you may want to crawl under that seat. Smirking offensiveness, MacFarlane”s speciality, becomes offensive cluelessness.” – Mark Feeney, Boston Globe