Should Family Guy 'phase out' gay jokes?

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Stewie from Family GuyImage source, FOX
Image caption,
Stewie has often been the butt of gay jokes on Family Guy

Family Guy is known for its politically incorrect humour, but now the team behind the show are making some changes.

Fans of the animated comedy series are used to its often distasteful humour. One character, Joe, is in a wheelchair, and the subject of many of the show's disabled jokes.

Another, Quagmire, is used as a platform for the many references to rape or sexual harassment.

And during the show's 17-season run, Stewie, the Griffin family baby, has been hit with quips about being gay.

But it appears that the jokes targeted at the LGBT community are on the way out.

In Sunday's episode, Peter Griffin, who is voiced by the show's creator Seth MacFarlane, was seen telling a cartoon President Trump that the show was trying to "phase out" gay jokes.

"Many children have learned their favourite Jewish, black, and gay jokes by watching your show over the years," the animated president tells Peter.

"In fairness, we've been trying to phase out the gay stuff," Peter replies. "But you know what? We're a cartoon. You're the president."

The change in direction has been confirmed by the show's executive producers Alec Sulkin and Rich Appel, who told TV Line that they want to better reflect the current climate in the show.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Seth MacFarlane with Rich Appel and Alec Sulkin at a Fox press event in 2018

Sulkin said: "If you look at a show from 2005 or 2006 and put it side by side with a show from 2018 or 2019, they're going to have a few differences.

"Some of the things we felt comfortable saying and joking about back then, we now understand is not acceptable."

Appel added: "The climate is different, the culture is different and our views are different. They've been shaped by the reality around us, so I think the show has to shift and evolve in a lot of different ways."

One of the defences of the show's controversial storylines is that they make fun of all minority groups equally and some have argued that there's no reason one particular minority group should be exempt.

"If Family Guy is gonna be mainstream and not edgy, what's the point?" asked one fan of the show on Twitter. "Early 2000s Family Guy was funny because it pushed boundaries."

And some in the LGBT community argued the show does not offend them.

"I'm gay, my boyfriend and I watch Family Guy, and we laugh at the gay jokes as much as we laugh at any of the jokes," wrote viewer Zell on Twitter.

"I never felt like the gay jokes were at Stewie's expense, but rather an evolution of the character," added Rhagana. "It seemed like the more queer he became, the less evil he was."

However, some people think Family Guy is in need of change, including Nick Duffy, the current affairs editor of Pink News, who says it is important to reflect a more modern view of homosexuality in the show.

"Family Guy has been very much reliant on stereotypes of predatory gay men," he tells BBC News.

"And it's not just gay people specifically, but before Caitlyn Jenner came out as transgender, they made heavy quips about her gender identity, which they've been criticised for before.

"At the time she was in the closet and since then she's come out. They've not apologised although they do seem to have moved past it."

Image source, FOX

Duffy says the reason comedy shows often miss the mark is because they portray "a straight white man's experience of comedy - just look at Saturday Night Live!"

But, he adds: "We are seeing more diverse narratives of LGBT experience in comedy and new storylines coming through, like Hannah Gadsby's show Nanette on Netflix.

"It says something about the world those shows inhabit and it's now changing, so it looks like shows like Family Guy are becoming more inclusive, but I hope that's also happening behind the scenes too."

Daily Mail Australia writer Jacques Peterson, who writes about pop culture and entertainment, says that Family Guy misses the mark when it comes to comedic value altogether.

"I'm gay and I don't have any problem with Family Guy or anyone else telling gay jokes as long as they're funny. But Family Guy just isn't funny," he tells BBC News.

"It's just a bunch of pop culture references and random 'stuff' thrown together... the show doesn't even push the envelope far enough to warrant a few laughs from shock value."

He disagrees with the idea that adding diverse writers to the mix would improve Family Guy's gay jokes and says a good joke is a good joke regardless of who wrote it.

"Personally I think it's rubbish to say that gay jokes have to be written by gay people. Does that mean gay people can't write jokes about straight people?" he asks.

"If we could only write about people who are exactly like us the world would be a very boring place. I'm a writer and I'm going to write about anything and anybody I want, and I hope other writers do the same."

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