Over the past few years, “Family Guy,” has become an extremely popular and controversial cartoon. However, due to its popularity, “Family Guy” has passively adopted a role in portraying sexism through television. Most would agree that the cartoon is derogatory to many significant issues such as sexism, racism, etc. Some people would also agree that the crudeness the show presents is considered acceptable because it’s presented in a humorous way. There have been a number of sexist episodes such as “Stewie, the Untold Story,” “Chick Cancer,” and probably the most chauvinist, “I am Peter, hear me roar” (familyguy.com). This paper argues that the display of sexism on the show is wrong even if it is considered comical. The sexist behavior should be immensely reduced or there should be an equal amount of insults and jokes about both men and women.
In “I am Pater, hear me roar,” the entire episode is awfully sexist towards women. Each scene has a number of “jokes” that attempt to make sexism within the episode seem acceptable. It begins with Peter (Father) telling jokes to some of his co-workers who all happen to be men. However the jokes that Peter shares are explicitly sexist. He starts off saying “How many women does it take to screw in a light bulb? Two, one woman to screw in the light bulb and one to take her clothes off!” As Peter continues to amuse all of the guys, Linda, a female co-worker comes by and asks to hear a joke, but she has no idea about what kind of jokes he is telling. With Peter being somewhat unintelligent, he agrees to tell another joke. He is completely unaware of the harm that is about to take place. He says “Why do women have boobs? So you can have something to look at when you talk to them.” Peter’s co-worker is appalled and immediately reports him to the supervisor. As he goes in to meet with the boss, he finds out that Linda has hired a lawyer to sue the company for sexual harassment on behalf of Peter. Linda’s lawyer, Ms. Ironbox, is a strong, stout, and independent woman dressed in a suit and because of this, Peter asks her if she is a lesbian. This implies the double standard which creates the oppression of women. Just because a woman dresses in business attire and does not try to boast her beauty even in the workplace, she is considered a lesbian among society. This particular stereotype is completely inaccurate and unjust.
Sexism is thought of as mistreatment, or discrimination based on an individual’s sex. Sexism can refer to the belief that one sex is inferior, hatred towards another sex, distrust or opposition, or even different attitudes (wikipedia.org). A person can be sexist even to their own sex. Sexism is a major contributor to the “standard” of specific behaviors in regards to gender (Lecture-McCauliff). This particular standard creates and intensifies the oppression of sex, and gender. Male chauvinism is the specific view of sexism that female sex is inferior to the male sex. “Family Guy” presents a numerous amount of sexism that is most prominent with male chauvinism (Ruether).
Later in the episode, Peter’s boss forces him to attend a sexual harassment course and women’s retreat in order to prevent the company from being sued. Peter first attends the sexual harassment course in which he doesn’t really show any signs of altering his chauvinistic ways. Afterwards, Peter and his wife Lois attend the company banquet where Peter introduces Lois to Ms. Ironbox. As they are converse, Ms. Ironbox asks Lois about her job, in which Lois admits that she is a stay-at-home mom. Ironbox frowns upon Lois’s decision saying, “I fought hard for people like you to be free of that bondage.” Ironbox’s could be considered a First Wave Feminist. However, she only presents a small argument in that the idea of feminism is based on individualism, choice, and equality. At the end of the episode Peter still never manages to learn his lesson. Before going to bed, Peter asks his Lois to make him a sandwich. She agrees to make it and then begins a conversation with Peter where he interrupts her exclaiming, “Lois…less talky, more walky” (familyguy.com). Throughout the episode, there are many sexist comments, jokes, which are not considered offensive to most just because the message is delivered in a humorous way.
“Family Guy” is not always explicit or blatant in the display of sexism through television. The show has many minor scenes in which sexist or degrading behavior may not be deliberately shown, but truthfully, it is still a problem. For example, in many of the past episodes the youngest character “Stewie,” who is a toddler, celebrates his accomplishments with what he calls “Sexy Parties.” In these particular parties Stewie runs around the room with a dozen half-naked female strippers.
The reason that the sexist behaviors presented in “Family Guy” are so unjust is because the behaviors promote sexism and encourage society’s belief that it is okay to be a participant. Furthermore, most of the sexist jokes and scenes in the show are kind of one sided in that there are very few insults or jokes in regards to men. The so called “humorous” derogatory is directed towards women more. With this fact, if the sexist jokes are to continue, they should have an equal balance between both men and women. Sexist and chauvinistic behavior is exposed through all types of media each and everyday. The media is an extremely powerful tool that can both fix, and damage society. The best way to help is to do everything possible to help fix the issues that keep all people oppressed. Male masculinity is the key factor involved in the portrayal of sexism through the media, and society in general. In contrast to the negative effect of masculinity, society as a whole must encourage both liberal and Sex-positive feminism. Sex-positive feminism is the concept of women reclaiming their sexuality, and having the same sexual freedom as men. Liberal feminism sets everything equal, with more practical and considerable ideas (Lecture-McCauliff). Both views promote equality and individualism which are the key ingredients to the recipe of feminism and a free world.