General Question

Mr_M's avatar

Can someone explain the storyline behind "Family Guy"? I mean, why is there a talking dog who has the hots for Lois, and a bisexual baby that talks with a British accent that can fly planes and drive?

Asked by Mr_M (7596points) March 12th, 2009
Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

46 Answers

Likeradar's avatar

It’s just silly fantasy. Don’t read too much into it. :)

MrItty's avatar

That’s not storyline. That’s setting. It makes as much sense as a cat who can understand English and is obsessed with Lasagna but hates Raisins and Mondays.

Or a Mouse that has his own club and club theme song, to the point where children (and adults) everywhere wear hats made to look like his ears.

Or a rabbit that dresses up as a viking woman to fool the stuttering dimwitted hunter.

Etc etc etc.

Les's avatar

@MrItty: Garfield is a cat after my own heart.

Mr_M's avatar

@MrItty only all of the cartoons you cited are for children primarily. Family Guy is strictly adult. I guess I expect it to have a foot in reality.

battlemarz's avatar

How many entertainment TV shows really have a foot in reality?

Ozzman's avatar

I saw a behind the scenes program on Family Guy. The creator mentioned that the show is a cartoon about cartoons. It basically is a cartoon for adults. Some of the content really isn’t suitable for children. In my opinion its hilarious.

Mr_M's avatar

“Some of the content really isn’t suitable for children”? I wouldn’t THINK of having my children watch it.

I agree! It’s hilarious! I remember the first time I watched it, thinking it was a kid’s cartoon. Was I shocked!

Ozzman's avatar

Well my son isn’t aloud to watch the show either. Its not like watching the Flinstones when you and I were kids. Family guy, as I mentioned, is for adults. But unfortunately, I do know families that let their children watch.

asmonet's avatar

Oh god, I love this question.

asmonet's avatar

@Mr_M: Go back and watch some old-school Bugs Bunny and stuff. Half that shit was not intended for children either.

Ozzman's avatar

Hey, good point asmonet. Watch some of the old disney cartoons. You ever noticed that donald duck was always half naked, yet when he came out of the shower he always wore a towel to cover himself? I don’t get that. lol.

aprilsimnel's avatar

Porky don’t wear pants! Usually! And he cusses!

dynamicduo's avatar

The idea behind an “adult cartoon” was really a new concept to North America during the 80s, 90s, and current era. In other nations such as Japan, the cartoon form is not limited to children at all, in fact there are more anime and manga targetted for adults than for children. And Family Guy is not the first adult cartoon – it was preceded by many other adult cartoons such as Harvey Birdman, Red and Stimpy and Beavis and Butthead. In fact, even some children’s cartoons have had adult jokes or concepts put in specifically for adults watching the show either on their own or with their children. Spongebob Squarepants is a great example of this, with references put in that a kid would never understand. More information about the evolution of adult cartoons can be found by researching the history of Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim channel as well as referencing the history of Williams Street, one of the major producers of eclectic adult cartoons and other adult shows that are incredibly insane (Tim and Eric’s Awesome Show, Great Job! which I highly recommend).

Continuing to your actual question, most of them are answered throughout the course of the series. Brian, for instance, came into the family via Peter adopting Brian when he was a stray dog. From the Wikipedia article: Brian was born in Austin, Texas, in a litter of 5 puppies, the other four being apparently non-anthropomorphic. The show has yet to explore his youth and adolescence in detail. He was homeless, panhandling, washing car windows on the side of a highway exit when Peter found him. Having no money to give Brian, Peter brought Brian home to the Griffin family.

Similarly, Stewie’s origins have been well explained in the direct to DVD movie Stewie Griffin: The Untold Story. I can’t remember them precisely now, but rest assured many of the character’s quirks and origins are explained throughout the series. Then again, some of them are not explained one bit, and that just adds to the comedy.

But why is Brian an anthropomorphic dog? Why is Stewie a gay football-headed baby? Because it’s what was needed for the series! Seth McFarlane obviously intends the audience to perform some amount of suspension of disbelief while watching the show. In fact, a good portion of the comedy comes from presenting these characters as regular and normal, but then challenging these concepts. For instance, many jokes are made regarding whether Stewie’s words can be heard and understood by anyone other than Brian, similarly Brian’s intimacy with women or alcoholic tendencies.

Mr_M's avatar

@dynamicduo , interesting answer. And yes, Stewie has talked to others. I remember he went on a date with a high school girl who later laughed at his “shortcomings”.

aprilsimnel's avatar

Family Guy to me is a meta-cartoon for Generation X. It’s so full of references all the time to other media from the 70s & 80s that I got bored with it pretty quickly. The only gag I really liked was when Stewie complained he had a rough day and it turned out he was inside the pinball in Sesame Street’s Pinball Number Count.

Mr_M's avatar

But guys, there is NO COMPARISON between whatever adult content was in Mickey Mouse or Bugs Bunny compared to Family Guy.

Mr_M's avatar

My favorite gag was recently on television. They flashed back to the signing of the Constitution and how our forefathers felt what they wrote about the right to bear arms was so clear.

dynamicduo's avatar

You’re right, Mr_M. Family Guy is an adult cartoon intended for an adult audience.

Then again, you want to see an adult cartoon that’s designed for… well I guess stoner adults? Look into Aqua Teen Hunger Force. After watching a few of those episodes, you may feel that Family Guy is a calm tame animation!!

asmonet's avatar

@Mr_M: Actually, there is. You also need to consider changing values, cartoons in other countries, etc. Family Guy is pretty tame in the grand scheme of things.

Mr_M's avatar

@aprilsimnel , BTW, Winnie the Pooh doesn’t wear pants. Tell me HE’s an adult cartoon character?

asmonet's avatar

He is always getting stuck in giant holes.

Mr_M's avatar

@asmonet maybe that, together with the fact that he spends a lot of time with a young boy,,,

MrItty's avatar

@Mr_M, is it more nonsensical than a family of yellow people who have four fingers and whose children never age?

aprilsimnel's avatar

Obviously, there needs to be a congressional hearing. Pantsless characters must not go unchallenged.

dynamicduo's avatar

Wow, people once thought that violent comic books could lead to more violence, and yet this is no longer a public menace? Why does this sound exactly like the “war” on violent video games? When will people understand that seeing “violence” does not necessarily make people more violent and may in fact have the opposite effect?

SeventhSense's avatar

@asmonet
_Pooh..you’re twisted
@Mr M
I have enjoyed the occasional episode of Family Guy, but don’t think it is as clever as South Park. It goes for the One liners with a vengeance as opposed to South Park which seems to actually follow a plot…albeit a twisted one. Beavis and Buthead- Best ever. I think those guys lived down the block from me. But notice now he’s doing King of the Hill..good but not the same.
That said, I think it reflects the general strangeness with which we have become accustomed. And there definitely has been an overall progression of perversity(copyrighted by me) from the the cartoons of the 30–50—‘s and the cartoons of the day. But like asmonet says, there were some cartoons like Bugs Bunny in black face that were blatantly racist. And I have noticed with South Park a move to actually have a kind of “moral” led by Stan or Kyle. I don’t know if that was a reaction to pressure or a genuine desire to have a message by the producers. For me personally, I was raised on Mad Magazine which I loved but a magazine called Crazy was too disturbing for me as a little boy. So I guess the best is to keep them late at night and on cable.
“Team America!”...“Fuck Ya!”..

Mr_M's avatar

Tried watching South Park twice and was too grossed out.

I like Family Guy for the same reason I like Two and a Half Men; you have to THINK about a lot of the jokes. They’re subtle.

SeventhSense's avatar

Did you watch Team America? Do you know the Thunderbirds marionettes from the 60’s?

Mr_M's avatar

I DO know the Thunderbirds and heard about puppet sex but never saw the movie. I WILL rent it now.

Mr_M's avatar

Lurve for everybody!

dynamicduo's avatar

South Park is one of today’s best television shows IMO. Its humour tends to be a bit bold-faced and blunt at times, but as the seasons go on, the show becomes much better (for instance, they stop killing Kenny off every episode at the 5th season when he dies “for good”). The show actually does make wise commentary on current events (such as the Terry Schaivo event) as well as being funny in general. But I do understand your repulsion for it. Personally I was quite grossed out and could barely watch one of the recent episodes in the 12th season where George Lucas and Stephen Spielberg physically rape Indiana Jones, even though I knew it was jovial and each rape scene was only a parody of another movie’s rape scene, it STILL crossed that line in my mind. As well, the animation in recent series has taken a large step up, too up in my mind, where people being shot are shown very graphically and with very detailed character art (the recent 12th series episode Super Fun Time highlights this).

If you are willing to try watching South Park once more I highly recommend you watch the “Cartoon Wars” episodes (it’s a two parter) and then read the summary and analysis about it on Wikipedia. They aren’t too gory if I remember correctly, and they actually provide some witty commentary both about Family Guy and about cartoons and broadcasters in general. It can be found in Season 10.

Mr_M's avatar

I remember the one episode I tried to watch involved a talking piece of crap, and another involved this older kid putting his penis in the mouth of a little kid. Thanks, but I don’t think I’ll be watching any episode any time soon! :)

poofandmook's avatar

I have a huge problem with Mr_M’s avatar. I keep forgetting it’s him because it’s not the monkey.

that is all.

thank you.

dynamicduo's avatar

Hanky the Christmas Poo is an awesome satirical character who’s entire purpose is to make you disgusted with the thought of a Christmas Poo. That episode features a rare real-life video, a “commercial” for a Create-Your-Own-Hanky kit. The entire joke is that it’s feces, you are supposed to be repulsed. Even more so, it’s a piece of shit that appears around Christmas time. Hanky himself is a mockery of how commercialized Christmas has become.

The second clip is really an exception rather than the rule. I agree it’s one of the more provocative scenes in the entire series, but you have none of the context of the situation surrounding that scene, nor surrounding the characters themselves, to understand the scene. Those who have viewed the entire series such as myself interpret that scene in a much different way than the obvious statement of it. Cartman (the fat kid) is honestly one of the most despicable people on TV ever (he was once pissed off by a kid named Scott Tenorman, so in retaliation Cartman concocted a complex scenario ultimately resulting in Cartman killing and feeding Scott’s parents to him via a bowl of chili). As well, it is Cartman himself who was orchestrating the penis-in-mouth (Cartman decided he was a new-age photographer taking risque shots) on the flawed assumption that it meant the other kid, Butters (again with a huge backstory supporting his naivety in this scene) was gay; and the rest of that plotline in the episode results in the photo disappearing, Cartman thinking it was another kid who stole it, and Cartman ultimately deciding to show the image for Show And Tell instead of letting the kid show it to the class. Of course, no one stole the image, it was under Cartman’s desk, and thus Cartman was in the end his own demise. It’s one episode where Cartman gets his just desserts, and you appreciate this moment of defeat much more when you understand the despicable nature of his character (the creators have said their goal with Cartman was to try and push what was acceptable to show on TV).

I don’t mean this to be offensive to you, as I completely understand your opinion of the show, but you are on one side of the fence of people who view South Park as having some amount of seriousness (I don’t view any of the South Park kids as actually being kids, for instance), whereas I and other SP fans are on the other side of the fence, with the ability to look at these situations and understand the reason they are being used. I feel you are unnecessarily dismissing the entire series based on a few select events; however I understand your choice and respect it. I did just want to clarify your points though and to provide some amount of context, as you not being a fan means you have none of the context.

Mr_M's avatar

I appreciate that. Maybe I will try it again. I have friends that just LOVE the show.

poofandmook's avatar

@dynamicduo: See, I’m someone standing on the fence. On one hand, a lot of SP is funny. But there have been a few things that have ruined the show for me. Two examples right off the top of my head are when Kenny slid out of the bus driver’s uterus and was clearly covered in slime, and when they decided it would be a good idea to put food in their anus and shit out of their mouths… that was just too gross for me. And it’s really hard for me to say that. LOL

dynamicduo's avatar

@poofandmook – I know exactly where you are, as I was once on that fence too. And like I mention above, it’s not all or nothing for me, there are scenes in SP that I find not necessary at that level of absurdity. However I always give SP the benefit of doubt and allow it to finish its thought before judging it.

Regarding the food-in-butts episode (more appropriately, Season 6’s Red Hot Catholic Love), it was indeed quite gross, but it was worth it to see the entire episode – the juxtaposition of adults shitting from their mouths in public (complete with Sharon graciously providing a Potty Basket while handing out quesadillas to eat) while talking about their new faith in Athiesm was amazing (Butters’ dad: “If I’m raising my child Athiest, I don’t want them saying Under God in the allegiance, that can be really damaging to a child. I think God should be taken out of the- excuse me”, followed by a small mouth poop, then he goes right back into “Under God should be taken out of the pledge of allegiance”). But it really only excelled while watching the rest of the episode, where the Priest goes and tries to convince the Church to not have sex with boys and discovers something even more absurd than shitting out of one’s mouth. The cream of the cake was Father Mackey’s monologue at the end of the episode, that highlights the absurdity in believing the Bible word for word instead of realizing that they are stories meant to inspire you to live your life justly.

What I’m trying to say here is that it’s easy, too easy, to point to one frame of the show and say “this is disgusting” and to dismiss the entire show. But doing so is completely pointless in debating the value of the show, because the disgusting part is always one element in a bigger picture, it’s not the final picture itself. And if you judge the show based on that disgusting part, you miss out on the actual point of why it was used and thus the point of the entire episode. This is one common theme throughout all of South Park.

essieness's avatar

@Mr_M I thought I knew you dude… I really thought I knew you.

essieness's avatar

I should’ve read the whole thread. Thought you were saying you don’t like Family Guy. It’s only the most genius adult cartoon ever.

dynamicduo's avatar

@essieness Sorry gal, but I have to disagree with you on that. FG, while funny at times, is simply formulaic in its joke approach as South Park pointed out. I much prefer (American Dad versus Family Guy (both created by the same guy) because it doesn’t have as many non-sequitur jokes.

essieness's avatar

@dynamicduo I hear ya, but I think that’s why I like it ;)

SeventhSense's avatar

I don’t know what’s funnier. The cartoons or watching people discuss them. Ultimately of course there is no social commentary in any of them if you don’t see their humor and so you don’t watch them. I didn’t like chicken liver as a kid but some things are an acquired taste.

bristolbaby's avatar

the first time I watched the show I didn’t like it..but it grew on me. It’s very funny and I enjoy it. There are a lot of political punchlines.

“Why is Stewie a gay football-headed baby?”

there was an episode showing Stewie had a regular round head, similar to Charlie Brown, but then he, against Lois’s instructions and Brian’s warnings, was bouncing on the bed and hit the ceiling. LOL

SeventhSense's avatar

@bristolbaby
That’s hilarious! You mean his head was actually squashed?
My favorite was when he was trying to give up breast milk and he was jonesing for a drink.

asmonet's avatar

Haha, yeah. They show it in a flashback once, it’s fantastic.

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