We live in an increasingly politically correct world. And yet, Family Guy has managed to stay on the air all these years. Here’s how.
“Where are those good old-fashioned values on which we used to rely?” Certainly not on Family Guy, the popular and Emmy-winning animated series. The sitcom is well known for its offensive jokes – and whether you love it or hate it, it’s undeniably impressive that Family Guy has endured this long.
But with celebrities getting ‘cancelled’ left, right and centre these days – for example, Will Smith’s career took a hit after the infamous Oscar slap as did Johnny Depp’s career back in 2020 after his divorce from Amber Heard – how exactly has something as outrageous as Family Guy endured?
Since it first aired in 1999, Family Guy has faced its fair share of critics and backlash. Constantly called an ‘idiotic’ ripoff of The Simpsons, Family Guy has also had multiple formal Federal Communications Commission complaints filed against it by the Parents Television Council (PTC) – a conservative non-profit watchdog group.
Over the course of its 20-season-long run, the PTC has repeatedly taken offence at Family Guy’s ‘lewd sexual content’ and ‘sexually explicit jokes’ and therefore, has campaigned multiple times for the show to be cancelled and for multiple episodes to be edited or taken off the air – to no avail.
Plus, Ken Tucker (a prominent TV critic for Entertainment Weekly) has frequently voiced his dislike of Family Guy; he even called the sitcom anti-Semitic. To put it simply, Family Guy pushes the boundaries. And that’s why many have been outraged by the cartoon.
However, there are three main reasons as to why Family Guy has stayed on the air all these years (and before any Family Guy experts come for us, we know that Family Guy was cancelled after its third season but that was because of low ratings and then the show was resurrected after syndicated reruns got high ratings). The first is that there are obviously more fans than critics of the show.
WATCH: Some of the most offensive ‘Family Guy’ jokes (you’ve been warned; watch at your own risk)…
Clearly, there are many who still watch Family Guy and enjoy it no matter how dark and ribaldry the humour gets. Otherwise, it wouldn’t get the high ratings and the high reviews that it does; for example, Fox renewed Family Guy for Seasons 19 and 20 in 2020, with Fox Entertainment president Michael Thorn telling Deadline, “Family Guy and Bob’s Burgers are key pillars of our network’s success.” Additionally, Family Guy currently has an 8.2 IMDb score.
It’s kind of a no-brainer; if Family Guy was offending everyone on the planet, no one would watch it, it wouldn’t make anyone any money and then it would get cancelled. Duh. But why is Family Guy so popular when it’s not at all politically correct in an increasingly politically correct world?
Well, this leads us to the second reason why Family Guy’s still kicking; the show tells offensive jokes about everyone. Men, women, non-binary, trans people, white people, coloured people, religious people, disabled people – no one is safe when it comes to Family Guy, which ultimately makes it fair? The show manages to portray what equality between everyone – albeit in a f*cked up kind of way – would look like.
And thirdly, the reason Family Guy’s never gotten cancelled, even though it’s arguably ‘worse’ than many celebrities who have gotten cancelled, is because it’s fictional. It goes without saying but Family Guy’s characters are not real. Which is how Mike Henry, Family Guy writer, producer and voice actor, thinks the show gets away with its ballsy jokes.
Back in 2012, Henry told The New Yorker that having an “idiot character” in a show, like Peter Griffin, “gives you license to do anything.”
And yes, while Family Guy’s characters are fictional, there are very real people behind the show which may cause you to ask the question: why haven’t they gotten ‘cancelled’? Well, that’s because these people are separate from the characters they create, and because they have actually, over time, ensured that Family Guy does improve itself in some ways.
For example, Henry himself stepped down from voicing Cleveland Brown, a black Family Guy character, in 2020 and wrote on Twitter, “I love this character but persons of colour should play characters of colour. Therefore, I will be stepping down from the role.”
Similarly, the show’s executive producers Rich Appel and Alec Sulkin told TVLine that they were less comfortable making ‘gay jokes’ now (as compared to say, 2006), when quizzed about Season 17’s eleventh episode, Trump Guy, in which Peter says, “In fairness, we’ve been trying to phase out the gay stuff.”
Sulkins said, “If you look at a show from 2005 or 2006 and put it side by side with a show from 2018 or 2019, they’re going to have a few differences. Some of the things we felt comfortable saying and joking about back then, we now understand is not acceptable.”
And even though a more recent episode of Family Guy (Season 18, Episode 4 – Disney’s The Reboot) featured a very meta conversation between a focus group member, who says, “I thought you guys were phasing out gay jokes,” and Peter, who replies with, “That quote was taken out of context and widely misunderstood,” Family Guy actually has cut way back on jokes made at the expense of LGBTQI+ community members.
Overall, Family Guy is what it is – a hilarious show to some, an offensive abomination to others. If you enjoy the show’s dark humour, great; continue watching it. And if you hate Family Guy with a passion, then “Shut up, Meg!” Just kidding; continue to ask for it to get cancelled. That’s your prerogative (just don’t expect it to actually be taken off the air unless the bulk of Family Guy fans start to feel the same way you do).