This perfectly summarizes why I love the Simpsons and hate Family Guy.
I watched that episode with my family and I could just feel how uncomfortable everyone was. Honestly, it was a really jarring, unpleasant episode.
Homer is a terrible dad. So is Peter. But Homer’s saving grace has always been that he tries—he’s bad at it and he fucks it up a lot, but he loves his family and he wants to be better than he is.
One of my favorite Homer moments is in “Diatribe of a Mad Housewife.” Tl;dr Marge writes a steamy romance novel starring herself and Ned, and when Homer finds out, he chases down Ned and, rather than attack him, asks him to teach him how to be a better husband.
There’s some part of his stupid self that wants to do better.
I never got that impression with Peter. Instead, the family has gotten more and more abusive towards Meg. It’s really unsettling for me when I started realizing that’s what happens sometimes in abusive families. Abusers sometimes single out one child to abuse, and quite often the other family members take the abuser’s side. After all, it’s easier to side with an abuser than to run the risk of becoming the target yourself.
There’s never really a point where it seems like Peter cares at all that his shitty behavior impacts his family. It actually seems to have gotten worse over the years. He expects everyone to clean up his messes because that’s always what happens; there’s really no reason for him not to be shitty.
And it’s easy to see how Meg is affected. She doesn’t have much of a character, really, because so much her screen time is devoted to being abused. The bits of character development all seem to hinge on her being this sad, neglected person who’s trying her best but never really gets any help from anyone. Quite the opposite; there have been a lot of episodes where her family sabotages any attempts to be herself.
It can be easy to forget how awful this behavior is when the only context is the show itself (frankly, everyone on Family Guy is kind of terrible). Seeing it played against the Simpsons, who are a flawed and dysfunctional but ultimately loving family, was painful to watch.
I reblogged this earlier, but this one’s commentary just enhances the whole thing. I never watched either show religiously, but I have enough context to know who’s who and what’s what. Just seeing this gif set… made me think of a friend. That’s exactly what they go through— being ganged up on by their family and being emotionally abused. And no one stands up for him.
He watches this show and thinks it’s funny, but I have to wonder if he sees the correlation at all. And what would happen if he did.
It’s actually kind of interesting…in a really sick and morbid sort of way…to look at how Meg’s character has evolved over the years.
In the first few seasons, she was basically this very typical “high school underdog” sort of character. You know, just this very plain, ordinary girl who wore glasses and was kind of pudgy and longed to be accepted by the cheerleaders and the jocks and all the other popular kids but…just…sort of wasn’t. She was that “downtrodden nerd” character you might see in any given sitcom, and most of her stories revolved around her parents trying to help her gain acceptance. “Peter enrolls himself in high school disguised as a really cool kid and takes Meg to the upcoming dance to help raise her reputation.” Things like that. They were wacky and irreverent, but they weren’t hurtful or mean-spirited.
And then the show was canceled.
And then the show came back.
And that’s when it started getting really, really wicked.
Suddenly, Meg wasn’t just “plain.” She was so unbelievably ugly that people would literally drench themselves in gasoline and set fire to their entire bodies upon seeing her in a shirt that bared her midriff.
Like, that actually happened. That’s not just a colorful comparison. That was an episode, and it was actually one of the more mild ones in the grand scheme of things.
Her parents weren’t on her side anymore. They became the people who abused her the most.
And then the writers just kept piling it on — more and more and more and more and meaner and meaner and meaner and meaner — to the point where they clearly began trying to one-up themselves for fun, like it was a contest of who could write the most hauntingly terrible joke at her expense. After a certain point, there was no sympathy for her anymore. She was just a tool for them to make the ugliest “jokes” they could.
Meanwhile, Meg’s response to all this blatant abuse became a joke in and of itself. She became both suicidal and addicted to self-harm, and that was not a point of drama — it just a huge recurring gag. Like, there was an episode where Meg was feeling down, and Lois went up to her room…not have a heart-to-heart or anything like that…but to give her “a Sylvia Plath book and a bottle full of pills.”
Even in the Simpsons crossover episode, there’s a “joke” where, after making friends with Lisa, it turns out that she’s cut the name “LISA” into her forearm. Including a very graphic close-up of the aftermath.
And that just…passes for humor, I guess. “Ahaha, the ugly girl cut herself. That’s hilarious.” That’s what this show is now.