“Family Guy” – The Show of Our Generation

Ian Proctor, Staff Writer

Screenshot of “Believe It or Not, Joe’s Walking on Air” from “Family Guy” Season 6.

For some reason, a lot of people hate “Family Guy.” Some say it’s a copy of “The Simpsons.” Others say it’s all offensive shock humor. Others say it’s lazy. 

But I believe FOX’s “Family Guy” might possibly be the defining show of our generation. Its fast-paced shock humor blends perfectly with our short attention spans, and its countless cutaways are perfect meme-fodder.

It takes five seconds on the internet to see “Family Guy”’s imprint. Family Guy meme compilations are widespread. “Hey Beter” is one of the most recognizable meme formats of the past year, and the Instagram account “Family Guy Clips Cut Short” has 93,000 followers, with many of the show’s jokes featured can be easily found reposted on people’s Instagram stories. 

“Family Guy’”s popularity may not only be because of its fast-paced humor. The show’s audience and writing tends to be more liberal, which further appeals to young people. 

Indeed, the target audience appears to be 18-24 year-olds, and viewers younger than that are likely to watch “Family Guy” because of how it’s a “grown-up show” that makes it seem “cooler.” This was even referenced within the show itself, with Peter making a Joe Pesci joke, then turning to the camera and saying to the viewer, “See, you don’t know who that is because you’re 14.” 

“Family Guy”’s self-aware humor appeals to young people; however, many claim that it’s a terrible show because its humor is all lazy, offensive shock humor.

However, I would argue that “Family Guy”’s humor is a reflection of its age; while many shows like “The Simpsons” begin to show signs of dull, uninteresting rot the older they become, “Family Guy” actively makes fun of itself. It’s like the show itself has become a joke at this point. The show is aware that it’s all quick, successive shock value whose audience is preteens and teens. And that blends perfectly with today’s memes – quick, successive shock value with a hint of self-irony. 

An episode that I’ve seen endlessly repeated on social media is “Believe It or Not, Joe’s Walking on Air!” from Season 6. It’s about crippled cop Joe Swanson getting a miracle surgery that restores his ability to walk, and his friends quickly realize that, with the ability to walk, Joe is too extreme for them, and so they get together in an instantly-recognizable scene to attempt to break Joe’s legs again with baseball bats. It’s a great scene that has been repeated in meme after meme due to Joe’s absurdly-extreme fighting abilities compared with the lazy middle-aged men trying to attack him. 

Joe himself is probably the most over-memed character on the show, because he’s what would normally be considered a “heroic cop” with a deep, masculine voice who’s forever confined to a wheelchair. It’s a joke that gets even funnier 19 seasons in, despite the fact that it’s so overdone, and I’m not completely sure why, but it just is.

A modern episode that clearly appeals to our generation is Season 16’s “Three Directors,” which imagines “Family Guy” in the film styles of three different directors: Quentin Tarantino, Wes Anderson and Michael Bay. It’s an episode that is non-canonical, and every joke in the episode is great and perfectly mocks the directors featured. All three directors are ones that are instantly familiar to this generation, and the jokes are quick and successive. It’s a modern “Family Guy” episode that instantly comes to mind.

As such, it is clear that “Family Guy” is a show that shaped our generation and remains one of its most popular shows. While critically, the writing may have gotten stale, this created its quick, successive shock humor that appeals so much to us.

Of course, if for some reason you don’t know how to watch “Family Guy,” you can see it on Hulu, or one of the many unapproved Family Guy 24/7 Full Episode livestreams on Youtube.