The communication situation that I have chosen to focus on this semester is how the show Family Guy relies on offensive jokes and stereotypes of fat people. I have specifically focused on the episode “The Fat Guy Strangler”. Family Guy is an animated adult cartoon television series that premiered on January 31, 1999. The storylines of each episode center around the main character Peter and his family which consists of Lois his wife, his children Meg, Chris, and Stewie, and his dog Brian.
Peter is in his mid-40’s, has brown, short hair and is fat, wears round, thin, black framed glasses, a white button down, green pants, a black belt with a gold buckle, and brown shoes. Lois is a middle-aged woman in her early 40’s with a slim build and red hair that is cut into a bob. She wears a teal button down, tan pants, and burgundy flats. Meg is not as slim as her mother, but is not tremendously overweight. She is Chris’ older sister and has brown short hair, wears a pink hat, pink t-shirt, white undershirt, thin, black, round framed glasses, blue jeans, and white sneakers.
Chris is the middle child and has blonde hair that is shaggy and shoulder length, is very overweight, resembling his father, wears a black and yellow baseball cap, a blue t-shirt, black pants, and red and white striped sneakers. Stewie is the youngest child and is a baby. He has a football shaped head, with a few strands of dark hair, wears a yellow shirt beneath red overalls which have yellow buttons, and white sneakers. Brian is a white dog that has the ability to talk and has a fondness for martinis and wears a red collar with a gold tag.
The storylines of Family Guy are usually non-continuous and the main character Peter often gets into antics with his small group of friends Joe, Quagmire, and Cleveland. When I say that the storylines are non-continuous, this can apply to each episode itself which can have at least two different plots going on, but also how no two episodes relate to each other most of the time. For example, the second episode of a season can have and usually does have a different plot from the first episode.
Peter, the main character is supposed to be your everyday, middle class, working man. He is very overweight which is often joked about throughout the series and is lacking in intelligence. His lack of intelligence often gets him into precarious situations. In the group of main characters, Peter is not the only one who’s appearance is joked about. Peter’s son, Chris takes after his father and is extremely overweight and low in intelligence. In episodes where he plays a slightly larger role, jokes are often made at his expense.
Also, Meg, Peter’s daughter is not shown to be drastically overweight but is not thin and her looks and weight are the punchline of a lot of jokes. The animation style of this show is simple in nature, and as it progressed looks more digitalized and 3-D as opposed to flat as it was in earlier seasons. When I say simple in nature, I mean that the characters are drawn and outlined in black and have simple features. The background settings do not particularly stand out, and also look flat since they are not the primary focus.
The episodes are short in length and are generally between 20-23 minutes long. One form of comedy that Family Guy relies on in nearly every episode is cutaway gags. This is when a character sets up a brief scene that may or may not be clearly related to what is going on in that moment, and the scene of the storyline that is the focus of the episode is paused for this short scene from something else before returning to the situation at hand.
An example of this is when Meg’s friends are bothering Brian when they have a sleepover and he says “And I gotta do something, ’cause they’re more annoying than ants at a picnic”, which sets up a scene of two ants barbecuing and purposely annoying a couple who is trying to have a picnic next to them. The tone that Family Guy sets is more often than not, one that is light and humorous. However, on rare occasions, it can delve into more serious subject matter. An example of this is episode three of season ten titled “Screams of Silence: The Story of Brenda Q”, which premiered on October 30, 2011.
This episode shows a serious depiction of domestic violence between Quagmire’s sister and her boyfriend. She does not entirely accept that her boyfriend is abusive and does not want to leave him because of the effect that the relationship has had on her. Peter, Quagmire, Joe, and Cleveland try to save her from her situation. Family Guy’s intended audience is your average middle class person. Men would be more likely to be fans of the show than women because of the humor that it portrays. It is trying to appeal to an audience that is large to get more viewers.
For example, Family Guy has fart jokes, shows Peter drinking with his friends, or cracking open a beer after work, and depicts scenes of exaggerated bodily functions, such as in episode 8 of season 4 titled “8 Simple Rules for Buying My Teenage Daughter”, which premiered on July 10, 2005. In this episode, Peter, Brian, Chris, and Stewie have an ipecac drinking contest to see who can drink the most before they throw up. Ipecac is a drug that is like cough syrup and is used to induce vomiting.
Technically Chris is the winner because he is the last to vomit, but all four of them proceed to projectile vomit in a scene that lasts 56 seconds. The episode that I am focusing on for my semester report, “The Fat Guy Strangler” premiered on November 27, 2005. The episode begins with Peter neglecting to go to his yearly physical at the doctor’s office in favor of going out to eat with his friends, despite Lois’ repeatedly reminding and urging him to go. At the restaurant, we can see him drastically overeat. He actually groans out that he ate seven sixteen ounce steaks.
Later in the episode, Peter wears his child’s clothes which are comically too small for him. As Peter walks into the living room in a pink onesie that obviously does not fit, he says to Lois “Hey, if I’m fat, then Stewie’s fat too because we wear the same size onesie. ” Brian, his dog goes on to mock Peter’s weight by demonstrating to him that he has his own gravitational pull. He tosses more and more things at Peter’s stomach only to have them rotate around him because of the gravitational pull Peter exhibits.
Peter, surprised and now realizing that he is fat, creates a group for fat people called the NAAFP (the national association for the advancement of fat people). The sign displayed outside the building on the night of the first meeting actually says “no fat chicks allowed”. This means that even though this is a group for fat people, these fat men still view fat women as beneath them. The men in this group that Peter created are very big, grotesque, eating as soon as possible, in bad health, and some are in ill-fitting clothing and break furniture.
When the meeting begins, they all shuffle into the room and breathe loudly as if they are unable to catch their breath. When they take a seat in the chairs set up around the room, they all pull snacks seemingly out of nowhere and eat noisily. The scene ends with all of the fat men wheezing and Peter concluding the meeting when one of them breaks a chair. Earlier in the episode, Lois learns that she has a brother named Patrick who was locked in an insane asylum for most of his life because of a traumatic experience in his childhood that involved a fat man.
Lois upon learning this signs him out and lets him live with her family. It is revealed that Patrick is a serial killer of fat men called “the fat guy strangler” after Peter pushes Patrick too far, reminding him of his traumatic experience. Lois finally accepts that her brother is a serial killer when her and Brian enter his room and find pictures of him killing numerous fat men taped up on the walls and actually find a dead fat man under the bed and a half dead fat man in the corner.
Patrick kills multiple fat men over the course of a few days and nearly kills Peter in the woods before being found and apprehended and being put back in the insane asylum once more. The episode ends with Stewie coming into the living room where the family sits and asking about the half dead fat man eating the fat man. No one bothers to reply to him and they presumably let the half dead fat man finish eating the dead one.