Family Guy and the Parent Television Council

On February 8, 2015, Family Guy released an episode entitled “Quagmire’s Mom.” In the episode, the sex-addicted reoccurring character, Glen Quagmire, is arrested for having sex with a high school girl. After claiming that his mom is the reason that he grew up to be a sexual deviant, Quagmire is still sentenced to twenty years in prison. However, his mom then enters the episode and finds a way to get her son acquitted of his charges. While I am a huge fan of Family Guy, I personally thought this episode was mediocre. However, I apparently loved this episode compared to the Parent Television Council.

The Parent Television Council is probably more active in attacking Family Guy than any other major organization. Family Guy has made their yearly list of “worst prime-time shows for family viewing” three times and over forty episodes have been chosen for the Parent Television Council’s “Worst TV Show of the Week.” They have even gone as far as to launch campaigns for Fox network to cancel Family Guy.

I know that a lot of people hate Family Guy for multiple reasons including the cut-away gags, the lack of consistency, and of course the offensive humor. Most TV-watchers have a distaste for certain popular shows. I hate The Bachelor because I don’t buy for a second that it’s reality and I hate Downton Abbey because I find it slow, pretentious, and painfully boring. However, if those shows are popular, who am I to say they should be off the air? I just won’t watch them. In fact, if I had the option to cancel those shows myself, I wouldn’t do it because other people enjoy them and they aren’t forced upon me. Likewise, no one is forcing the members of the Parent Television Council to watch Family Guy. I doubt they like anything about it. This means that they watch this show on their own choosing, not because there’s anything about the show that attracts them, but just so they can complain about it later.

Humor is subjective and different people have different senses of humor. For example, I did not find the movie “Elf” the slightest bit funny despite its universal praise. But I’m not going to criticize other people for laughing at it or start a campaign against the movie because it didn’t fit my sense of humor. The Parent Television Council can’t seem to understand this. They think that if you find something funny that they don’t, you’re at fault and inferior to the sophistication of these elite intellectuals. In one of their recent articles complaining about the episode “Our Idiot Brian,” Christopher Gildemiester stated “it was a typical episode of Family Guy – except for the lengthy middle portion of the episode mocking stupid people – which undoubtedly insulted many of Family Guy’s biggest fans.” These people constantly complain about Family Guy negatively generalizing certain types of people, yet they just outright called Family Guy fans “stupid people.”

More than anything else, the Parent Television Council complains about Family Guy for indecency, such as mocking certain types of people or groups, violent or sexually explicit content, or offensive jokes about sensitive subjects. Now that would be like if I went to go watch “Dora the Explorer” and complain that it was too childish and silly. The members of the Parent Television Council are obviously not the target audience. Nor are people who tend to get offended by shock humor. This is the kind of show Family Guy is and always was. It’s obviously not for everyone, but let the people who like the show watch it. The people of the Parent Television Council can watch whatever they want to watch.

Now, I would understand if they made this kind of complaint about a family friendly show. For example, in an episode of Spongebob called “Are You Happy Now?” there is a joke where Squidward is depressed and pulls up a noose saying “maybe this will help,” implying that he will hang himself, only to pull up something else instead. This is clearly a suicide joke and of course it got a lot of backlash. See Spongebob is a kid’s show and this kind of joke is out of place in a show that’s expected to be a family friendly show. In this case, the show is at fault for the content the kids were exposed to. But Family Guy was always an adult cartoon. Sure it’s gotten raunchier over the years, but it was not for kids to begin with. The Parent Television Council often complains about kids being exposed to Family Guy. I’m not a parent so I can’t judge whether a parent lets his or her kids watch Family Guy or not. But Family Guy is clearly not a kid’s show and whatever the kids are exposed to is on the parents. And I know the Parent Television Council complains about the time slot for Family Guy, how it airs too early when kids are still watching TV, but that isn’t the show’s fault either. That is the network’s fault and that issue should be taken up with them, not the show itself.

They also like to complain about certain messages they claim the shows gives off. They claim that Family Guy belittles the severity of serious issues like rape, racism, and abuse. However, they need to remember that Family Guy is comedy. Not just that, but it’s completely absurd with no attempt at realism or logic. I’m not going to learn that it’s okay to treat one family member like garbage because they do it in Family Guy. They aren’t actively telling us that abuse is okay (except maybe with one or two rare exceptions like “Seahorse Seashell Party”). I can laugh at racist or suicide jokes while still understanding the seriousness of the issues. I know some people can’t and that’s just a difference in senses of humor. I can even laugh at jokes mocking aspects about me. I have Asperger Syndrome and I was never even a little offended by Family Guy’s numerous jokes about autism. If others get offended by this dark humor, then they can watch more politically correct shows. The Parent Television Council needs to understand that just because a show offends them doesn’t mean it shouldn’t exist.

However, the tipping point for me to write this was the article about the episode mentioned earlier, Quagmire’s Mom. The Parent Television Council complained that the episode joked about statutory rape. Now this was just baffling to me. Family Guy is not new to making these kinds of jokes. They have made jokes far more offensive than this, like pretty much any episode with the character Herbert, an elderly man who constantly tries to gain sexual pleasure from young boys. Even the focus character of this episode, Quagmire, has done far worse. Many other episodes have implied that he has committed numerous forcible rapes and even kept women locked up in his house for his own sexual desires. In fact, one of my complaints about this episode is that when Quagmire finally gets significant consequences for his actions, it’s for something that, to be honest, wasn’t even really his fault. He had consensual sex with a girl who lied to him that she was an adult and Quagmire was surprised when she revealed that she was a minor after they already had sex. I would say that the real-life injustice that this episode jokes about is that people can go to jail for twenty years for having sex with someone they thought was legal. But since this episode involved anything that included the word “rape” the Parent Television Council is going nuts about it. This episode isn’t even that insensitive about the issue compared to other episodes. In fact, it actually takes the issue fairly seriously for a Family Guy episode.

The Parent Television Council, to me, represents the worst of modern-day censorship. If people want to publicly rant about how much they hate Family Guy, that’s their freedom of speech. However, the Parent Television Council are actively trying to take the show down because they don’t like it. People should be able to enjoy the entertainment that they prefer, but no one can tell you what to like. You can hate Family Guy all you want, but the best way to deal with that is to just avoid it. Hopefully the Parent Television Council will understand that someday.