Family Guy: American Life Animated


The Family Guy Cast


It amazes me how comedy often creates a safe zone for daring topics like race, religion and politics to be addressed. Normally, American citizens will not openly make certain comments in public about race or religion, maybe politics if we are heavy into election season. Yet, if you are watching a show like Family Guy with a diverse group of people, you will all laugh at the same jokes – no matter how prejudice or racist the comments are.

Each character plays a certain role in the American family. Peter is the oblivious “family guy” who pays no attention whatsoever to his family. He is more into his own life and hanging out with his friends at the bar. Meg is the Tom Boy daughter who still has not discovered her femininity and struggles to fit into the “American Girl” stereotype. Similarly, Chris is the opposite of the “American Boy” stereotype, meaning he is not necessarily attractive and is less than intelligent. He is also struggling to find himself. Brian, the family dog is basically the most intelligent family member. Stewie is the not-so-cute, entitled, and also homosexual baby. Lois, the unconventional mother of the house who is candid and does not try to fit into the maternal mold set forth by American society. She can be sensitive one minute trying to figure out how to solve the family issues or turn into an aggressive, angry woman who man handles her husband in bed.

The show’s most risky humor relies mostly on Stewie because technically the other characters are unable to understand him since he is an infant. Therefore, the only people who catch his snide remarks are the audience. That way, the audience constantly feels like they are the only ones in on the joke. Such a strategy allows the writers of the show to slip in jokes that are normally deemed inappropriate without making the audience feel guilty for laughing at and enjoying the crude humor because they it is never confronted in the show because either the other characters don’t hear it or are oblivious to it. Don’t get me wrong, each character contributes their own controversial humor. Would it work if the jokes were all coming from one character? Or does the ubiquity of the humor make it acceptable to viewers?

The show’s creator does admit to Forbes  the need to tread carefully when selecting jokes for the show. But what does the relatable humor say about American society? Is it a direct representation of American life, or a misguided parody?

~ Karoline Summerville

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8 Responses to Family Guy: American Life Animated

  1. mediaphiles says:

    I don’t think the number of characters the jokes are coming from truly makes a difference in the audiences ability to laugh at them without feeling some sort of guilt. I also don’t necessarily think it has to do with who the jokes are coming from either. Instead I believe that this ability to feel minimal guilt and responsibility comes from the platform that the jokes are coming from. Television shows in general allow us as audience members to temporarily escape from reality, especially if you watch shows alone then you really feel little to no obligation to subject yourself to the political correctness of society. -Courtney Green

    • mediaphiles says:

      I agree, but I also think this escape from reality is even more extreme with family guy and other adult animated sitcoms. It seems as if the cartoon characters can get away with way more in terms of political correctness, and the people watching allow for the jokes to hit because it’s just a cartoon saying them. -Katie N

  2. mediaphiles says:

    I think your point that shows such as Family Guy create a “safe zone” for (current) daring social, political and cultural topics is critical. I think that is also why when you are watching these types of shows with a group of people, the humor appeals to almost every person in the same way because everyone can relate. I think the producers also do this intentionally by looking at serious, tense, current events in society and making a joke out of them. I think society needs this comedic relief from a not so threatening source.
    Kendall Fischlein

  3. mediaphiles says:

    Family Guy is never afraid to touch on sensitive topics in the world and I appreciate that matter. I appreciate it because I have always admired the creator of the show, Seth Macfarlane. He is a very educated guy and incorporates that into this show. In various interviews with him, he is a very eloquent speaker and always makes sure to do his research before he speaks about a topic. That is why I agree with your point about the apparent universal humor that is generated from each character. They speak about topics that people usually are reserved to talk about. With comedy, it is easy to poke fun at whatever current event that society is dealing with. Not only Seth Macfarlane bring forth a very comedic aspect to the show, but also tries to inform his audience.

    -Shelby Halliman

  4. mediaphiles says:

    I think Family Guy is one sitcom that is not afraid to offend anybody. Every person has an equal chance of being made fun of. I think because Family Guy is so ridiculous, that’s how they get away with it. No one takes the show Family Guy seriously, so I don’t think people feel the need to get offended by it. I also think it helps that the show makes fun of everyone, even Jesus. – Katie Thevenow

  5. mediaphiles says:

    I think this conversation harkens back to the discussion we had in class on Thursday about satire and its limits. Just because something poses as comedy/parody, does that give it a pass to be offensive? And to what extent? Shows like Family Guy and South Park make the question more complicated: does their status as “equal opportunist offenders” (in that they offend everyone) give them more leeway? It certainly makes it harder to argue that they are prejudiced against one specific group of people since they make fun of everyone. But does that mean it’s ok to be offensive as long as you’re spreading out that offense and framing it under a ridiculous cartoon? I don’t know what the answer is, it’s just an interesting conversation to have. How much are you allowed to get away with as long as you’re operating under the title “satire?” And if you’re willing to let these kinds of shows slide, where do you draw the line?

    –Kevin Pabst

  6. marymdalton says:

    I think our upcoming chapter on transgressive comedy will give us a great opportunity to discuss this in greater detail and will help us make valuable distinctions between transgressive comedy and satire. I have my own thoughts about “poking a stick in everyone’s eye” as a way of offending everyone and not taking a stand (as you’ll read in my essay on “Proper Condom Use”). More often than not, I think it’s a cop-out because I don’t see all stories (ideologies) as equal. Funny, right about now I’m thinking of the presidential race and the false equivalency narratives floating around…

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