Seth MacFarlane’s Harvard Humanist of the Year Award Mentioned in New Yorker Profile

This isn’t breaking news or even close to it, but the latest New Yorker has a long profile of Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane. In it, writer Claire Hoffman mentions one of his honors that, with other celebrities, may have gone unacknowledged:

[MacFarlane] has a more visible public persona than he did in the early days of the show. He pals around with Bill Maher, serves as a regular roast master for Comedy Central, and has become an advocate for atheism. Last fall, he received the Harvard Humanist of the Year award for “his extensive body of work, his active, passionate commitment to Humanist values, and his fearless support of equal marriage rights and other social justice issues.”

Very cool. There’s no elaboration on his activism, but it’s nice to see that accolade featured (with his approval or not) in a piece about his life.

In case you missed his acceptance speech, you can watch it below (it begins at the 10:00 mark of the first video):



About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • AnnGMorrone
  • HughInAz

    Too bad I don’t have time to watch the videos… I’d love to know how the Maltese Falcon ended up at Harvard.

  • http://criticallyskeptic-dckitty.blogspot.com Katherine Lorraine

    Great, a guy whose chief work is misogynistic, homophobic, racist, and transphobic is being lauded as an atheist activist and a humanist.

    And we wonder why people think atheists are immoral when we consider people like Seth McFarlane to be an excellent example of a humanist.

    • Ryan Bauer

      Katherine, let’s not rush to judgment here. MacFarlane’s comedy is what we commonly refer to as satire. A la Wikipedia: ”
       In satire, vices, follies, abuses, and shortcomings are held up to ridicule, ideally with the intent of shaming individuals, and society itself, into improvement.[1] Although satire is usually meant to be funny, its greater purpose is often constructive social criticism, using wit as a weapon.”

      However, it does take a sense of humor to appreciate this type of device. Our ideological opponents in the religious community often bristle at satirical commentary on their beliefs. Let’s try to appreciate irony and sarcasm, especially when they are being used to show people how misguided some of their actions and beliefs are.

      MacFarlane is very adept at his trade, and the fact that he’s using his comedy as a way to spread humanist and secular values is praiseworthy.

      • http://criticallyskeptic-dckitty.blogspot.com Katherine Lorraine

        I have a sense of humor, I laugh at hilarious movies (“But why male models?”) I find Mitch Hedberg to have been one of the funniest comics ever.

        Family Guy is not humorous and I’m sick and tired of ‘it’s just a joke’ type resposnes to people who are seriously harmed by society’s approval of jokes that target an oppressed minority.

        Good satire uses a “punch up” type of humor – the people being targeted for the humor are those in power, those with the privileges that society gives to them. When Family Guy makes fun of the rich and powerful (as is often done with Mr. Pewterschmidt) then it is successful in its attempt at satire.

        Bad satire usese the “punch down” method of humor. The people being targeted by this type of humor are those who are already oppressed by societal norms.

        Even more, the “punch down” humor reinforces the oppression of minorities. Do you seriously think that racist, homophobic, transphobic, and misogynistic people react to Family Guy jokes by addressing their latent biases and prejudices? No! They feel encouraged and justified by the acceptability of those jokes.

        Read this post by Natalie Reed. It talks about the triggering nature of the movie Ace Ventura, where the climax of the movie hinges on the culprit being a trans woman. The violence and public shaming done to the woman is triggering, to the point where even thinking about it makes me feel sick.

        Seeing our heroes being bigoted assholes hurts the oppressed minorities. Every movie or show that condones bigotry helps to reinforce and condone the type of behavior that we should be trying to wipe out of society.

        And the fact that people are happy that a person who’s primarily known for a work that reinforces these types of bigoted, oppressive attacks on the minorities who need protection is despicable. We shouldn’t be happy, we should be ashamed.


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