If you’ve ever seen an episode of Seth MacFarlane’s “Family Guy,” you probably have had either one — or both — of these reactions.
Perhaps you stared at the TV screen, utterly confused and weirded out by the abundance of allusions, sexual entendres, and that strangely shaped talking baby.
Or maybe you’ve laughed hard enough to launch your drink out of your nose.
OK so “Family Guy” humor isn’t for everyone — chances are your grandmother would find an episode of “Leave it to Beaver” a tad less offensive.
“Family Guy,” not much unlike the also popular cartoon “The Simpsons,” is best known as a bawdy animated sitcom, starring the dysfunctional and immature patriarch Peter Griffin.
On the flipside, “Leave it Beaver” is a black and white sitcom, airing from 1957 to 1963, following the adventures of the young Theodore “The Beaver” Cleaver, an endearingly naïve and curious boy.
I can’t help but compare the two and come to the conclusion that the two popular shows are foils of each other.
Both examine the dynamics of the American nuclear family. Beaver is joined by his mother, June; his older brother, Wally; and his father, Ward Cleaver.
Peter Griffin is surrounded by his wife, Lois; and their three children, Meg, Chris and Stewie; as well as a talking dog, Brian.
The two families both face conflicts among themselves, as well as with outside forces — and they somehow manage to get through, always coming together in the end.
But the distinction is that in the 1950s, it was the shenanigans of a young boy, and the way his parents guided him, which viewers were so amused by.
The audience of “Family Guy,” on the other hand, gets a kick out of Peter’s sheer idiocy and refusal to function as an adult and how his family has to deal with him.
Seems to me that a striking role reversal exists somewhere among the 35 or so year difference between the two main characters’ ages.
Obviously, TV has gotten a tad more risqué and raunchy since “Leave it to Beaver’s” time —“Family Guy” being a case and point in that.
But it isn’t just the television programming of our nation that’s shifted. The idealized version of family, with an apron-clad mother, a tie-donning father and smiling children has sort of gone down the tubes as well.
Obvious dysfunction portrayed in the family unit has somehow become socially acceptable for television viewers.
In the case of “Leave it to Beaver,” TV time was once used to reinforce the parents’ jobs to rear their young in the most respectable manner, particularly with Ward Cleaver’s guidance and frequent duty of “laying down the law” for his son.
Parents raising children seemed to be the norm.
This norm is defied in today’s “Family Guy.”
It’s arguable that the two most mature characters on the show are a talking dog, and a football-shaped headed baby. The irony of it all is that the whole basis of the show is Peter being a family guy — cue the theme song, “He’s a family guy!”
Television is certainly reflective of the social norms of the time, and this being said, the contrast between the two shows is jarring.
Moving past 1950s repression and idealization, it seems we’ve taken on different characteristics as a society, such as adult immaturity, familial dysfunction, the ability to connect with the fast-paced bombardment of pop culture references present in shows like “Family Guy” and, most of all, the privilege of appreciating the crude humor often aired on prime time television. As always, things have changed, and what we take the time to watch and laugh at, is indicative of just how different we are in 2012 than 1950.
Caroline Fenlin is a freshman majoring in graphic design and is a Daily Collegian columnist. Email her at email@example.com.