Seth MacFarlane, Emmy-award winning creator of “Family Guy,” “American Dad” and “The Cleveland Show,” spoke to more than 700 Loyola Marymount University students about the importance and history of the First Amendment.
“The First Amendment is best applied in the broadest sense possible,” MacFarlane said to the crowd in Burns Back Court on the Westchester campus. “I owe my livelihood to the First Amendment. Without [it], I’d probably be standing here wearing a barrel with a stubby cigar like an old-timey hobo.”
“Family Guy” is a cartoon social parody that has been at times controversial. For this reason, each episode is subjected to close scrutiny by Fox Networks and the Federal Communications Commission. Also, MacFarlane has been at the center of several lawsuits concerning trademarks and copyright infringement. He has also exercised his First Amendment rights in his personal life as a participant in the 2007-2008 Writer’s Guild of America strike and as a supporter of the gay and lesbian community.
“MacFarlane is an example of an American citizen who has taken advantage of the freedom his country has given him both in his personal and professional life,” said an article in the Los Angeles Loyolan student newspaper. “[We wanted to invite] someone who not only understood the rights granted to him or her, but also put those rights to use.”
MacFarlane spoke about the history of the First Amendment, the role of censorship and the FCC, and about the various lawsuits he has been involved in. He then offered a solution to a simpler way of establishing the legality of speech and expression in American society.
“I propose we enact a change to the founding document of our land, the Constitution I think it’s called,” MacFarlane said. “This amendment would say that Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or respecting the establishment of religion, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances … We could call it the First Amendment, perhaps?”
After his talk, MacFarlane answered questions from the audience, which included: MacFarlane’s thoughts about the fairness doctrine, television shows that have inspired him, and the force and power of the media’s influence over the individual.
“Even if you’re doing a fictitious TV show, there’s a certain degree of responsibility that you have to be aware of,” MacFarlane said. “Every time we do a joke that might be construed [the wrong way], there are conversations that go on for hours sometimes as to whether or not it’s a prudent thing to include.”
This was the eighth annual First Amendment Week celebration at LMU, which was co-sponsored by the Los Angeles Loyolan student newspaper and Associated Students of LMU. Previous speakers include Karl Rove, Bill Maher, Arianna Huffington, Ann Coulter and James Carville.