By Susan Aumiller, Community Relations Coordinator
Sunday night, FOX’s Family Guy focused their show on domestic violence, and severely missed the mark. Discussed on Showbiz Tonight, anchor A.J. Hammer was joined by Wendy Walsh, co-host of The Doctors, to discuss the episode “Screams of Silence: The Story of Brenda Q.” The episode focuses on Quagmire recovering from an accident, and his sister, Brenda, coming to town to help, with her abusive boyfriend, Jeff, abusing her through most of the episode.
“Like so many other people, I was just shocked by what I saw on Family Guy last night,” Hammer said of the beatings administered by Jeff, and the sad reaction of Brenda. “It was really just a depressing half hour of television.”
Hammer asks Walsh what was wrong with the episode, and she said, “They made fun of the victim more than they made fun of the assailant. The main theme of the show was about this poor ‘stupid’ woman who was too dumb to leave her relationship. And domestic violence is far more complicated than that. We’re watching someone rationalize a domestic violence relationship and this is the kind of thought process that actually goes on in real life. It’s not satire anymore.”
Family Guy fans are used to watching a show that pushes the limits. Unfortunately, they’re also used to rape humor, male privilege and gross-out humor that many people find distasteful. But this episode seems to have pushed past being just not being funny and entered the levels of inappropriate. Jezebel’s Whitney Jefferson points out how the show hit a new low:
In this episode, we’re introduced to Quagmire’s little sister, Brenda, and Lois expresses her concern over Brenda’s abusive boyfriend, Jeff: “She’s still with him? Isn’t he the one that beats her?” and Peter replies, “Yeah, but she’s gotten a lot better.” This is just the first of many, many disgusting non-jokes.
The episode only gets worse from there. Quagmire begs Lois to talk to his sister about the problem, but Peter butts in, “Well, let’s hope she’s good at talking because we know she doesn’t listen so good.”
When Quagmire asks Joe, a police officer, if there is anything in his power that he can do to stop the violence, he responds, “Sorry — police policy is that we can’t step in until it’s too late.” Instead, Joe suggests an intervention, in which Quagmire reads a letter to his beloved little sister that goes something like this:
The person I see before me right now is just a punching bag. And I call you “person,” not “woman,” because a woman is a strong, beautiful vibrant creature. Sadly, the fact that you are with Jeff proves to me that you have made a choice to make your life worse.
The intervention ends when Jeff shows up and the couple announces that they’re having a baby and getting married — but as Brenda says, “I’d show you the ring, but it’s under this splint.”
And the “humor” isn’t limited to the aforementioned one-liners; we’ve got Jeff violently dragging Brenda into another room, offscreen, where we can hear the physical abuse.
This isn’t a PSA or an after-school special; this is Family Guy. But given that this loathsome episode pegged itself to a very serious problem, you’d think maybe at the end they’d flash a hotline number or something. You’d be wrong.
FOX has refused to air Family Guy episodes before (one dealing with abortion and one with heavy Jewish themes) but apparently no one at FOX got the memo that this episode should join them on the “do not play” list.
So what can we do about it? Tell your friends why it’s not funny. Use social media to your advantage! Tweet Family Guy on twitter (@familyguyonfox) or contact FOX’s PR department to let them know why this episode is not OK: firstname.lastname@example.org.