Given that his "Family Guy" has made zillions of dollars by gleefully ignoring decorum, Seth MacFarlane shouldn't be expected to behave like a choir boy in public appearances. So during a packed session at Comic-Con International in San Diego on Saturday morning, the TV writer-producer impishly noted placards warning panelists to watch their language because minors were in the audience.
"Kids," he intoned, leaning into the microphone, "let me tell you what sodomy means."
Laughter erupted throughout the crowd. This year, Comic-Con has struggled to stay clean ? or at least clean enough for the family audience that organizers say they want to attract. But profanity and onscreen violence kept creeping into the annual comics, games and toys gathering.
Chevy Chase, the former "Saturday Night Live" star who now plays a moist-towelette tycoon on NBC's "Community," dropped an F-bomb during a Saturday panel. So did Rainn Wilson of NBC's "The Office," quickly noting that his 5-year-old son was in the room. Both apologized, but not Mexican director Guillermo del Toro, who let loose with a tour de force of cheerful profanity during his appearance in the convention's biggest arena, Hall H. A Comic-Con spokesman did not respond to repeated phone messages and e-mails requesting comment. But there's no question that organizers' PG-rated imperatives have run smack into the often R-rated sensibilities of studios and celebrities.
Nowhere was that more evident than with the thriller "Piranha 3D," which the filmmakers hoped to promote with a special preview reel for Comic-Con. Organizers decided that one sequence ? when a wet T-shirt contest leads to a gory conclusion ? was too explicit and refused to allow it to be shown.
The producers screened the preview nearby and promptly put out ads promising footage that was too much for Comic-Con, leading some cynics to suspect a PR stunt (the filmmakers deny this). Director Alexandre Aja said he believes Comic-Con is being too restrictive. "It's ironic that our movie can be labeled 'too graphic' ? especially when our fans are mostly in their 20s and 30s," he wrote in an e-mail. "As I walked through the convention floor, I saw much more violent imagery displayed than what we have in the movie."
He added that Comic-Con officials could try carding underage viewers or divide the convention center into adult and family-friendly sections.