If you want to take a look into the mind of the average American then take a close look at what the average American is watching on the television. Reality TV shows now lead all the Nielsen ratings, because people want to watch famous people doing the same menial things that they do. With the exception of a few train wrecks like Jersey Shore and The Bad Girls Club, the average American consumes television shows that mirror their day to day life. This is the reason that sitcoms like All in the Family and Three’s Company were so popular in the 70’s and 80’s. The main characters of these shows were simple caricatures of civilian life at that time. All in the Family focused on the fairly racist and belligerent father, Archie Bunker and his family. His wife was a quiet housewife and mother, and their daughter was a free thinker who regularly clashed with her rigid father. The show reflected the social norms of the 70s with strict father figures and docile mother figures raising radical thinking children. Three’s Company mimicked the swinging 70s and early 80s. Jack Tripper, a bachelor, roomed with two attractive single ladies, Janet and Chrissy, and attempted to date every woman in his city. He eventually decided to just date both of his roommates. Three’s Company displayed free love and social fluidity, the values of the disco era. Everyone was actively looking for love, and exploring opportunities for sex. And, television of today follows the same trend.
Television has always served as a direct depiction of the current events in society, whether literal or satirical. And no show gives a more insightful view into the American family dynamic than the TV show Family Guy. Though Family Guy is a gross exaggeration of family life in the average home, the show personifies what the people think about each other, what they think about the world, and what they think about themselves. The very fact that Family Guy is a cartoon is an indictment of the current state of television, and the cartoon format is a medium that allows the director to openly question and ostracize societal occurrences with comedy. Family Guy embodies all the ideals of the typical American family.
The Griffin family is an allegory of society’s perception of the perfect American family, and they reflect the typical American clan composed of two happily married parents, 2 and ½ children, and a dog. Seth Macfarlane, the creator of Family Guy, took both a literal and a satirical jab at Americans and American television programs by making the Griffins the exact size of the nuclear family. Those types of concrete and figurative notes are strewn throughout the show and displayed in each of the characters. As a unit, the Griffins function as a normal family. However, they are prone to every version of dysfunction that human beings believe about those character archetypes and the relationships between them.
Just like any other family, the Griffins deal with basic family dynamics. They have marital problems, favorite kids, and deal with the everyday stresses of working and living with other people. They are in essence an overstated adaptation of an American family.
Peter Griffin is the average American male. He is overweight, a bit of a drunk, and slightly incompetent. He is stuck in middle management and is bored in his day to day affairs. Peter Griffin is the literal adaptation of the red-blooded American male. He curses, is obnoxious, and rarely if ever thinks his actions all the way through the end. He is an indictment of stupid American men.
Lois, his wife, echoes every housewife in the average sitcom today. She is a very attractive woman, but married to a fat, balding guy. She nags everyone in the house and holds the house together throughout all their outlandish antics. She also poses as a satirical commentary on today’s average married housewife. She is covertly sexual and slightly repressed. She struggles with some of the subtleties of being a stay-at-home mom, like when to wean her baby, dealing with the pressures of being the backbone of the family, and tolerating her husband’s nonsense. Lois serves as an exact iteration of housewives everywhere.
Their oldest child, Meg Griffin, is unattractive and unpopular in school like most teenagers, and the show plays that up. Her father is somewhat contemptuous towards her which exaggerates her not fitting in anywhere. She is a caricature of the black sheep and she is tortured at home and at school.
Chris Griffin, the middle child, is fairly innocuous and underachieving, yet he has actually has friends at school and is accepted at home. Someone has to be the favorite. He is the butt of dumb blonde jokes and male teenager masturbation fodder.
Stewie Griffin is Family Guy’s acerbic version of any family’s youngest child. He is oft-ignored, and misinterpreted. Though he is very eloquent and verbose on the show, every adult that listens to him on the show only hears babble and baby talks him constantly. He is a satirical example of children understanding significantly more things about the people around them and their environment than they are given credit for observing. Even his mother fails to see his genius, and he is often frustrated by it and throws a tantrum which exacerbates his problem.
And, finally Brian Griffin reflects how highly people value their pets. In Family Guy, the Griffins literally treat him like any other member of the family. It is a caustic examination of how fanatical people can be about their pets. He has a place at the table, he goes drinking with Peter his owner, and is the sounding board for all the family’s problems. Brian is probably the most intelligent and is by far the most responsible figure of the Griffins.
Family Guy gives a poignant view into the psyche of the average family and the average person. It parodies the idiosyncrasies of married suburban life, and its satirical reflection of society and their quirks allow people to look at themselves and laugh.