Figure 1: Seth McFarlane. 2008, March. Family Guy. Family Guy

Family Guy is a beloved animated TV original that first made its debut in January of 1999, created by Seth McFarlane. The sitcom revolves around the Griffin family which consists of an inconsiderate overweight father, a ditzy son, malicious infant, regularly forgotten daughter, witty dog, and a mother that’s trying to keep it all together. The show is best and worst known for its adult content and its proposed humor on controversial topics.

Contents

  1. Show Synopsis
  2. Episodes

2.1 The Fat Guy Strangler

2.2 Fat Guys Diet Food

  1. Character Analysis (Body to Character Representation)
    • Peter Griffin
    • Lois Griffin
    • Chris Griffin
  1. Show Synopsis

Before Family Guy, the only other animated sitcom related to its content was the Simpsons. But unlike the Simpsons, Family Guy went further with topics that hit softer spots in the nation. Talks of homosexuality, adultery, and rape culture became more public through the series and caused a stir in emotion while pulling in an audience. But one of the main and ongoing topics that the show continues to poke at is its humor on fat. Family Guy has been repeatedly referred to as a fat phobic series for its normalization of fat jokes. Despite its continuous negative feedback on its obsession with fat shaming, the ratings on the sitcom continue to soar and lead as one of the top rated TV shows in the nation.

  1. Episodes

Figure 2: Seth MacFarlane. 2005, Nov. The Fat Guy Strangler. Family Guy

2.1 The Fat Guy Strangler

In this episode Peter takes a trip to the Doctors office and is told that he is fat but he is still healthy. Despite the doctor telling him that he is in good health, he takes the news badly and decides to start an organization called the National Association of Advancement of Fat People (NAACP). When he calls his first meeting, a room full of other overweight men, fills up and stereotypes are added. Peter begins to lead the meeting but is unable to move forward due to the heavy breathing, farts, and snack munching coming from his audience. Through a deeper lense, Peter’s disregard of the Doctor’s feedback on his health shows how being fat is perceived as worse than being unhealthy. Society has condemned the being of being fat to the point where that is perceived as a higher problem than risky health factors. There’s a common misconception that leads people to believe that people who are of larger size, possess some type of health problems when in reality that is just a social construct. This thought continues to put fat people at a disadvantage because it then leads to questions of their mobility and ableness. The episode furthers this idea by applying stereotypical behavior to the people in the room.

2.2  Fat Guys Diet Food

Family Guy is well known for its frequent out of scene shots that roam onto separate segments telling quick ideas and stories. In this short segment, the show cuts to a larger man in a fast food joint ordering “diet food”. The segment implies that the man typically gets a fried chicken sandwich with fries, but this time around he would get a fried fish sandwich with fries instead, since he’s on a diet. It then cuts to a quick sing along with the food mocking fat people for thinking that they are diet options. Again, in this we see the correlation that society has made between fat and unhealthy eating.

Figure 3: TBS. 2012, March. All Dressed Up. Family Guy

  1. Characters

 

3.1 Peter Griffin

Peter Griffin is an overweight middle aged American dad, who contains all of the stereotypes that are associated with all of his identities. Peter, like many fat Americans, is portrayed as a lazy, uneducated, blue collar working man that spends the majority of his time drinking beer with his friends and participating in senseless activities. Many of the activities that he partakes in can be directly correlated to his image, specifically his weight. For example, Peter can always be found engaging in things such as, pie eating competitions, being pushed around in an electric cart at the grocery store, or using elevators in any convenience. Many argue that those are just things that make his character humorous and has little to no correlation to his physical attributes. It becomes difficult to accept those ideas when Peter is never seen put in activities that show physical strength, good health, or even advanced skills, and the times that he is put in those scenarios, he is mocked. Another characteristic that is displayed through Peter’s character that I think connects to his image, is his frequently display of femininity. It is said that men who are larger are seen to have more feminine qualities, since their weight discredits their masculinity. The animated equal to Family Guy is American Dad which stars a physically muscular father and in comparison to Peter has a lot more masculine traits than Peter does.

3.2 Lois Griffin

Lois is Peter’s wife, and is a representation of what society’s ideal woman should be and look like. She oversees and keeps control in her home, and possess a slim figure with slight curves and perky breast. Her look represents order, in contrast to her husband, who looks to represent lack of discipline and disorder. In one episode, Lois begins to overeat due to lack of bedroom activity between her and Peter and becomes fat. When she gains this weight, order in the house begins to fall apart and they define her to have “lost herself”. Within the beginning stages of her weight gain, Peter is disgusted and tries to stay even further away from her in bed. One night they both come to terms and finally make it to the bed, where Peter then realizes that “fat sex” is the “best thing ever”. He begins to see her size as admirable only within the context of sexual pleasure, one of the only ways society has also accepted women of larger size.

3.3 Chris Griffin

Chris Griffin is highly comparable to his dad within the character traits he holds and within his figure. Chris is also overweight and is portrayed on the show as an unintelligent, non-athletic, lazy teenage boy. Chris’ story line has often referred back to his traits such as his laziness, but for the most part, almost all of his portrayal refers back to his weight. Like many overweight teens in America, he faces bullying and humiliation in school and within many of his peer groups. The show sometimes cuts to segments of him expressing sadness towards his insecurity and for a moment takes heart to consider his struggle, but quickly takes the serious emotion and turns it into laughs. Often times the show dehumanizes Chris by voiding his emotions because of the lack of respect the show carries for him. And although our nation understands that the show is just an animated sitcom, it breathes truth into how society portrays individuals through their identities and physical appearance, and Chris’ character continues to display, through his story lines, what being fat in America is like. The satire placed around his struggle keeps the audience laughing and continues to make the fat American struggle to be accepted, just a really big joke.

Look at these!

  1. http://www.vagabomb.com/Films-TV-Shows-That-Used-FatShaming/
  2. https://www.bustle.com/articles/132270-what-does-bbw-mean-one-take-on-this-divisive-term
  3. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XWdik29MTrE
  4. http://tvcriticism2013.blogspot.com/2013/10/family-guys-satirical-humor.html

Jessica Ahenkorah is a senior at Old Dominion University, striving in her last semester to receive a degree in Mass Communications. Creativity is Jessica’s best attribute and will most likely be where her future career derives from. Her hobbies include reading, motivating others, video editing, and brand building. Her goal is to one day take her acquired skills through the doors of Nickelodeon Animation Studios where she would like to eventually land an executive position.