Disability in pop culture 5

February 23, 2009

Family Guy

Family Guy has several examples, so it gets a rather more extensive post.

The Griffin Family

The Griffin Family


Joe is a police officer who was paralyzed in the line of duty.

Joe is portrayed as having highly exaggerated traits of masulinity. This guy has more testosterone than a Marine platoon. Examples: He exhibits extreme upper body strength, deep voice, and expressions of “Let’s do it!” with enthusiasm bordering on ‘roid rage. His wife is perpetually pregnant (in classic cartoon style, time never passes and she never has the baby, she’s just always about 8 months pregnant) as a way to emphasize Joe’s virility.

Joe is treated very positively by the show, but they aren’t sensitive about his disability at all. It is the source of some great comedy.

Examples: When the men are all lost out at sea, Peter eats Joe’s leg since he “didn’t need it anymore.” When they are rescued, Joe gets a transplant with a new leg, but the donor was also handicapped so he still can’t walk.

Joe comments on the guys’ diapers and they reply that they don’t wear diapers. Joe shouts to his wife, “Bonnie, you lied to me!”

Also, this scene is just wrong in many, many hilarious ways:

I’d be curious to learn where this character came from and if he is based on someone that Seth MacFarlane knows in real life. (But that would involve watching the DVD commentary, and I don’t actually like MacFarlane or this show all that much).



Opie has… hell I don’t really know. Opie has problems.

Let’s call it a developmental disability, cognitive impairment and severe speech impairment. He never says an intelligible word (although everyone except for Peter seems to be able to communicate with him just fine).

Opie works at the Pawtucket Brewery with Peter in the shipping department. Peter is transferred to this department through a series of incompetent actions. Opie is made his supervisor.

Opie exists as a character solely to act as a comic foil to Peter. That is, as retarted as Opie seems to be, he is a model employee whereas Peter is a complete screw-up.

The guy in the wheelchair

This unnamed character is an obvious reference to Stephen Hawking. He teaches physics at Brown.

The one issue I have with this character is the way he is used to emasculate Joe in the Special People’s Games episode; especially since this is the main reason the character was created.

Reintroducing the character as the Brown professor redeems it, though. This is one of the funniest Family Guy scenes of all time (link in the picture, I can’t embed it):

This show has more examples of people with disabilities than any other show on television. And, while disabilities get played for laughs and made fun of, it is a comedy show– everything gets played for laughs.
If people with disabilities are present in our society, why are they not present in TV shows about our society?

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