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RoyGBiv Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Oct-19-08 11:47 PM
Original message
Obscure Family Guy question ...
Edited on Mon Oct-20-08 12:20 AM by RoyGBiv
Watching Family Guy tonight reminded me, yet again, that the way they put in references to history, pop culture, current politics, etc. takes on scathing, biting forms. Some of them are rather subtle, even if they seem obvious on the surface. There are layers to the McCain/Palin button on a Nazi uniform too.

But that's not my question, just some context.

In an old episode, the one where Stewie and Brian go to Apsen in search of Rupert, they make a stop at Gettysburg. There's the surface satire here when Stewie faces the black visitor to the park and says "you're welcome" for all the sacrifice white guys made there ... there's a lot of layers even in that.

But what caught me about this scene is the background. Behind Stewie, Brian, and the visitor to the park is the Longstreet Monument.

I find this odd for several reasons, not the least of which is that the Longstreet Monument is relatively new. It's been there barely ten years, the last monument to be placed. Not a lot of people understand its significant or even know who Longstreet was other than some random Civil War dude, aka, a dead white guy from history. Not a lot of people even know the monument is there. It's certainly not as famous as the Virginia (Lee) Memorial, the Warren statue, the Pennsylvania Monument, et al. There are a LOT of famous monuments at Gettysburg. Its a forest of monumentation to dead white people.

I wonder why the creators chose that. I can think of several explanations, some fitting with the theme of the main commentary brought out by Stewie's dialog, some more subtle than that.

Does anyone know, have a guess, or anything?

Does anyone but me even give a crap? :-)

OnEdit: If nothing else, does anyone know how I can actually get in touch with the show's creators? I have an academic interest in this. I've studied Longstreet -- his historical image more specifically -- for years, and this fits with the theme of a presentation I've given to some historical conferences and a paper I'm trying to write for publication. I've tried the obvious methods by using e-mail addresses easy to find at the website but have received no reply.

I may have to resort to snail mail and some official letterhead.

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dorktv Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Oct-19-08 11:49 PM
Response to Original message
1. probably because someone on the show was at the scene recently
and remembered it was there.
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RoyGBiv Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Oct-19-08 11:52 PM
Response to Reply #1
2. Anything's possible ...
Edited on Mon Oct-20-08 12:21 AM by RoyGBiv
It was too central to the scene, though, for me to accept that as a definitive answer. The statue is in an obscure location too, off the main path really, surrounded by trees.

And the monument itself has a storied past. It's rather controversial. It's not, IOW, just another statue.

It's also not something most people would recognize as being associated with Gettysburg.

Given the subtle ways the creators of Family Guy make their points, I suspect something more to it than this.

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dorktv Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Oct-20-08 12:03 AM
Response to Reply #2
3. So what is the deal about Longstreet? Was he a Union general who died while
saving a black soldier?
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RoyGBiv Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Oct-20-08 12:18 AM
Response to Reply #3
4. Nope ...

He was a Confederate general, RE Lee's second in command actually.

The deal with him is complex. I won't bore you with all the fine details.

In summary, Longstreet was a so-called scalawag after the war. He became a Republican, urged acceptance of the Reconstruction Acts (including the bit about black suffrage, most famously), and was in charge of the mostly black Metropolitan Police Force in New Orleans during a "race riot" called the Battle of Liberty Place. He was knocked from his horse there by a spent bullet and was only spared further injury because former Confederate soldiers who were part of the mob trying to unseat the Republican governor recognized him.

And that's part of a very long story that all but erased Longstreet from popular images in history, to be replaced by "Stonewall" Jackson in the lore of the Civil War.

Jackson and Lee have monuments all over the place. Longstreet, the Southern Judas, had none (that is, zero) until 1998 when a birthplace marker was erected in South Carolina and the monument at Gettysburg was placed.

So, yes, there is some racial politics there, which could be part of the reason for the creators using it ... or not. That's what I'm trying to find out. It's odd nonetheless. One doesn't find portrayals of Longstreet in many places in pop culture, and when you do, there has traditionally always been a point to it.

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WannaJumpMyScooter Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Oct-20-08 12:33 AM
Response to Original message
5. I think because the recent scholarship
on Longstreet has brought him more out.

As he was introduced in the first book about him in like almost 100 years... The South has never forgiven Longstreet for three things... He became a Republican after the war; he argued with Lee the night before Gettysburg; and he was right.

Quite a conundrum for the "lost cause" types. Why did Lee ignore his (at that time) most experienced General? Longstreet took one look at the ridge and knew they had to swing south and east, and fast. Everyone seemed to know that but Lee.

What caused him to hit that hill? Was his heart not pumping enough blood to the brain at that point? He was already sick with CAD, and had been all summer. It was really hot. They had been marching hard for weeks. They had won so many times against tall odds, what was once more?

I know lots of people wonder about this. I have from time to time, especially standing where Lee surveyed the heights. I would not send a platoon to recon those heights if they were held, much less 3 Corps in a staggered attack.
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RoyGBiv Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Oct-20-08 12:43 AM
Response to Reply #5
6. That's the kind of thing I'm wanting to know ...
Edited on Mon Oct-20-08 12:47 AM by RoyGBiv
The suggestion first offered that the creators just saw it and put it in there is one possibility, and that probably would be the case if it were something famous like the Virginia Memorial. It's just there. Everyone who knows anything about Gettysburg knows it's there, so we use it ... like a St. Louis Arch or the Sears Tower or whatever.

The presentation I've given focuses on Longstreet's portrayals in popular culture, noting that when he is used as a "theme" character, he's a traitor, a Judas, the mark of incompetence, etc. But, he's rarely used.

There's an exception in Faulkner's _Intruder's in the Dust_, but he's not a real character there, just mentioned as a part of a famous passage about Pickett's Charge. The important thing there, though, is that he wasn't introduced in the traditional theme, and if one knows anything about Faulkner, which I do, the reason for that becomes rather clear.

Longstreet showing up in Family Guy is, for people who study historical memory, of more than a little significance. Even if the reason for it is "because it was a pretty monument," it's still significant.

It brings to mind a Simpson's episode from years ago when Apu was trying to get his citizenship and was taking the history test. When asked what caused the Civil War, Apu started to give an intellectually based answer but was cut off and told, "just say 'slavery.'" I found out eventually that Groening is a Civil War buff of sorts (he has many Civil War references in his work), and had done that with some intent to critique the standard, dichotomous narrative of causation that hides things like the business interests that were behind the war and the legacy those interests played in carrying out the war and its aftermath.

Anyway ... thanks for your thoughts. I've been working on this paper again lately and happened across that episode a couple weeks ago again. I want to include a mention of it in an update to the presentation I give about it and am trying to put some fact behind my thoughts on it. Posting here was a long-shot, but ya never know. At the very least, bouncing the ideas off people is helpful.

OnEdit: There are other references like this in Family Guy. I think it was the 54th Massachusetts Memorial that was shown in one bit in some other episode.
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WannaJumpMyScooter Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Oct-20-08 12:48 AM
Response to Reply #6
7. Find out if the family guy writers
are CW buffs, if they are, I am sure they read Gods and Generals, and the book on Longstreet, and the more recent comparison of Generals on both sides, the name of which escapes me now.

I think they just wanted to use a name which made most people go.... who? but would be clear to anyone who knew who he was

my .02
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RoyGBiv Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Oct-20-08 12:55 AM
Response to Reply #7
9. That is a distinct possibility ...

Fits with the "obvious but obscure" thing I see in a lot of their references.

It's obvious only if you know it, but not everyone does.

Thanks again.
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RoyGBiv Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Oct-20-08 12:54 AM
Response to Reply #5
8. P.S.

There's a story people who know me tell about me the first time I went to Gettysburg. This was years ago. I'd already studied a lot about the battle and Longstreet's place in it specifically, and I'd formed my opinions, trying to get inside Lee's head and figure out just what the hell he was thinking.

But when I saw it ... when I stepped out from the Point of Woods and actually saw it, saw the canon lining the ridge and the distance to be covered and let it flood me that what I was seeing was nowhere near as terrifying as what the people who fought there saw but a horror nonetheless, I froze.

The people I was with walked on until they realized I wasn't with them. They say they turned around and that I'd gone ghost white. One of them spoke to me, and all I said was something like "That old man murdered these people." I think I was channeling Pickett or something. I don't actually remember what I said. I was frozen, physically and mentally. I just know what my friends said about it.

The good ol' days weren't very good.
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