When American Dad first debuted in 2005, it was intended as a satire of the jingoism and fear than ran rampant in post 9/11 America. The show focused on Stan Smith, a CIA agent with far-right, xenophobic political views. Over time, however, the show focused less on political satire and became more character driven. Additionally, Stan’s politics became less of a focal point. In these seven episodes, we see how Stan’s character has changed over the show’s 10-year run.
“Homeland Insecurity” – Original Air Date: June 12, 2005
In the very early episodes of American Dad, Stan was extremely xenophobic. In this episode, when Stan finds out his new neighbors are from Iran, he immediately assumes they are terrorists, and accuses them of burning down a gazebo (it was actually Steve). Then, he detains them in the backyard, eventually doing the same to everyone in the neighborhood. Stan’s behavior is monstrous in this episode because at this point in time, Stan was less of a character than a representation of America’s fear and paranoia in the wake of 9/11. As the show evolved, his character would gradually become more rational.
“Stannie Get Your Gun” – Original Air Date: November 20, 2005
Stan’s right wing politics show up in this one, too, but here he develops a bit more humanity. This episode focuses on his love of guns, as well as his fractured relationship with Hayley, who loathes his conservative politics. Stan attempts to convince Hayley that guns are good by creating a scenario where Hayley would need to shoot a burglar to save the family. When Hayley finds out, outraged, she fires a round of bullets that she believes to be blanks into the air. One is a real bullet, and it hits Stan, paralyzing him. Stricken with guilt, Hayley only wants to help Stan. She even agrees to sing pro-gun songs at a gun-themed amusement park. When Stan sees Hayley crying, he realizes how much this is hurting her, and lets her sing an anti-gun song she had written earlier in the episode. While Stan reverts back to his pro-gun stance at the end of the episode, he also learns to care more about his daughter’s feelings. He’s still a conservative blowhard, but his love for his family is quite evident in this episode.
“Lincoln Lover’ – Original Air Date – November 3, 2006
“Surro-gate” – Original Air Date – December 2, 2007
As the show moved on and Stan’s character became fleshed out, there was a greater need for him to be a likable guy. Even if we were supposed to think Stan’s political views were wrong, we couldn’t think he was a monster, right? That meant that one aspect of Stan’s personality needed to be changed: his blatant homophobia. In “Lincoln Lover,” Stan learns to accept gays after encountering the Log Cabin Republicans. He gives a speech at the RNC encouraging the party to be more accepting of homosexuality. But as we learn in “Surro-gate,” he still doesn’t think gay couples should be raising children. So, when Greg and Terry use Francine as a surrogate for a child they plan to raise, he’s outraged, and he steals the baby from the delivery room. Only when he sees an example of a lesbian couple raising two normal children does he realize that gay couples are perfectly capable of raising kids. He returns the child to Greg and Terry who, as one might expect, are not planning to forgive him right away.
These two episodes show how Stan’s homophobic views changed over the years, and how that element of his personality was essentially erased. Stan was still conservative on just about everything else, but his regressive views on homosexuality were a thing of the past.