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Family Guy: Full Broadcast Analysis

4 Feb
Q: Haven’t I written about Family Guy before?
Reason: It is a great show!
Better Reason: Earlier, I had posted two separate blogs. Once was specifically about the program content of Family Guy and the other was specifically about the commercials during the time slot, and this post will serve to combine these aspects for a single holistic perspective.Summary
I watched one hour of TV on Wednesday (2/1/12) from 8-9pm and viewed two episodes of Family Guy in a row. The first episode of Family Guy only contained three explicit references to sexuality. There were two during the program and one during the commercial. The second episode contained nine references during the program and two during the commercials.

Family Guy 1

-Peter takes art classes with nude male models and keeps asking if he should be drawing the penis.

-Peter produces a play, in which he stars, and there are women in bikinis acting as distractions to Peter (from completing the play’s mission) as well as being his reward for finally overcoming evil (in the play).

-Axe spot, where people stop what they are doing so that they can come close to one another seductively (even strangers).

Family Guy 2
-Quagmire attends an open interview for a church organist, but he goes in and (as the audience assumes from the mass screams from behind closed doors) he shows them his ‘organ’.
Herbert, the pedophile, sings “I Know What Boys Like”.
In one of the hypothetical cut-aways which Family Guys is famous for, Stewie walks in on Jesus bathing, and Jesus touches himself seductively then uses water to wash the suds from his skin for Stewie’s viewing pleasure.
-A priest’s sermon is about a fictional Biblical passage that discusses masturbation.
-A girl which Peter finds attractive drives up next their car and acts flirty. Since she was in the lane with oncoming traffic, however, a truck hits her and there is a large explosion.
-Stewie, being cross-dressed to avoid detection, decides he doesn’t want to eat any cake since he is afraid it will “go straight to [his] vagina.” He then states, “That’s what girls worry about right? Having big vaginas?”
-A straight, macho-man sticks out in a figure skating competition when he boasts about his performance and hits on a female judge.
-A cut-away shows ‘Old People Porn’, which shows two elderly people talking, then forgetting what they were talking about.
-Peter brands a male cow with a hot iron, and the cow enjoys it. He screams in pleasure at the pain and eventually puts a gag in his mouth and asks for more.

-The same Axe commercial plays again.
-A trailer for “This Means War”, a new movie coming out, shows Reese Witherspoon being unable to choose between two men, and she wants a competition of who is better at sex to be her deciding factor.

The first episode clearly had less sexuality in it than did the second episode. This is very interesting since the first episode was actually from one of the early seasons while the second episode was from more recent seasons, which would possibly reference an increase in sexuality throughout the seasons. It would be a good study for someone to analyze sexualized content in Family Guy over time.
The sexuality in the first episode was very ‘in-your-face’ (penis jokes, women in bikinis, etc). The Axe Body Spray commercial was interesting since the entire point of the body spray is to increase attraction between people. In this spot, people drop everything they are doing, even in risky situations, just to find a stranger to get close to. Axe, then, uses sexuality and pleasure as a selling point.
The second episode contained much more sexuality. Also, the sexuality is more complex. For instance, Herbert the pedophile uses man-boy attraction as a musical fun point, when in reality, pedophilia is a serious and negative sexual practice. Of course, Family Guy is not promoting this, but instead this reveals that Family Guy doesn’t have any boundaries when it comes to sexuality, and will do whatever it takes for shock value. To continue the shock, Family Guy even sexualizes Jesus. Jesus bathes in front of Stewie and eventually uses water to wash the suds off of him, which shows his nude body to Stewie (which is not shown, but assumed). Family Guy took pedophilia to a whole new level!
Both of these scenes use soft-tempered men to express attraction that is against the societal norm. In the figure-skating scene, however, a straight man expresses hypermasculinity by hitting on a judge (which is over-compensation for being in the ‘girly’ sport). Family Guy is making the argument that to do feminine things is not acceptable, and if it must be done, you have to firmly establish masculinity.
The segment about ‘Old People Porn’ is 1) hilarious and 2) interesting since it brings up a concept that people avidly avoid, sexualization of the elderly. The elderly deserve sexual pleasure just as much as everyone else, but Family Guy argues that it is not their lack of desire, but their lack of mental and physical ability. In this segment, they eventually forget what they were talking about and so sex never happens. Again, attraction is the main selling point, not physicality (which is more reminiscent of the first episode).
To further use shock, Peter brands a cow with a hot iron, and the cow sexually loves the pain in a BDSM way. This pain for pleasure is considered to be a small minority of people, but certainly does arouse the individuals who subscribe. Here, attraction is not at play, but pleasure is.
The older episode of Family Guy emphasizes physical attraction, while the later episode of Family Guy focuses on pleasure and attraction (as a generalized concept).

I was very surprised to see the sharp increase in sexual content over time. I knew that Family Guy was sexual, but I figured that it was always as sexual. I also found the diversity of sexuality to be interesting. There was pedophilia, elderly love, BDSM, etc. As interesting was the lack of normative sexuality! It seems the only thing which appeals to the masses are sexual images of things which push the societal boundaries of acceptance.


Analysis of Sexuality in 3 Magazine (The Nation, PC World, and Forbes)

27 Jan
For this assignment, I felt that it was important to use a diverse selection of magazines to get a broader view of the medium. I chose to study recent issues of The Nation (contemporary news and politics), PC World (technology), and Forbes(business).The Nation
(published 2/6/2012)The Nation is magazine which discusses contemporary issues in politics and US news. The only ad to use sexuality is for a “Miss Liberty” mint coin.

“Miss Liberty” is portrays sexuality in multiple way. First, her attire is a flowing gown. However, she is wearing something of a bra on the outside of her gown which is smooth (and protrudes just enough so that the shadows tell us she has supple breasts. Since the bra-piece is unnecessary, this is a deliberate attempt at emphasizing her breasts, especially since this image was created long ago (the farther you go back, the more of a patriarchy the US is). Secondly, Miss Liberty’s name is revealing. By using the title ‘Miss’, we can assume that she is unmarried. Holding with the traditional Christian values of the time, women did not engage in sexual activity until their wedding night. Miss Liberty, then, represents a virginal woman (and thus pure) which equates sexuality with impurity.I think that this is very interesting since the sexuality is in the subtext. I assume this is because Miss Liberty is not used to actually sell something (in which case I would assume the sexuality would be more blatant) and is instead just symbolic (and is implicit in sexuality based on the societal values. I think that the image is aesthetically pleasing, but it is still influenced by our social reality.Forbes
(published 12/19/2012)

Forbes magazine is one of the nation’s leading business-oriented magazines for the US economy. Two ads displayed sexuality.  The first was an ad for a Louis Vuitton necklace and the second ad was for Viagra.

In the Louis Vuitton ad, a white woman was posed slightly turned away from the camera. Her face and shoulders were visible. She was wearing a low-cut shirt and the cut actually went beyond the view of the page, signifying a mystery of when the cut would end, thus objectifying the woman’s breasts and body. This openness in the breast is accentuated by the necklace, which dangles down into the space between her breasts. This ties wealth to sexuality, but also to the hegemony (white, thin, male-gaze, money, heterosexual, etc.). The Viagra ad featured a black man in a suit and tie just resting in a chair, assumed to be a businessman or otherwise wealthy man. Although there was nothing sexual about the character, the essence of Viagra (a medicine to treat erectile dysfunction in men) implies that sex is desired and that sex will be again made possible in the near future.  This is interesting, however, since the male-gaze is not present, but the actor’s face is serious. When the ‘masculinity’ or the ‘ability to perform’ sexually is called into question, there is a dramatic cause for concern. Also, many social commentators have theorized about the extreme masculinity that is fed to the black population through the media. Viagra’s ad, then, is showing that the epitome of hypermasculinty can even be distressed by erectile dysfunction, suggesting causation to then purchase Viagra (an interesting marketing scheme!).

I was surprised that Forbes didn’t have more sexual content in the advertisements. There were mainly ads for expensive watches and supplies for businesses. When you take a step back, it looks like Forbesis telling their audience to desire wealth and sexuality, and to fix your problems in one way or another (pharmaceuticals!) to get this accomplished. Although motivation can be good, this uses sexuality to promote individual gain as opposed to personal happiness (which can coincide but don’t always).PC World
(published 1/12/2012)PC World is a magazine about technology and inventions, as well as online behavior and networking. PC World did not have a single ad containing sexuality.

To me, this is a clear implication that PC World does not think that sexuality and technology go together.

These two didn't get the memo!

I think, however, this can partly be explained by the lack of women who actually enjoy this technology. While many women are in the field, it is still predominantly male. If an ad portrayed a woman using sexuality with a hard-drive (no pun intended), it would probably look a little off, as well as unrealistic to the average viewer.I was very surprised when I noticed that there were not any ads depicting sexuality in the magazine. It is such a pervasive concept, I figured it would be everywhere! Not only was there a lack of sexuality, there was a lack of female presence! I would have liked to see more women engaging technology. Though the field is still mainly male-drive, women do exist there. The only image we see in the media of a female computer enthusiast are the stereotypes surrounding the super-nerd. I feel that more exposure of the masses to women in technological fields would be a useful tool in advocating gender equality.

An Analysis of Sexuality of Non-Program Content in Family Guy

20 Jan
          In summary of the commercials for this episode of Family Guy, there was one spot advertising a law firm, one spot advertising an anti-drug campaign, one spot advertising an acne treatment, and ten spots advertising Fox (or one of the shows on Fox). The law firm spot and anti-drug campaign spot did not have any sexual imagery. The acne treatment spot did not have any sexual imagery, but did portray some women in lower-cut shirts. The ten spots for Fox were (in order) Napolean Dynamite, Alcatraz, Napolean Dynamite, Fox Move Channel, New Girl, Family Guy, American Idol, Napolean Dynamite, Touch, and Archer. The series premiere of Napolean Dynamite occurred directly after Family Guy, which accounts for the larger number of spots. All the spots for Fox were either for series premieres or season premieres.Surprisingly, for a hyper-sexualized show like Family Guy, there was very little sexual imagery in the commercials. As mentioned earlier, the law firm spot and anti-drug campaign spot did not have any sexual imagery.The acne treatment spot, even though it did not have sexual images, there was a distinct sexualization present in the before/after pictures. In all of the ‘before’ pictures, the women had severe acne but also wore homely clothing. In most of the ‘after’ pictures, the women had clear complexions and wore low-cut shirts and other outfits which accentuated the rest of their bodies. This not only suggests that acne is un-sexy, but that clearing up an acne problem (which can sometimes be a natural stage in some people) will open up women to a sexually liberated future. The men in this ad did not change clothing much between the pictures, they just had smiles in the ‘after’ photos. Though a smile, by itself, is not sexual, by pairing all of the outcomes by men and women, it is possible to infer that happiness and sexuality are inherently linked. It is also important to note that all of the people in this spot were young (or young-looking), infantalizing the scope of sexuality present.As for the Fox spots, the first one was promoting Napolean Dynamite, but used actors from other Fox shows to playfully impersonate the characters on the show. Although there was nothing sexual about this, the actresses were wearing low-cut clothing with tighter pants than the men, likely an attempt to look semi-professional but still attractive. This attraction is directly for the male gaze, however. Only from my opinion and experiences, I have noticed that the primary viewership of the Napolean Dynamite movie (as well as cartoons in general) are men, specifically younger men. Not only were the actresses looking attractive, but they were impersonating male characters since the show does not have any vocal female characters. It could be argued that the producers knew they wouldn’t effectively promote a show with an all-male cast by using all male actors in the advertisements, so they made attractive women do some of the voices so that viewers could associate the show with sexuality in hopes of increasing viewership.

The other Napolean Dynamite spots did not contain sexuality, and did not even contain significant female characters. The only scene that comes close, is in a couple spots, a scene plays where Napolean accidentally hits himself in the crotch with a golf club. Although there is humor present here (as in a dominant reading of the text), the greater issue is that since there isn’t sexuality, the show has to reinforce this by actually de-masculinizing the main character, literally proving to the audience that his sexual organs have no place outside of a humorous frame.

The spots for Alcatraz, Fox Movie Channel, New Girl, Family Guy, and Touch did not have any sexual images. Touch seems to be, as far as I could tell from the spot, a male-dominated show. Since the show uses action sequences shrouded in mystery (all very masculine traits for a show), it makes sense that the show did not include sexual images. Most sexual images in shows, from my observations, usually originate with women.

An interesting spot, however, was for American Idol. This spot, specifically, was highlighting the odd things that Steven Tyler says, implying that viewers should watch the show to be entertained by the judges as well as the contestants. Steven Tyler has been seen throughout the years as, both, a sex god and a rock god. His superstar status almost automatically deems him a dominant and attractive person. Even though he has aged, many people still find him sexy, which is a hopeful sight since most of the sexual images are of younger people. On the other hand, I would argue that he does not display the average image of someone his age, and his odd style of dress may distract the viewers from his age. Jennifer Lopez provides the main sexual drive in the trio (since Randy has absolutely no sex appeal to the masses). Not only does J. Lo have many of the stereotypically ‘attractive’ features, she actually was given the title of Most Beautiful Woman of the :Year by People Magazine. In this ad, she does not appear as much as Tyler, but her appearances usually encompass expensive dresses with form-fitting, low-cut material. Since the show has just premiered for this season, there was not enough talent to advertise for the show, and since ‘sex sells’, the show uses Steven Tyler and J. Lo’s bodies as the main means for advertising.

The spot for Archer did not have any sexual images, but it did include a few scenes of Archer’s female assistant in a black, skin-tight, spy outfit, that clearly showed EVERY curve of body and breasts. Here, Archer’s masculinity is linked to his need to be pleased sexually, showing a strong woman being submissive to her man (even though Archer is dim-witted and not intelligent).

My initial response to these spots was a feeling of anxiety, since I didn’t feel that there was any sexuality present and I was going to be hard-pressed to find something to write about for this blog! Upon a deeper reading into the spots, however, I was surprised to find that (even in subtle ways) women were perceived as being sexually submissive and objectified for the bodies. It is surprising that so much analysis could be derived from only a few spots, each of which were only about 15-25 seconds in length. I feel that many people ignore commercials, but the messages probably still sink in on some level, and I feel that our media should have a higher respect for women. In a sexual stance, I was surprised that none of the sexuality was aimed at men (with the exception of Steven Tyler and the figurative self-castration of Napolean Dynamite).

Sexual Identity in Family Guy

14 Jan

          I watched Family Guy on Netflix, but it appears on during prime-time on Fox. Peter and the gang are at their favorite bar when their wives appear and want to hang out. The guys want their own space, so they build a Men’s Club in Peter’s backyard. The men continue to talk about sex and other random topics. Then women, again, crash the party. When everyone is dancing, Peter’s friend Joe (who is in a wheelchair) wishes he could dance, which inspires him to seek leg transplants so he can walk again. The surgery is a success, and he adopts a fitness-oriented lifestyle. When his family and friends can’t keep up, he leaves for new friends. The gang tries to re-cripple Joe, and are eventually successful. Things go back to normal.


          There are two types of sexuality that are mainly expressed in this episode. Firstly, there is heterosexual content in the gang’s conversation in the Men’s Club. They play a game of ‘Would You Rather’ about celebrity sex partners. After getting off topic, Joe screams, “I’m bored, I want to talk about VAGINAS!” Here, Joe is not only expressing his love of sex and the female anatomy, he is also trying to get the conversation back to the most comfortable place for a group of men. Joe reveals that, as a man, and the gang, as a collective, all are obsessed with sex. This is reinforced by other, smaller instances of heterosexual discussion (Quagmire telling a sex story about a woman with an inside-out anus, characters from ‘The Flintstones’ undressing for each other, etc.). The final act of sexuality is when Joe and Bonnie, his wife, have sex for the first time since his paralyzing accident. They both are very pleased, but this is the only time in the show in which actual sex is referred to instead of just general discussion on sex. The message here is that sex is something, not just to be thought about, but to be performed. After Joe adopts his fitness-oriented lifestyle, he actually leaves Bonnie for a short amount of time because he wants to stay single now that he can ‘perform’. Joe’s lust for sex in combination with the whole gang’s insatiable discussions on sexuality explicitly reinforces the gender stereotype that men only care about sex.

          There are also instances of homosexuality in this episode. For instance, the opening scene is a TV show being played in the bar called “Dr. Terry Fabulous: The Homosexual Gynecologist”, which shows an effeminate gay man being scared of a woman’s vagina. Also, Herbert, the shows token gay pedophile, hosts a curb-side booth that offers back rubs to boys. A less blatant expression of homosexuality is when the gang is playing “Would You Rather”. Peter is asked if he would sleep with his friend, Cleveland, if it meant he would be able to sleep with Angelina Jolie. Peter says that he would sleep with Cleveland for that opportunity. Here, as opposed to a dominant view which would say that homosexual behavior is being tolerated, an oppositional view would view the entire scene. The homosexuality is not for homosexual desire, but instead as a roadblock on the way to heterosexuality.
All of the sexual content in this episode was performed by the male characters, usually about female characters. This may suggest that men are seen as being driven by sexual desire, while women play a passive role. Also, I found it interesting that all of the sexuality occurred toward the first half of the episode. The instances of homosexuality all occurred first, followed by the heterosexuality, followed by the lack of sexuality. Once Joe got  his new legs and had sex with his wife, there was not any more sexuality. Instead, it was replaced by intense masculinity from all of the fitness and adventure Joe was doing. Not only does this suggest that men who are not able-bodied miss out on sex and excitement, but that they bear semblance to homosexual (often seen as ‘weaker’) status than heterosexual (often seen as ‘stronger’) status. This also suggests that when men aren’t thinking about sex they should still be focused on hyper-masculinizing themselves.


          I felt that Family Guy succeeded in being entertaining, but that they often use shock to keep the viewer interested. I also felt that men do not, generally, think and discuss sex as often as was presented in this episode. As a gay man, even though the show is satirical, I was disheartened to see the only images of LGBTQ persons were embodied by a pedophile and an effeminate gay man scared of vaginas. I felt poorly misrepresented. Again, though Family Guy misrepresents everyone, there is a clear distinction between straight (seen as acceptable) and gay (seen as unacceptable). I believe that sexuality is something which is taboo in our culture, and doesn’t fit into our speech codes well. This results in the creation of sexuality as a fantasy to be played out in many ways. I feel that the media does have a large impact on our culture and how we identify (ourselves and others). Although it could be argued that many take the dominant reading of Family Guy, I believe that viewers will pick up on the subtleties in a subconscious way, which makes me concerned for those who only view satirical shows and never learn the truth about a culture/people group.

-Christopher Spurling