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by
Susan L.M. Goldberg

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April 3, 2013 - 7:00 am

Watch out, ladies in the dating world: Family Guy’s prized demographic is totally Petarded.

According to the show’s creator, Family Guy’s target audience is men ages 18-34.  This happens to be one of the most desirable demographics for advertisers and women looking to eventually get married and settle down.

Who hasn’t dreamed of a life with Peter Griffin?

Obviously, not all men between the ages of 18 and 34 are going to find the humor of Family Guy appealing.  Yet a growing majority of them do.  I long ago learned as a woman not to attempt to comment on the male psyche; why these men find Family Guy so appealing is not in my realm of interest.  However, the message Family Guy sends about masculinity is so apparent that I can’t help but laugh at this not-so-subtle irony:  Most women looking for men, the ladies trolling the clubs and hitting Happy Hours at the bars, are the ones who tend to stereotype men exactly the way they are portrayed on the show.

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5. Men Are Idiots

This is my personal favorite: “All men are idiots.”  You’ve heard it, usually expressed loudly at a bar by some chick who just can’t understand why after four shots and twice as many beers some guy wouldn’t want to take her home.  For the women with men in their lives, the statement usually gets expressed during a girl’s night out or mommy-time venture.  “All men are idiots” is the most outspoken secret of the female mind.

In the case of Peter Griffin, he’s not just an idiot; he’s “Petarded.”  Yet, despite being uniquely mentally retarded, Peter is bright enough to realize that his diagnosis can get him off the hook in a number of circumstances, from running over the local TV news anchor to having to provide for his family.  After accidentally burning Lois with hot oil and losing custody of their children, Peter is rendered helpless thanks to his diagnosis.  Only Lois can come through and save the day, leaving Peter to be Petarded to his heart’s content.

According to show creator Seth MacFarlane, Family Guy’s humor can run the gamut from rape to racism because lead character Peter Griffin isn’t so much mentally retarded as, well, “oblivious.”

NYT: Personally, I find the show’s rape jokes especially unfunny. In one episode, Peter learns that three co-eds were raped and murdered. He says to himself, “Everyone’s getting laid but me.” Why is that funny?

SM: Because he’s so oblivious. You’re not laughing at rape; you’re laughing at him being an idiot.

NYT: In another episode, Peter asks, “Would you rather be black or crippled?” Why is that funny?

SM: Once again, it all comes back to Peter’s obliviousness. If Peter meant that maliciously, then it wouldn’t be as funny. We try to keep it so that there’s an innocence to the way that he conducts himself.

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4. Men Are Children

With the 21st century trending towards rejuvenile behavior among adults, in particular adult males, the idea that men are just grown boys has taken on a whole new meaning.  It is an accepted fact of womanhood that most men can live in a house that looks like a bomb went off, prefer junk food to vegetables, and get lost in oddball projects in the garage or behind the computer.  Family Guy’s type of rejuvenilia, however, has the potential to draw viewers to a newfound dark side of youthful innocence.

According to Susanna Schrobsdorff at Time magazine, Peter’s “innocence” may fly past the censors, but carries with it the potential for serious consequences in real life.  In an article commenting on the recent Steubenville rape case, Schrobsdorff writes:

 [Family Guy], which has become hugely popular among teen boys and young men, features more rape humor than one could tally, including one scene in which a woman is being assaulted on a beach and screams for help while another character, Aquaman, issues lame threats to the perpetrator without leaving the water. The scene ends when Aquaman gives up, saying: “Well, maybe you shouldn’t have led him on.” Maybe this was brilliant, sophisticated meta-humor in which we’re supposed to see this as a commentary on the pressure men feel to be heroes, but is that really how the show’s prime audience of young men will understand it?

Even the superheroes who show up in Family Guy glom off its apathetic vibe.  As a result, innocent youthful notions of heroism are replaced with ignorant attitudes towards violent behavior that can have dangerous real-life consequences.

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3. Men Are Fraidy-Cats

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Whether it’s the military, the doctor, or the monkey in the closet, the men on Family Guy do more to avoid perceived threats than to confront them, even if it means putting their own self-respect on the line.  Ironically, while feminism focuses on the disenfranchisement of women, it has often done so by disenfranchising men.  The “we don’t need men” mantras of the second-wave feminism movement in the 1960s and 1970s liberated women in the workforce while creating huge psychological gaps in the way men perceive themselves and their roles as fiscal and emotional providers.  As a result, today’s third-wave feminists like Carlos Andres Gomez argue that while “modern masculinity” may involve admitting vulnerability, that does not translate into running from responsibility or giving into childhood fears.

2. Men Are Terrible Fathers


Never has a term been so despised in the ivy halls as “The Patriarchy.”  Whose fault is it when things go wrong?  The Patriarchy.  Who do we love to loathe?  The Patriarchy.  It is as if feminist scholars have an Electra complex for dominant father figures: These men are complete failures, yet our world revolves around them.

Peter Griffin is an incompetent provider who’d rather rely on welfare than have to work for a living.  He’s immature, ignorant, and most likely scared of his own shadow.  Yet, Peter’s belief that “women are things” translates into a truly disturbing pattern of mental and emotional abuse of his daughter Meg.  In fact, Peter’s line, “Shut up, Meg,” has become a catchphrase of the show.

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Peter is the one who establishes that Meg is the outsider in the family.  Meg takes on an Electra-feminist response, continuously struggling to create some kind of a relationship with her father through a variety of circumstances including learning how to drive and dating.  Yet all of this is to no avail.  In one episode, Peter reminds Lois, “We agreed, if we could only save two we’d leave Meg!”  In the end, her unfulfilled need for a father figure results in an apathetic and sometimes violent response to Peter’s insults. 

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1. Men Are Perverts

“All men are perverts.”  I don’t know who said it, but they should have copyrighted the phrase.  It has become an all-too-common everyday mantra, the “Om” of Cosmo readers around the world.  No one stops to ask why all men are perceived to be sexual nutjobs, it’s just an accepted pop-culture fact stemming from the “men are beasts” school of feminist theory.

Family Guy embraces this assumption in a multitude of ways. Herbert the Pervert is a dirty old man trolling the streets of Quahog scheming up ways to inadvertently molest underage boys.

While nothing will stop Peter Griffin from seeking sexual pleasure, even if it means inflicting bodily harm on himself.

Yet Peter’s neighbor Glenn Quagmire trumps them all. This guy is a walking orgasm, living the life you’d imagine Jack Tripper’s best friend Larry from Threee’s Company would have gone onto once everybody abandoned the apartment complex for the suburbs. New women (or cross-dressers) every night and the kind of varied sex life that would make the Kama Sutra look like an Idiot’s Guide to the First Time Out.  Top it off with an unhealthy addiction to Peter’s wife Lois and you’ve got the perfect perv next door.

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Whether playing up to feminist theory or playing into the results of a generation of male bashing, Family Guy’s definition of masculinity is the monster pieced together between books and over Cosmos. Idiotic immaturity that spirals into abusive behavior and perverted tendencies depict men in a far different light than media role models of generations past.

The line between how much the media affects culture and vice-versa may never truly be drawn.  As some commentators have observed, Family Guy’s portrayal of masculinity may very well have a negative impact on its target audience.  And, as still many more single women have observed, Peter Griffin and his crew aren’t unique. Perhaps the answer lies in the words of the great Theodore Herzl as quoted by Walter Sobchak: “If you will it, it is no dream.”

Susan L.M. Goldberg is a writer with a Master's in Radio, Television & Film and a PhD in Life who would be happy roaming the fields of Prince Edward Island with Anne of Green Gables, were it not for her strong belief in the axiom "all that is required for evil to prevail is for good women to do nothing." She prefers the career title "Renaissance Woman" and would happily be bar mates with Ann Coulter, Camille Paglia and Dorothy Parker. Her writing tends towards the intersection of culture, politics and faith with the interest in starting, not stopping the discussion. Follow her on Twitter @SLMGoldberg and @winegirlblog.

Comments are closed.

Top Rated Comments   
I went through my own male-bashing years when I was in the teens and twenties. With an alcoholic father it wasn't hard to justify. My dad's stepmother damaged him--he, in turn, damaged me, and so it goes. Feminist thought is for damaged women who don't want to confront the pain and lack the emotional maturity to self-analyze.
But like the apostle Paul, when I became an adult it was time to put aside childish things. Forgiveness is better than bitterness; compassion is better than revenge.

As mature women we should put aside the male stereotypes. I speak up in defense of men all the time. Some men ARE idiots, perverts, fraidy-cats and the rest. But it doesn't help to keep saying so. The better response is to appeal to a man's higher calling, to that part of him that is the "image of God." Years ago I wrote to my brother-in-law when he was in prison and appealed to his sense of legacy. "How do you want to be remembered?" I asked him. That impacted him and today, with a trust in God, he's committed to doing what's right.

"Family Guy" may be funny, but it's funny because men evidently see themselves in the characters. That's sad, because men have paid their dues and deserve better.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (20)
All Comments   (20)
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Once upon a time men were taught to be gentlemen. Respectful, polite, dignified etc. Sadly, this is no more.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
An interesting article. I love pop-culture articles - Family Guy is a much better indicator of the zeitgeist than some art film watched by a handful of insulated, intellectually-inbred hipsters.

Personally, I'd like to see some attention paid by someone, anyone, about how Nickelodeon depicts men and boys in their "childrens" programming. "Nick" has apparently decided that physical violence and abuse perpetrated by haughty females against "stupid" boys is high comedy. It's absolutely deplorable, yet nobody complains.

It seems like the real crux of the article (and gobs of other female writing on similar issues) is that women really hate it when men "check out" from performing their traditional role as the family's provider and protector. Sorry ladies, but you're the ones that nuked the traditional gender roles. Now you get to reap what you sowed.



1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Uhhh...it is obnoxious to treat rape in this way, but you seem to miss the point of the point of the Aquaman scene: it is to indicate that Aquaman is contemptible and useless (which was funny once a decade or so back) by having him refuse to help but rather to take refuge in so contemptible an idea as that the victim '...led him [the rapist] on'. Similarly, Quagmire is not held up as being normative or normal---he is a pervert, and (more to the point) a rapist (he uses rohypnol sometimes) and a bit of a queer-hater (his reaction to finding out that he had had sex with a transvestite was one of absolute horror), so we should not approve of him.

Oddly enough, the treatment of Mr Herbert jibes with one account I heard of someone who grew up in a small town: there was a man who lived on the corner, all the children were warned to stay clear of him, but as long as he was never caught doing anything untoward in town, he was let alone---the tolerance of people who are not tolerant, but hate scandal.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
What guff.

Peter's a character, an avatar for comic ideas. He would not be a good subject for analysis even if your process of analysis was legitimate, or your conclusions not preordained, or your mind not poisoned by so much dissonance shared with such a tiny, toxic audience.
Peter's problems are not inherent to him; they're not caused by anything but his own comedic purpose. This is why he can be more than one obnoxious thing in two consecutive weeks. He's just a shallow, careless version of Homer Simpson freed from the weird style of Matt Groening and planted in a marginally different situation.
Perhaps you're confused by the fact that Peter is a cartoon. That doesn't excuse this moronic line of reasoning, but it might explain where you discovered the link to this week's culture-war scoop. Perhaps you're confused because Peter's wife is obviously capable, sensible, and effective--like an increasing number of women are in this country, which apparently rankles White Men for some reason, probably related to the fact that football games and NASCAR races are zero-sum events so participation in this great commonwealth must be too. No matter--you went a-trolling for a vehicle for your contempt, loaded it with your pre-built notions, and drove on.
But Peter that cartoon is no more indicative of truths about (insert your current Big Conservative Idea here) than Ronald Reagan the actor was indicative of the mood of the country at any given time you might care to choose. Reagan was half a dozen decisions removed from any real 'influence', even demographic influence. This is related to the reasons humor works, which are tough to understand even for seasoned scribes with Masters degrees.

PUt another way, Family Guy is about as reliable an indicator of some key truth about our society and polity as these comments are indicators of your discovery of some key truth about Family Guy.

Family Guy is supposed to be funny, sure. But 'funny' is a troublesome word for people who worry that laughter is weakness. You want easy humor, watch Mac Davis or Carol Burnett (the early ones) or perhaps Lawrence Welk. Family guy is that sort of humor that isn't exactly funny, but is a very reliable detector of puritans and pharisees. We're not supposed to laugh at Peter--we're supposed to laugh at those who are laughing at Peter, but we are supposed to laugh loudest, and last, at those who utter such a deal of stinking breath about how tragic Peter really, really is. Would-be pharisees, I mean.
Phariseeing pays well--see Will, George F, to decide if it pays well enough to offset loss of honor. There are many applicants for the positions. There are those who openly honor puritans and pharisees--no doubt some of those are even now hunting and pecking in the coterie represented below. The cutting-edge scatology and half-baked satire of a show like Family Guy is perfect to get those tinhorn intern pharisees to stand up and blatt out their sanctimony, to claim their ration of contempt which they wear as a badge of honor (upside-down), and to rant on. Those folks aren't worth many words, because they don't read.
It's the stealth pharisees like our writer above I like most. Given enough leash--which little backwaters of logic like PJ Media provide--they'll demonstrate the full spectrum of hypocrisy in a single sally. These are the black-belt pharisees, the ones with degrees and studiedly ironic writing styles. They're usually cautious, because they're smart enough to avoid open forums, big ideas, and real people--they know that one errant culture-war torpedo can turn upon its maker--see Bachmann, M and Santorum, R for ample evidence of this.) The up-and-comers are the most interesting. The nature of Phariseeism means that those who stand pat are passed over. We White Males, for example, know that we're a species endangered by our own treasured mediocrity; we won't tolerate a pharisee who fails to note that everything is For Us or Agin Us. We won't tolerate a statement that doesn't annoy a little bit more than the previous one.

...
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment

It's a risky business! The Pharisee of the Moment can't stand pat--that's a lot of pressure; plus, it's her nature not to resist a fat pitch in the middle of the plate like Family Guy (or Murphy Brown, or Lenny Bruce, or Jonathan Swift, or Aristophanes, or the hundred other examples of Pesky Irony in Action that have outed Bowdlers from the first days).

Oh, it's sweet to say this. They--I mean you, and y'all--can't resist. Wonder why? because THAT'S WHAT IT'S FOR. Family Guy (and it's not even very good, this show, but good enough) is calculated to get you to write claptrap like the post above. Family Guy is composed to attract you, and it isn't even very good, and it still succeeds. That splitter dies into the dirt and you swing, swing for the seats, and there you are with your butt out and your hands up and your mouth open and the catcher is trotting back to the dugout before you realize you're out and on a bus to Paducah.

Sure, some of those precious demographical nobodies are guffawing from the belly, but plenty more are laughing with their minds. This sucks for you because it means that not only are the people who create this second-rate show smarter than you are, a lot of the dufuses who are laughing at it are smarter than you are, and they don't even realize it.

In other words--you dig, dig, dig with great confidence, cheered on by these sad, abused white males with their constrained civil rights. You dig and mine and chuckle at your cleverness, sapping your way under the walls of Elsinore, imagining your heroism, kudos from the Duke of York and a terse nod from Fluellen, you dig, dig, dig. But Family Guy has already burrowed beneath you, a worthy pioner indeed. They dug, and finished long ago, and walked away to work on something else, maybe a pint in the tavern, while you dig. You dig, and this slovenly, simpleminded show waits to blow you at the moon.

sayonara!

ice
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
If this passes for humor, it is because America is a sick country.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
White male bashing is a full blown industry. When I was hired by a major automotive manufacturer, all new hires had to take a one day seminar on how men and women interact in the workplace. It turned out to be eight solid hours of white male bashing at the hands of two professional facilitators. That was in 1999 and now I see people everywhere casually bashing white males. It is time for white males to start pushing back!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
......also suggest readers here look up the expression,

"Hoist with his own petard." .......doubtless there is no connection....or if there is it is wonderfully subtle.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"Family Guy" is merely a continuation of a 65 year downward spiral where TV portays men as helpless fools. Go all the way back to "The Life of Reilley" in the early 1950s and you will see the main character portrayed as a good natured stumblebum, but a stumblebum just the same, who can only be rescued by his ever patient ( and much smarter of course ) devoted wife. The same was true with Ozzie Nelson and Danny Thomas. Father was always a "dummy." Funny thing is, the generation of men they were portraying was not some directionless group of louts but the very same one that defeated the Axis war machine in WW II. Later on as the censors lowered the bar, the downward spiral continued, albeit in a more sexualized way but downward nevertheless. The same theme persisted, "Father is an idiot and all men are stupid." Why did this happen? Things can only happen if they are allowed to happen. One reason is simple. The tv ratings were high. As a former advertising person, I can state with authority that this is the ONLY thing that is important to the networks. The executives and the sponsors don't give a damn about anything else. A second reason? As the Baby Boom generation grew older ( not necessarily grew up ) young men became "more sensitive" and were taught to be less like their fathers. Mores the pity.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
There was also the strong desire to cater to house-wives, who were believed to make the important buying decisions...and since their approved rôles were somewhat limited and the men (mostly, in advertising) at least as misogynist as normal (viz 'Two Cs in a K') they couldn't fijnd much to praise in an house-wife...so the best they could do was to slag her husband.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The men the MSM and Hollywood have been showing America aren't imagined. They are the men the MSM and Hollywood grew up with. They fought WW II in the QMC and Special Services, not the Marines and USAAF. They live in NYC and Hollywood, and think anybody living in between was an extra in "Deliverance". Hollwood and NYC are not just un-American; they are anti-American.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I'm sorry, whom do you mean? Growing up in the N.y.C. are there were plenty of men, my father and his friends and associates, who fought---and I do mean 'fought'---in the Second World War and/or in Korea.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I came here to post a similar comment, but you said it better than I could have.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
It's not that the show is defining masculinity, but lampooning women's, and the left's perception of men. Every theme in the show can be found in commercials, sit-coms and editorials daily. They just found a way to cash in.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I can't believe that show is actually popular; I saw one episode last year and it was simply boring - trying for 1990s Simpsons and not even coming close.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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