All dogs are supposed to go to heaven--MTV2's just might get there a little faster.
The music network is considering pulling the plug on future seasons of the cartoon series Where My Dogs At? following intense criticism over an episode featuring an animated version of Snoop Dogg leading two women around on a leash.
The show satirizes celebrities and pop culture through the eyes of two stray Hollywood-based canines, voiced by Tracy Morgan and Jeffrey Ross.
Critics are, um, howling over the episode "Woofie Loves Snoop," in which a character dubbed Snoopathon Dogg Esquire walks into a pet store accompanied by two bikini-clad beauties on leashes. The women, both African-American, then get on all fours and scratch themselves. By the episode's end, the "bitches" defecate on the floor and a member of Snoopathon's posse is seen scooping up the excrement with a rubber glove.
MTV2 , whose president, Christina Norman, is black, claims the gross-out moment is intended to poke fun at an appearance the Doggfather made at the 2003 MTV Video Music Awards, when he strutted the red carpet flanked by two women secured to a leash.
"The segment is in fact a parody," network spokesman Jeff Castaneda said in a statement. "We certainly do not condone Snoop's actions, and the goal was to take aim at that incident for its insensitivity and outrageousness. Even one of the dogs, a main character on the show, states, 'I find that degrading and I am a dog.' "
Still, Castaneda says the network has not yet decided whether to reair the "Wolfie Loves Snoop" episode, or whether the show, which concluded its first season two weeks ago, will be renewed for a second season.
But pundits are balking at the network's "it's-just-a-parody" explanation, claiming the show was degrading to women. Worst, they say, MTV2 broadcast the episode at 12:30 p.m. on a Saturday, when many young, impressionable viewers are watching.
Among the music channel's harshest critics is New York Daily News commentator Stanley Crouch. In a scathing column titled "MTV, Still Clueless After All These Years," he wrote that the episode will "no doubt perpetuate among younger viewers the misogynist and dehumanizing images we have become accustomed to in too many rap videos."
Crouch cited a media watchdog called Industry Ears, headed by African-American activist Lisa Fager, that rebuked Dogs for its racial insensitivity and said the storyline for its lack of "context."
"Viacom's MTV continues to justify the exploitation of African-American women by hiding behind words like 'satire' and 'parody,' " Industry Ears says in a statement. "The animated portrayal of two African-American women scurrying on all fours with leashes around their necks, defecating on a pet shop floor goes far beyond the pale of acceptability. It is not art; it is an assault."
Industy Ears also took issue with MTV2's dogged defense.
"The justification given by stating that one of the animated dogs points out his disgust by saying, 'I find this a bit degrading and I'm a dog' does not eliminate the harm," the statement continues. "The point is countered by the other dog who states, 'Are you joking? What's cooler than a two-legger who treats other two-leggers like four-leggers?' This statement emphasizes and reinforces--as tolerable behavior--the treatment of black women as dogs."
But Robert Thompson, director of the Center for the Study of Popular Television at Syracuse University, says the critics might be going a bit overboard and taking the scene out of context.
"By simply describing various things from South Park or Where My Dogs At?, on the surface it would be hard to say you could ever think of a context that that would be appropriate, but there is a context," he told E! Online.
Thompson said that the genre of burleque comedy--including Beavis & Butt-head, South Park and Family Guy--usually has a pretty good dosage of envelope-pushing humor. It may make some viewers uncomfortable, but it's not hate speech.
As for the time that the episode aired, Thompson pointed to the landmark 1978 Supreme Court decision that found that George Carlin's "seven dirty words" routine was indecent, but not obscene. That led the FCC to create a "safe haven"--from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.--during which broadcasters couldn't air such racy material.
But, Thompson noted, those rules generally apply to broadcasters, not cable channels.
If MTV2 does indeed decide to let the Dogs out in the future, he suggests a compromise may be in order.
"MTV2 needs to make a concession to not play [those cartoons] so early," said Thompson. Critics, he added, "need to make is that this is a complex culture and there are a lot of different cultures and voices."