Family Guy has always toed and often crossed the line between having ignorant, prejudiced characters — and crass, lazy cracks at which a straight white guy is apt to be the only one in the room laughing.
Now the show has committed to changing at least one side of its pseudo-edgy humor, using protagonist Peter Griffin as a mouthpiece. On Sunday's installment, "Trump Guy," according to The Hollywood Reporter, protagonist Peter is appointed as Trump's Press Secretary. At one point, Peter makes a meta, fourth-wall-breaking speech and explains to Trump that Family Guy is trying to "phase out" gay jokes.
Executive Producers Rich Appel and Alec Sulkin spoke with TVLine about the scene, confirming that the show is making a concerted effort to stamp out jokes at the expense of gay people. Both referred to the unique position of working on a show that's been on air for 20 years.
"If you look at a show from 2005 or 2006 and put it side by side with a show from 2018 or 2019, they're going to have a few differences. Some of the things we felt comfortable saying and joking about back then, we now understand is not acceptable" explained Sulkin.
"It's almost unique to Family Guy, though I can think of one other show that's been on the air longer. But if a show has literally been on the air for 20 years, the culture changes." said Appel.
Apel emphasized that setting a hard line isn't a result of pressure: "...it's not us reacting and thinking, 'They won't let us [say certain things].' No, we've changed too. The climate is different, the culture is different and our views are different. They've been shaped by the reality around us, so I think the show has to shift and evolve in a lot of different ways."
Family Guy debuted in 1999, and has repeatedly come under scrutiny for offensive jokes, particularly around controversial or stereotypical portrayals of queer characters. Memorably, in a 2009 episode "Family Gay," Peter temporarily "becomes" gay after participating in a medical drug test, while in a 2010 episode Quagmire's father comes out as trans and sleeps with the family's depressive dog Brian. Stewie Griffin's sexuality has been a long-standing punchline, which the show has addressed, to varying degrees of satisfaction from fans.
Even taking Family Guy's 90's origins into consideration, 2019 is pretty late to be taking taking a hard line against homophobia and transphobia, but better late than never.
In recent years, "bro" satire shows like Family Guy, which made their name on gay jokes and funny accents, have had to grapple with their shows relationships to marginalized characters and viewers, some more successfully than others.
American Dad, reports OUT, won a GLAAD award for a 2006 episode in which a conservative character grapples with his homophobia. However, many were disappointed with The Simpsons' lackluster response to 2017 documentary The Problem With Apu, which critiqued the show's racial stereotyping, slurs and microaggressions directed at the show's only Indian character.
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