Totally Petarded: The Top 5 Masculinity Myths on Family Guy
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.
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.
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.