During its 13 seasons on the air, Family Guy has certainly ruffled its share of feathers. The show has no problem mocking every person and group under the sun, and that has naturally led to some controversy over the years. How justified the controversy was in each case is in the eye of the beholder, of course, but these four Family Guy episodes certainly made a lot of people very upset.
“When You Wish Upon A Weinstein” – Original Air Date: November 9, 2003
This episode made its debut on Adult Swim after being banned by Fox due to content they believed would be interpreted as anti-semitic. The plot involves Peter befriending a Jewish accountant named Max Weinstein, who helps Peter solve his financial problems. Impressed by Max’s efforts, Peter wants the family — and Chris in particular — to convert to Judaism, believing that it will make his son smarter. The problem with this is that Peter knows absolutely nothing about the religion other than what he’s learned from (mostly positive) stereotypes.
In retrospect, it’s hard to see what all the commotion was about with this episode. Yes, the episode plays on preconceived notions about Jewish people, but usually, Peter is the butt of the joke thanks to what Max says are his, “misguided views on Judaism.” Really, 2009’s “Family Goy” pushed the envelope far more than this one (Peter literally nails Lois to a cross in that episode), but it garnered far less controversy, probably because by that point, we all knew what Family Guy was capable of.
“Quagmire’s Dad” – Original Air Date: May 9, 2010
When Quagmire’s father returns to Quahog, Peter and Joe assume he’s gay, but we later find out that Quagmire’s dad is a transgender woman, and that he plans on having gender reassignment surgery while in Quahog. Unfortunately, much like the much-maligned film I Now Pronounce You Chuck And Larry, this episode wants to act like it’s preaching a message of acceptance while making the cheapest jokes imaginable. Unsurprisingly, this episode was roundly criticized when it first aired.
“Partial Terms Of Endearment” – Unaired
Unlike “When You Wish Upon A Weinstein,” which was initially banned by Fox but eventually aired on Adult Swim, this episode has still never aired on American television. The plot sees Lois seriously considering having an abortion after she agrees to carry a child for a couple that dies in a car crash. The episode also features an anti-abortion film featuring a character named “Ziggy The Zygote,” who suffers a brutal death.
It’s not hard to see why Fox was a bit frightened by this one.
“Screams Of Silence: The Brenda Q. Story” – Original Air Date: October 30, 2011
In this episode, Family Guy took on the difficult issue of domestic violence with the exact amount of sensitivity that you’d expect. Quagmire’s sister, Brenda, comes to town, and we find out that her boyfriend Jeff is abusing her. Once again, the problem with this episode is that it has no idea what it wants to do with the issue at hand.
In certain scenes, Jeff’s abuse of Brenda is played deadly serious and is actually surprisingly realistic. But in other scenes, the show makes a super-awkward attempt to shoehorn humor into scenes of Jeff beating Brenda, proving once again that the show’s appropriateness compass is perpetually busted.