Rather than portraying the objects of its humor in hopes that witty ridicule and public shame might provoke change, transgressive humor does not expect or even desire a change, for then the fun would end. This distinction seems to be supported by the way focus group members differentiated between the humor of King of the Hill and Family Guy, which they had less commentary on but claimed to watch more often (Tueth B06).
The first episode also reveals the aesthetics of the American audience that is attuned to relishing magic realism on screen. For example, the sudden interruption of the realistic narrative flow by the giant anthropomorphized jug of Kool-Aid (an artificially flavored soft-drink) takes everyone in the courtroom by surprise. As people in the courtroom gaze bemused at this unexpected entry, the Kool-Aid icon backs away out of the room gently, smoothly, and efficiently, only as a cartoon character can do. This example typifies another aspect of American television, namely that of product placement. In terms of the aesthetic relevance, it shows how American viewers enjoy elements of magic realism. As a noted media commentator observes,
The episode offers no explanation for this sudden incursion and hardly any time to dwell on it because as soon as the invading creature exits the scene, the episode continues apace, forcing the viewer to move on with the renewed flow of narrative. This was a familiar sensation, however, one I recognized but never before from animation. In fact, I was reminded of works from the literary world, particularly those that use a technique called magical realism… (Crawford 52)
When ones studies the show in question with other animated sitcoms such as The Simpsons (the first animated show to be screened in prime time since The Flintstones in the 1960s), Beavis and Butthead, King of the Hill, South Park, and Futurama, one could see what is fresh and new with Family Guy. Developing on the strong foundation of audience of animated sitcoms allowed writers to be more adventurous with novel comedic styles. In other words, upon the groundwork of ‘realism’ left by preceding animated sitcoms, the ‘magic realism’ of Family Guy thrives. In this sense, the show could be seen as a chapter in the evolution of American television entertainment. To this extent, Family Guy is a source for sociological study and insight. For example,
…although Family Guy is essentially a situation comedy, and comedy is the prime objective of the show, the concerns of the postmodern age are evident in the pop-culture magical realism it utilizes. The fact that Family Guy and many other prime-time animated sitcoms are so sophisticated intertextually is due to the anxieties that the postmodern writer experiences (Crawford 52).
In conclusion, Family Guy is a rich source for sociological study in the context of American culture. It reveals interesting details about the American audience’s sense of humor and other social preoccupations. In particular, the role of sex and the complexities of family relationships are colorfully and humorously portrayed, offering the audience fresh perspectives.
Crawford, Alison. “”Oh Yeah!”: Family Guy as Magical Realism?.” Journal of Film and Video 61.2 (2009): 52+. Print.
Tueth, Michael V. “Family Guy’ Alive”. The Washington Times (9 Jan. 2007): B06. Print.
Kim, Janna L., et al. “From Sex to Sexuality: Exposing the Heterosexual Script on Primetime Network Television.” The Journal of Sex Research 44.2 (2007): 145+. Print.
“Top 10 Worst Anti-family Shows on Television.” Human Events (25 Aug. 2000): 12. Print.