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For nearly two full decades, Seth MacFarlane's Family Guy has been churning out its signature brand of bizarre cutaway gags and jokes that toe the line of offensiveness. (And you do NOT want to know where that toe has been.) The show's humor has remained largely unchanged throughout its run, despite of any and all culture shifts surrounding political correctness and inclusiveness. Its creator has an idea for why Family Guy is more bulletproof than some offending entertainers. Here's how MacFarlane put it:
Animation is weirdly protected in this little bubble because there isn’t a specific face to it. You can’t send Peter Griffin an angry tweet — he doesn’t exist. … It’s a lot easier for us to fuck up and recover than it is for a comedian whose face is up there on the screen.
While stand-up comedians arguably used to share a similar form of protection from offended audiences, under the umbrella defense of "Hey, it's comedy." But stars like Louis C.K., Kevin Hart and Aziz Ansari were put under microscopes in recent years after their personal lives started making more headlines than their acts. That, in turn, delivered more shades of criticism for acts and comments that, for the most part, were previously accepted without much blowback.
But it's easier for Family Guy to slip away from widespread judgments like that, simply because it's an animated TV show. Peter Griffin's prejudices and ignorant comments are limited to the amount of time when the show is airing, and it's not like he can just hop on social media to troll people with his negative thoughts. As such, it's potentially easier to walk away from Family Guy's humor and forget what the offensive jokes were, since there isn't a physical and corporeal target to be angered by.
Sure, viewers can get mad at Seth MacFarlane, and people have certainly done that over the years. It's not exactly the same, though, considering the offensive dialogue written for Peter, Quagmire, Tom Tucker and the rest came from a writing team, as opposed to a single person. While MacFarlane may remain the main human face behind Family Guy, he hasn't been the main creative force behind the scenes in years.
There’s so many things we would not do now. There are a lot of things that have had to bend with the current [to] kind of follow where things are going. . . . It’s forced us to think differently and try to be a little bit more creative. Sometimes it’s a bummer. Sometimes you do miss some of the gross, harsh, brash things that you’d be able to do, but you’re aware that it’s a totally different climate.
Glenn Quagmire is without a doubt the most heavy-handed offender on Family Guy, handling the lion's share of the series' most risqué jokes about sex, both the consensual and non-consensual kinds. But while the character is definitely still a perv in all respects, there's more self-awareness and slightly less maliciousness behind Quagmire's cringeworthy moments.
When it comes to changes, in fact, Family Guy's creative team has publicly talked about the intentional move to eradicate humor portraying the LGBTQ community in a negative light. Which was definitely a big move for this show, which has played up Stewie's possible homosexuality since its earliest days, and not always in the most sensitive of ways.
Seth MacFarlane called Family Guy an "oasis" for audiences who won't or can't get behind laughing at what others dictate is funny and it's an oasis that people are clearly familiar with after 17 seasons on the air. But for anyone out there who is still consistently offended by the show's off-color jokes, it may be wiser to aim that anger at real humans.
With its finale coming soon, Family Guy airs Sunday nights on Fox at 9:00 p.m. ET.