I didn’t think this was gonna be my return to writing actual reviews on this blog. Actually, I never thought Family Guy would be a show I’d cover here at all. I remember having it on a list of shows people need to shut up about a long time ago, in fact. And to be honest, I stand by that. I think that with most shows it’s worth discussing why and how they’ve deteriorated. With Family Guy, the answer is, simply put, Seth MacFarlane’s massive ego. Any internet reviewer who’s covered a bad episode of this show would be able to tell you that.This was a show that started out with some clever social commentary and just devolved into an outlet for the creator’s blatant jabs at celebrities he doesn’t like or just… The audience itself. And it doesn’t have to care about actually being funny, because now people will watch it just to get mad at it. And people probably enjoy being mad at things more than laughing at them nowadays, so I can’t say I completely blame Family Guy for this.
But I digress.
If you’re not familiar with this show, there’s two things you need to know before you continue reading. Everyone, and I mean everyone, hates Meg, but her family are definitely the worst about it. And in this episode Meg gives every single one of them a verbal beating of epic proportions. She makes good points, and it’s actually very cathartic because the other characters actually start to look at themselves as a result. And, no matter how good it is, the fact that this scene is so effective to begin with is where this episode fucked up. This is a mistake they make time and time again in their most infamous episodes, in fact.
So the family starts to antagonize one another because of this and they all run off, leaving Meg behind with Seth MacFarlane’s self-insert, Brian. And yes, the fact that Brian is a self-insert is VERY important here. Because this is the conversation that follows:
Now, every review of this episode I’ve ever seen gets emotional about this. Because yes, it’s easy to see this as either trying to make light of actual abuse or being misguided in saying that people should stay in an abusive situation for their abusers benefit; as TheMysteriousMrEnter said it in his review of this episode.
However; and no, this isn’t a defense of this episode, that’s not what this scene is trying to say. This scene is meant to talk to the audience about something, yes, but it isn’t abuse. It’s about status quo.
If you’re not familiar with what ‘status quo’ means in relation to television shows. I refer you to TV Tropes:
Within a work, particularly long-running series and franchises, almost nothing changes. If something does change, it’s generally reset back to the way it was before very quickly.
The fact that Brian is Seth MacFarlane speaks volumes towards the real intent behind this scene. Brian and Meg aren’t discussing abuse, they’re discussing Meg’s *role*, not within the Griffin family, but in Family Guy itself. And basically, by having Meg accept this role, this is supposed to make us, the audience, accept it as well.
Basically this is Seth MacFarlane saying “Look, just because I do these things to this character, it doesn’t mean I hate her”. As a writer, I can sympathize with that sentiment, but as a writer… Nothing and I mean NOTHING peeves me quite as much as a creator trying to address criticism within their actual work. If you feel you need to justify something about your work, then fucking man up and change it. And if you think it doesn’t need changing then man up and take the heat for it. Simple as that.
Either your show adheres fully to status quo rules and even when character development does happen it means nothing; in which case that very well-written, very cathartic confrontation scene you wrote is fucking pointless. Or you commit to having your characters evolve and stick to it. It’s not hard. The Simpsons has multiple very heartwarming episodes that were as if they never happened in the next. And people still loved them for it anyway. Heck, Family Guy itself has managed to pull this off with Meg and Peter on more than one episode, where they had them bond over something one episode and have him be a dick to her like usual the next. And that back when show was still at least decent.
Now, as I previously stated, the confrontation scene being so damn effective is where this episode fucked up the most. It humanized Meg to the point where the audience was never going to be able to look at her as just a character afterwards. Even if the things she was saying were literally, and sometimes word-for-word, things the audience had been complaining about. This episode’s fatal flaw was playing into people’s emotions and then expecting them to be purely rational when you go “Okay, listen…” about it. It’s NEVER gonna work. EVER.
Did people read way too much into this? Yes, absolutely. I’m 100% sure no one looks to Family Guy for ‘very special episodes’, and this was never meant to be one. Does that mean this episode is redeemable? Fuck no. No one asked for this piece of condescension with Meg and the rest of the episode is either annoying dad noises or a literal drug trip.
It does majorly suck, no question.