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Fox’s Family Guy: For Children?

By Christopher Gildemeister


Incredible as it may seem, Fox’s filthy Family Guy – a show which would surely win any contest for “Most Disgusting Broadcast Television Program” -- may actually be growing worse in terms of its nauseating content.


Or perhaps Fox is merely growing bolder in promoting it to young audiences.


While in other nations animation has been used in a variety of genres and aimed at a variety of ages for many years (such as Japan’s explicitly sexual and graphically violent anime), in America animation has traditionally been considered safe and friendly for children. Even when American animation carried adult humor or subtext – such as many of the classic Warner Brothers Looney Tunes, the Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons of the 1960s, or more recent efforts like Animaniacs --  it typically eschewed open violence or references to sex. Thus parents may be forgiven for assuming that animated programming, particularly when it airs early on Sunday nights, is safe for their children to watch.


Family Guy (and its allied animated atrocity American Dad, both from the putrid pen of “creator” Seth MacFarlane) definitely does not conform to this tradition. MacFarlane and his fellows delight in being as openly crude, sexual, scatological and violent as possible -- as witness just a few examples from the show’s November 4, 2007 episode:


  • Baby Stewie pulls out a machine gun and shoots his mother Lois full of holes. She falls overboard. Blood is shown streaming from her wounds as she floats to the bottom of the sea.

  • Keanu Reeves is shown unzipping his fly and putting it into the mailbox which is also a time portal to the future. In the future Sandra Bullock opens the mailbox .

           Sandra: “Oh, my Hickory Farms package is here!”

  • Meg, the teenage daughter is shown going into her bedroom with a package of jumbo hot dogs.


Meg: “I’m going to pretend you’re the New York Knicks!”


  • Baby Stewie and Brian discuss Stewie’s plans to torture his mother.

Stewie: "I'll teach that hussy to go on a boat ride without me. When she returns I'm going to put bamboo splinters under all her fingernails. And I'm going to strip her down and tie her to the bed."

Brian: "Okay."

Stewie: "Then I'm going to make her crawl on her hands and knees while I drip hot candle wax all over her back."

Brian: "And then what are you going to do?"

Stewie: "Let's see..."

Brian: "Are you going to shower her off after all of that candle wax?"

Stewie: "No. I'm going to keep her filthy."

Brian: "Yeah, she's been a bad girl."

Stewie: "And then I'm going to gag her with her own brassiere."

Brian laughs.

Stewie: "What?"

Brian: "No, nothing. That's all part of your diabolical plan to humiliate her."

Stewie: "Yes, yes! She'll be humiliated."

Brian: "Maybe you'll handcuff her. She'll hate that."

Stewie: "Then I shall do that, as well."

Brian: "And call her a bitch?"

Stewie: "Until I'm hoarse with rage."

Brian: "Maybe smack her ass with a riding crop?"

Stewie: " Yes, and then…What?"

Brian: "That would show her."

Stewie: "You're getting some kind of sick sexual thrill off this, aren't you?"


Obviously, Seth MacFarlane knows all about sick thrills.


But granting that Family Guy and American Dad deal in edgy, adult humor which has no place on prime-time broadcast television, what is truly reprehensible is the Fox network’s nonchalant – even approving – attitude toward advertising these programs.


Fox has never been shy about promoting Family Guy as appropriate for youth. Over the years, various print and online ads have boasted that Family Guy is “#1 in teens!”  But now, the network seems positively bent on luring unsuspecting viewers – many of whom are likely to be children – into watching its seamiest programming. 



On Sunday, November 18th, during Fox’s airing of the Cowboys/Redskins football game, sports announcers promoted that night’s Family Guy episode, using the same jocular tone employed to promote detergent or beer. No reference was made to the content of the episode in question.


Furthermore, during commercials for Family Guy aired during that game (and presumably in other markets as well), brief film clips from the episode showed the character of Peter wearing a business suit modeled on the American flag. Using this patriotic image seems almost deliberately deceptive, intentionally designed to lure innocent viewers into thinking that there could be nothing objectionable about such a cartoon – certainly, nothing that would make it unsafe for their children to watch.


Needless to say, any such viewers would have been appalled by the actual content of that night’s episode.


Those who defend the programs produced by MacFarlane and his ilk claim that parents are solely responsible for protecting children from anything offensive or inappropriate. True, parents ought to be concerned about what their children watch on TV – and most are. But when the broadcast networks go out of their way to deliberately mislead parents into thinking that adult-themed programming is harmless, obviously the networks themselves bear a large measure of responsibility.


That Seth MacFarlane has befouled this nation’s tradition of family-friendly animated humor – on programs named “Family Guy” and “American Dad”, of all things – is bad enough; but that the Fox network collaborates in the willful corruption of our children’s innocence is indefensible.


TV Trends: This column was compiled from reports by the Parents Television Council’s Analysis staff: Aubree Bowling, Caroline Schulenburg, Josh Shirlen, Keith White, and Adam Shuler, under the direction of Dr. John Rattliff.

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