It’s fair to say that Family Guy has cut a little too close to the bone on a number of occasions, and they have a shockingly long list of most controversial moments to show for it.

If you’d only ever heard its name and watched the theme tune you’d be forgiven for thinking that Family Guy was in fact a family-friendly show. Of course, anyone who’s watched the show will know that the expletive-filled, adult-humor-laden animation is anything but suitable for all. In fact, some of the TV show’s darkest moments are genuinely quite chilling and there have been so many controversies linked to the show that you could fill a book, so we thought we would start by ranking the top 10 most controversial Family Guy moments.

WARNING: Content of a disturbing nature ahead

FOX's Family Guy - Season Seventeen
Photo by FOX via Getty Images

1. The AIDS Barbershop Quartet

Of all the illnesses in the world, AIDS is undoubtedly one of the most tragic. Typically, one would never expect a mainstream TV show to make jokes, or worse, perform songs, about the tragic illness. But of course, Family Guy rarely acts like other mainstream TV shows.

In an episode in season four, which ran from mid-2005 until mid-2006, Peter, accompanied by a barbershop quartet, performed a song titled ‘You Have AIDS’, in which he broke the news of the illness to an unsuspecting patient.

The performance was one of the show’s first major controversies, and contributed to its offensive reputation, a view that many still hold today,

2. LGBTQ+ community complaints

The AIDS controversy was not the only time Family Guy has drawn complaints from the LGBTQ+ community.

Rather, the musical number was but one of the incidents that led to the show being labeled homophobic and transphobic.

The treatment of Quagmire’s mother, a transgender woman, has often been the center of such complaints as the show routinely makes jokes at her expense, with sexuality in general often being used as a punchline.

After signaling a change in direction when it came to homophobic humor in, Family Guy appeared to double down on its ‘gay jokes’ stance in 2019, when Peter Griffin told the audience that quotes about them doing so had been “widely misunderstood”.

3. Islamaphobia claims

The show has also drawn Islamaphobia claims on a number of occasions. The most notable example came in season 11 episode, Turban Cowboy.

Throughout the episode, Peter can be seen befriending and enjoying time with a Muslim man named Mahmoud, only for Mahmoud to be revealed as a violent terrorist by the end of the episode.

Unsurprisingly, many took issue with the plot of the episode, which received low ratings compared to the otherwise well-received rest of the season.

A review of Turban Cowboy at the time wrote: “Family Guy clumsily attempting to show it understands the complexity of the issue does not undo the severely reductive stereotyping.”

FOX's Family Guy - Season Seventeen
Photo by FOX via Getty Images

4. Antisemitism claims

You’ve probably worked out by this stage that it would be quicker to name the societal groups that Family Guy hasn’t managed to offend.

The Jewish community is but another example of a marginalized group who have taken issue with Family Guy for some time, with the show having first received antisemitism complaints back in 2003.

The season 3 episode ‘When You Wish Upon a Weinstein’, in which Peter attempts to convert to Judaism after having his financial situation changed by a Jewish accountant, was the initial catalyst for such complaints.

The episode was scheduled to be released in 2000 but was delayed for a number of years due to fears of antisemitism complaints, and the original writer of When You Wish Upon A Star (the words of which Peter changed in his cover, I Need A Jew) attempted to sue the show for harming the song’s value with the cover’s offensive nature.

5. Cleveland’s voice actor

One of the less offensive and more introspective controversies surrounding the show came in 2020, when Mike Henry, who had voiced local neighbor Cleveland Brown on a permanent basis since season 5, would be stepping down from the show.

Citing the need for “persons of color” to play “characters of color”, Henry first broke the news that he would be stepping down to Twitter.

Henry was replaced by a voice actor of color, Arif Zahir, in September 2020, though continues to voice the likes of Herbert and Bruce.

6. Boston bombing

In fairness to Family Guy, the Boston Bombing incident was more of a coincidence than a controversy.

During Turban Cowboy, the same episode that drew islamophobia complaints, Peter committed an act of terror on the crowd at the Boston Marathon.

Crucially though, it must be noted that this episode aired one month *before* the Boston Marathon bombing of 2013.

Though making jokes about committing terrorist acts may be in poor taste regardless, many people have failed to realize in the year since that the scene was not making a mockery of the Boston tragedy.

7. Sarah Palin

It’s not just groups of people who have complained about Family Guy, but individuals too.

During the mid-2000s, the show had a longstanding mutual grievance with former Republican presidential running mate Sarah Palin, after the show was accused of mocking her son’s Down syndrome condition.

After Family Guy showed a young female character with Down syndrome who claimed that her mom is a politician, in what was believed to be a direct reference to Palin, the politician called the show out live on national TV on Family Guy’s own network, Fox.

8. Parents Television Council

The Parents Television Council is a voluntary US organization, made for and run by parents who are devoted to keeping television Christian-friendly.

So, as you can likely imagine, they are not the biggest fans of Family Guy.

In fact, the PTC has one of the longest-running feuds with the cartoon, and the organization has called on viewers to complain to the Federal Communications Commission on several occasions.

9. South Park beef

You would think that if any show could relate to the offensive nature of Family Guy, it would be South Park.

It would appear, however, that this couldn’t be further from the truth. While there has always been a good-natured rivalry between Family Guy and The Simpsons, South Park’s creators appear to genuinely dislike Family Guy and have mocked the show multiple times.

Comedy Central South Park press conference
Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic, Inc

Matt Stone and Trey Parker of South Park have made it clear that they resent their show being compared to Family Guy, with Parker stating: “We just don’t respect it (Family Guy) in terms of writing.”

There are also two episodes in season 10 of South Park, Cartoon Wars I & II, dedicated solely to criticizing Family Guy, in which they legitimized the show’s writing process by joking about it being carried out by a team of trained manatees.

10. Brians’s death

Undoubtedly the least offensive moment on our list, but still one of the most controversial and pivotal Family Guy moments, came in season 12 when the show decide to kill Brian.

In an episode titled Life of Brian, the much-loved family pet was hit by a car whilst playing hockey outside the Griffin’s house, and passed away, seemingly permanently.

While cartoon characters can often die and return to the show in the next episode as if nothing has happened, Family Guy went to the effort of replacing Brian with a new dog, Vinny, a hound dog with an Italian-American accent who claimed to be 1/16th cat and was voiced by the late Tony Sirico.

Unsurprisingly, the move did not go down well with viewers and, after countless complaints, Brian returned in place of Vinny after three episodes.

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