Family Guy is an irreverent, but humorous comedy on today’s American society. The writers and producers weave important social issues with their brand of slapstick comedy. It should be of no surprise that its’ daring, social commentaries are politically incorrect. In fact, the show was cancelled by Fox twice, but because of its fans (who protested outside of Fox studios) was put back on the air.
In article “Family Guy and Freud: Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious,” Antonia M.R. Peacocke explains how, at first she didn’t like the show. But after giving it a second chance, she became an avid fan and supporter. Before she became a fan, she found the characters loathsome and crude because of their commentary on social issues. After watching more of the show, she realized that once she got past the initial shock of the politically incorrect dialogue she noticed a common thread in the main plot (Peacocke, 2010).
The plot is not only funny, but thought provoking. The show addresses controversial issues like late-term abortions, discrimination of all sorts including the handicapped, pedophilia, homosexuality, alcohol and drug use, and the list goes on (Peacocke, 2010). Family Guy makes its viewers laugh out loud at things they know they shouldn’t find particularly funny. Viewers know what they are watching that offends their sensibilities, but they laugh anyways.
The producers can get away with scenes that any non-animated show could not because it is a cartoon, and cartoons are supposed to be safe and funny (Peacocke, 2010). When the viewer sees a cartoon, he lets his guard down. He is ready to escape, and just wants to unwind. The show is not only humorous; it also tells stories about everyday life in American society. Peter is the most outspoken and offensive character. No one takes Peter seriously when he goes on a tirade (a funny one at that) about cripples, gays, or women’s rights. Viewers do not put much stock into what he says because, well, it is coming from Peter. It is a “consider the source” type of scenario. It is the same for other characters like Stewie who is a genius trapped in the body of a toddler. Stewie makes social commentaries that raise plenty of eyebrows.
Family Guy shows us that it is okay to laugh without feeling guilty, or buying into any particular social commentary. The reason the plot works is because the show is animated, and animated characters (cartoon characters) can say and do things that would otherwise have a real, live actor thrown offstage. The CBS talk show host Imus lost his job because he made a racial comment on Africa American women who are basketball players (Peacocke, 2010). Peter and Stewie, along with the other characters of Family Guy can (and have) gotten away with a lot more than Imus.
Watching Family Guys triggers the part of our consciousness that is brutish and animal like. This hidden layer of our consciousness really wants to laugh at things we’re not supposed to because it feels good. Laughing out loud relieves the tension we experience in our routine daily lives. It gets us out of our heads for a while, just us and the characters of Family Guy sitting down in the living room.
Family Guy is not the only animated series that has had trouble with its plot. The Simpsons received its share of criticism when it first aired, but now it is in syndication and people all over the world are watching. Family Guy recently passed a major milestone when it aired its two hundredth episode. Family Guys is now in syndication, just like the Simpsons. Neither creators nor producers in either show expected that they would run into syndication, but that’s what happened.
To the critics of Family Guy, it is just a show. The show’s creator is not trying to run for political office anytime soon. Those who are offended by the show will ultimately change the channel and watch something else. That is their prerogative. But to the fans, Family Guy is a type of extended family, one you can sit down with five nights a week to have dinner with. Peter and his family feel real to the viewers because viewers can relate and identify with them, because many have thought along the same lines. Still, the thoughts are there, and Peter is more than willing to speak the thoughts into words.
To say that Family Guy is offensive to some and funny to others is an understatement. People either love or they hate the show. It will always have a pack of loyal followers that will fight for its continued survival. The creator of the show never envisioned the show reaching two-hundred episodes, yet it exceeded his expectations. Political correctness has its place, and so does humor. Mixing politics and humor is not easy to do because at any given time, you may have pushed too far. Family Guy’s creator doesn’t care. He just wants to make people laugh and he will continue to ramp up the humor a notch with each successive show.
In conclusion, in her the article; “Family Guy and Freud: Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious,” Antonia M.R. Peacocke tells us how she was caught up in the politically incorrect crowd who wanted to throw Family Guy off the air. She was transformed into a fan after seeing the show a few more times. She was able to let her guard down and just laugh for the sake of laughing without feeling guilty. That’s the whole point that the creator of Family Guy is trying to convey.
- Peacocke, A. (2010). article “Family Guy and Freud: Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious,” Antonia M.R. Peacocke. Norton.