Seth MacFarlane’s Ted 2
It’s not like I expected greatness from Ted 2, but I did have some expectation that it would be amusing, at least. Ted was surprisingly funny, and though it had plenty of signature Seth MacFarlane poop humor, it also had a nice little story about friendship at its center, and more jokes landed than didn’t. But Ted 2 is sh*t. It’s just sh*t. Here are all the ways in which Ted 2 can go f*ck itself.
Seth MacFarlane should just make a musical
Spare us any more half-baked “comedies” (see also: A Million Way to Die in the West) and just make the musical his theater-kid heart is crying out for. The best part of Ted 2 was the musical-style opening title sequence. It was also the most earnest and least-interested-in-making-us-laugh part. Which brings me to my second way in which Ted 2 can get bent.
Seth MacFarlane has no idea how to make us laugh
Not in the way he wants to, at least. MacFarlane is capable of being funny, but his strength lies in absurdity, particularly absurd non-sequiturs, like his use of the Kool Aid Man on Family Guy. His best bits are throwaway references and rapid-fire one-liners that pile on top of one another, creating a kind of comedy cacophony—not every line lands equally well, but chances are something in the run-off will make you laugh. Ted was built on an absurdist foundation—a magic talking teddy bear that grows up to be an asshole is a silly f*cking concept—but the second time around the Ted well is dry. That’s the inherent challenge of absurdist humor—once you’ve pointed at it, the absurd thing disappears, like Bigfoot or the Loch Ness monster. Absurdity derives from surprise, but you can only be surprised once.
Seth MacFarlane is definitely NOT going to make us laugh with racial humor
The constant comparisons between Family Guy and South Park have taken their toll and driven MacFarlane mad, because he seems to think he’s a satirist like Matt Stone and Trey Parker. But he is not—as established above, Seth MacFarlane is an absurdist. But he WANTS to be a satirist, and that wanting drives Ted 2 into incredibly tone-deaf and offensive waters. Ted, married to his
Boston caricature sweetheart Tammi-Lynn wants to have a child, but can’t because he’s a teddy bear. The early portion of the movie about Ted’s quest to procure donor sperm is okay—the Tom Brady bit is pretty funny—but about the time Mark Wahlberg ends up covered in rejected donor spunk, the movie starts taking a bad turn.
Upon finding out that the reject sperm covering John (Wahlberg) head to toe is from African-American men inflicted with sickle cell anemia, Ted says, “You’re like a Kardashian!” First of all, sickle cell is a blood disorder so I don’t know what the f*ck that has to do with getting sperm on your skin, but more importantly, Chris Pratt already put the nail in the coffin of Kardashian Kum Jokes. That aside, you can totally make that joke WITHOUT the racial component (as proven by Pratt). But the way MacFarlane frames it makes it not a joke about the Kardashians, in general, but specifically about the Kardashians dating black men. And what, exactly, is inherently funny about interracial dating? If you want to use an interracial couple to set up a Racist Grandma joke, fine, but in and of itself, there’s nothing humorous about an interracial couple. Unless, that is, you think blackness itself is what deserves to be mocked.
Seth MacFarlane thinks blackness itself deserves to be mocked
I may be putting words in MacFarlane’s mouth, but after sitting through Ted 2 and its numerous jokes about black men—particularly one in which Ted watches the scene in Roots where Kunta Kinte is being whipped and says, “This is exactly like what I’m going through”—I’m not sure what else I’m supposed to think. Ted can’t adopt a child because, as a teddy bear, he’s ruled property and not a person. Instead of using this set up to engage with the timely issue of marriage equality, MacFarlane—who co-wrote and directed this mess, lest you think I’m going too hard on him—uses it make several Dred Scott jokes.
Because he isn’t a satirist MacFarlane doesn’t understand how racial humor works. Pointing at the thing isn’t what’s funny, it’s how you contextualize the thing. This is not Blazing Saddles where racial humor is used to highlight white fears and insecurities and mock them. This is just John and Ted making the same joke about black dudes’ junk over and over. MacFarlane has mastered the pointing, but he hasn’t yet figured out how to contextualize it.