Family Guy is set to evolve past homophobia, according to the show’s executive producers.
Sunday night’s episode of Family Guy saw Peter Griffin, the titular “guy,” take a job as press secretary to President Donald Trump. In a meta moment, Griffin explained to Trump that the show is “trying to phase out” gay jokes. In an interview with TVLine, executive producers Rich Appel and Alec Sulkin confirmed that the writer’s room has evolved past using gays as a punchline.
“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,” Sulkin said. “Some of the things we felt comfortable saying and joking about back then, we now understand is not acceptable.”
Appel added that the show’s evolution is a result of the show having been on the air for 20 years and the attitude towards gay people changing in that time. But, he said, this isn’t about censorship.
“It’s not us reacting and thinking, ‘They won’t let us [say certain things].’ No, we’ve changed too,” he said. “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.”
Family Guy has gotten a reputation for its casual gay jokes. In one episode, the family are gathered around the television watching a movie called Dracula in San Francisco, which makes a joke about Dracula potentially getting HIV from biting a sleeping blonde man.
One-year-old Stewie’s sexuality has also been a running gag on the series, which the show addressed in a 2018 special episode. Stewie spoke about his sexuality with a therapist played by Ian McKellen.
“Stewie’s awareness of his sexuality is this uncertain thing, and that needs to stay as it is. His uncertainty gives him a vulnerability, which is something we need to maintain for the series,” writer Gary Janetti told TVLine. Appel told TVLine at the time that show creator Seth McFarlane’s opinion “was to not lean into [Stewie’s sexuality] too much. He’s still a baby. He doesn’t know yet, and sexuality is a very fluid matter. It’s better to keep that as something that’s not determined yet.”
Family Guy also received intense backlash in 2010 for the episode “Quagmire’s Dad,” which had some extremely transphobic jokes, including a sequence where Brian, having slept with Quagmire’s parent, who identifies as a transgender woman, begins to vomit all over the floor.
Some of McFarlane’s other shows have done a bit better when it comes to discussing sexuality. One episode of American Dad, season three’s “Lincoln Lover,” was nominated for a GLAAD Media Award for outstanding individual episode. In the episode, the titular dad works through his own homophobia after writing a homoerotic play about Abraham Lincoln.
Looks like you can evolve past homophobic jokes!