Family Guy is an American animated TV series, created by Seth
McFarland for the channel FOX. It focuses on the Griffins, a
dysfunctional family living in the fictional city of Quahog. The pilot
was first shown in 1998 before being given the green light for
production and it becoming hugely successful, despite being cancelled
twice. The family consists of parents, Peter and Lois, children Chris
and Meg, baby Stewie and the family dog Brian.
The narrative for each episode is stand-alone, usually about the
family's mishappenings with each other, their friends, or neighbours.
At the end of the episode, the problem is solved and the family live on
happily to suffer the next episode.
Family Guy is full of media and pop culture references, pastiche and
intertextuality are perhaps the most dominant postmodern traits
within the show. These postmodern aspects are used to create
humour, episodes feature a huge amount of references to virtually
every subject possible, with its use of the technique of ‘a million gags
Family guys target audience is older teenagers and young adults, as it
often has inappropriate ad taboo topics and jokes. However, it
appears the key target audience of family guy is people who lived in
the 80’s, thus from around mid twenties to 40 years old, due to the
frequent 80’s pop culture references made in the series.
The show appeals to its loyal viewers through its many running gags
and in jokes, that will only be meaningful to sections of its audience.
An example of this is the evil the evil monkey in Chris’s bedroom that
allow the audience to feel involved with the show. This is commonly
used in postmodern texts in order to serve multiple audiences.
Family guy depicts a stereotypical nuclear, American working class
family. The father Peter is shown as economically and culturally low
class. He appears to adopt no clear political status. This is
postmodern as it acknowledges all political ideology to be essentially
relative and as a consequence, noone can claim pre-eminence.
Many of the other characters are very stereotypical representations of
different groups, sometimes to the extent they can be deemed racist
and offensive to said groups. An example of this can be seen in
Peters references to Asian women drives. The postmodern condition
can be racist, sexist and homophobic, and all these are represented in
the show. However they are shown in a light hearted jokey manner,
thus are not directly intended to cause offence but for humour.
It has been suggested that McFarland’s characters are
loosely based upon other animation characters. For
example, if we take the character of family dog Brian he
is distinctly similar to the famous character of Snoopy.
This is not only visually evident through his white fur and
black nose, but also in the way in which he interacts with
people, participating in human activities though he is a
The character of Stewie has
also been argued to be
influenced by a comic strip
from 1991, as he bears a
noticeable resemble to the
character of Jimmy Corrigan :
The Smartest Kid on Earth.
Again they do not only look
similar, particularly in their
football shaped heads, but
they also share extreme
intelligence and dislike
towards their mothers.
In addition, it has been speculated that Family Guy is a
copy of famous cartoon The Simpsons, as they have a
very similar set up and various other factors. This
includes the family, consisting of a clumsy stupid
father, a mother, a son, a daughter and a baby child.
Furthermore, Homer Simpson and Peter Griffin are very
alike in their personalities, being clumsy lazy and dim
witted. This means the postmodern aspect of bricolage
is featured in the TV series of Family Guy in every
Family Guy is also well known for their parodies of the
Star Wars franchise, with movies Blue Harvest,
Something Something Something Dark Side and It’s a
Trap. These still use the basic original story of Star Wars
however feature the series characters, mock it, and
much is replaced with their media mocking humour. All
these movies are a pastiche of the original Star Wars
Trying to get back to their own universe, Stewie and Brian travel
through many parallel dimensions. Each one is very different, and
in each they also meet other versions of themselves in this
different universe. Each universe also features a different style of
animation and presentation. There therefore is a vast amount of
parody and pastiche used in this episode throughout the different
universes. There is much manipulation of time and space to
create confusion, a very postmodern trait.
There are many references even in the opening credits, where the
family, especially Stewie and Brian are portrayed as a variety of
different characters or situations. This includes Tolkins Lord of
the Rings references, where Stewie takes on the character of
Gollum and Brian Frodo, the whole family shown on the iconic
Pacman video game Brian is playing where the other members are
ghosts chasing pacman Stewie
Brian and Stewie enter the Disney universe; where
‘everything has been drawn by Disney’. This clip adopts the
identifiable style that Disney creates in its animations, thus
parodying the Disney franchise. It continues to do this by
showing all the characters as happy and cheerful, even
Stewie describes himself as feeling ‘al sweet and warm and
fuzzy’. All of the Family Guy Characters make a reference
back to different Disney movies or cartoons such as Snow
White (with the many characters as woodland animals
helping around the house) Joe being the talking pot from
Beauty ad The Beast and The Little Mermaid, as Meg is
shown as the evil sea witch Ursula. Furthermore the
characters all burst into song, which is a typical aspect of
classic Disney movies.
However, the clip then continues to mock it, for example by
taking advantage of the belief Walt Disney was a Nazi
sympathiser, this is also postmodern as it is an example of
the frequent black humour used in the show.
Brian and Stewie
enter the Disney
Stewie and Brian later find themselves in a universe in
which dogs are the dominant species over humans, and
keep them as pets. This is a parody of the film The Planet
of The Apes (Franklin Schaffner, 1968). Intertextuality
arises when Stewie says ‘Take your stinking paws off me
you damn dirty dog!’ making reference to a famous
quote from the film.
They also enter a Flintstones universe, with Peter as Fred, which can be
seen as somewhat ironic as it has previously been speculated that Peters
character has been developed over time from Fred’s. They parody it by
using ‘rock’ as every second word, often to conceal taboo or
inappropriate words , this playful mocking of the show is very
Real life universe
Robot chicken Universe – Here they take on yet the animation style, this
time of the 2005 TV series Robot Chicken, a stop motion animation. One
of the creators is Seth green, who plays the voice of Chris in Family Guy
The use of different universes creates confusion in not only Stewie and
Brian but also the audience in regards to where the characters are. They are
further confused as to the time, as some universes are furturistsic, some
appear to be in the past (for example the Flintstones universe) and some
appear to have no time at all.
Almost every episode also follows a non linear narrative, especially through
the use of comedic flash backs, there are usually at least 3 within the film.
These often feature cartoon representations of famous people,
personifications of objects and various other references to pop culture. It is
also very cleverly ironic, especially in how it references other texts allowing
the audience to emphasise with the joke.
This entire episode is presented in a very playful comedic manner,
throughout the series there is much playfulness with realism. Much of the
show seems plausible and create a sense of realism as it is a family going
about their everyday lives. However, there are other aspects that reject this
sense of realism for such as the fact Brian is a talking dog. Another is that
despite being a baby Stewie is so intelligent that he is able to create a
device to travel to alternate universes. This subversion of real life
conventions are an important aspect of postmodern texts as they are
rejecting the realist media texts where the narrative roles are shaped by
accepted notions of how people would react and behave.
Lyotard’s theory of the rejection of metanarratives as part of the
postmodern condition is evident throughout Family Guy. For example, in
my chosen episode Brian and Stewie enter a universe where Christianity
never existed. They arrive to find technology in this world to be hugely
advanced implying that Christianity and the Church help back scientific
progress. This open criticism of the metanarrative of religion is one of the
key aspects of post modernity.
There are many other examples throughout the show , such as God hitting
on girls at bars and Jesus coming to dinner.