I’ve already talked about Family Guy and The Simpsons before. But now, I want to be more specific on the faults. Many people have asserted that Family Guy is nothing more than a rip-off of The Simpsons. In some ways, I agree. I want to point out of the things which make it similar.
Often, Family Guy has been accused of stealing ideas from The Simpsons. Actually, there were plenty of instances where The Simpsons stole from Family Guy. The example shown here refers to “Saving Private Brian”. The main plot of this episode involved Brian going to the army to tear up Chris’ premature contract with the army, and ends up joining the army. In the Simpsons’ version, Homer successfully undoes Bart’s contract and enlists himself (never mind that he already joined the Navy in the classic “Simpson Tide”).
The Simpsons episode “GI (Annoyed Grunt)” is technically a rip-off of Family Guy because the Family Guy version aired earlier.
- Saving Private Brian aired on November 5, 2006
- GI (Annoyed Grunt) aired exactly a week later.
This isn’t the only time this has happened. They ripped off two Family Guy episodes from the year 2000. In “The Great Louse Detective” (2002), they ripped off Family Guy’s parody of “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face” from My Fair Lady. The first segment in “Treehouse of Horror XIV” (2003) is essentially a massive copy of the Family Guy episode “Death is a Bitch”.
I can’t say I blame the producers. The Simpsons has shown its age, and has been competing against Family Guy and South Park for years.
2. The basic formula
The most glaring example of plagiarism within Family Guy is the basic formula. The basic premise revolves around the antics of a dysfunctional family consisting of:
- A dim-witted patriarch (Homer/Peter)
- A moralistic and hypocritical wife (Marge/Lois)
- A son with increasingly low grades (Bart/Chris)
- A socially unpopular daughter who is disillusioned with the rest of the family (Lisa/Meg)
- At least one baby (Maggie/Stewie)
- A dog (Santa’s Little Helper/Brian)
It seems really obvious if you’ve watched the Simpsons first. In fact, it is. It’s no secret that Seth McFarlane was inspired by The Simpsons, along with numerous other TV shows from the 70’s and 80’s, but this is ridiculous.
3. The pretentious liberalism
Both Simpsons creator Matt Groening and Family Guy creator Seth McFarlane are liberals, and they’ve admitted it. Nowadays, they both treat liberals/Democrats like gods, while always making conservatives/Republicans seem either stupid or evil. For instance, since Obama was elected President, both shows have kept quiet about politics for the most part, because they don’t want to mock their precious President.
In the meantime, The Simpsons focused more on family relationships, while Family Guy became an outright sounding board for Seth McFarlane’s religious and political views.
Even in their early days, both shows did share some pretty stereotypical moral messages (like “God is always watching”, “men are always selfish”, or “selling out is wrong”). Not only is the moralism completely fallible, but in the case of “selling out is wrong”, it’s quite hypocritical considering the next entry in this list.
4. Selling out
At some point in their long run, both shows have decried selling out. They are master hypocrites when it comes to this, because over the years, Fox has lent the rights to The Simpsons and Family Guy to whomever they please.
Over the past 23 years, The Simpsons has been selling out to the point that there are numerous bad games, cheap merchandise, and a movie to their name. Over the past 14 years, Family Guy has been doing the exact same thing, and last year, they released a (terrible) game based on one of their episodes.
In the episode “Brian Writes a Bestseller” (represented in the above image), Brian spreads his wings as a sellout by writing a self-help book within a day, and selling it in stores. In a way, the plot is meant to be a stab at the plethora of self-help books fed to the American populace, but it does so in such a pretentious and hypocritical manner.
5. The status quo reigns supreme
If there’s one thing both shows have in common, it’s the fact that everything is forced to go back to normal unless the plot calls for it. In the Simpsons, it’s clear that Marge actually likes the status quo, which is really sad to say the least, considering how royally screwed up it usually is. In the Simpsons universe, this means that Lisa will always be able to lift herself above others, having already done the 2nd grade, but it also means that Mr. Burns will never die, and never be punished for his actions.
In the case of Family Guy however, the status quo is a godsend for someone like Peter, because it means that his selfish, idiotic, and generally destructive attitude towards his family will never be punished. It also means that Meg will suffer forever, Mayor West will always be childish and corrupt, Joe will always be paralyzed, Herbert will always walk the streets potentially stalking Chris.
This effectively makes Quahog into a nightmarish dystopia from which there is no escape (a scenario I may explore in the future).
There are a few differences, most notably the characterization.
In the Simpsons, Homer is a lovable idiot, Marge is a hypocritical, overprotective, paranoid nag, Bart is a destructive sociopath who feeds on others’ suffering, and Lisa is a liberal prude who loves pointless activism.
In Family Guy, Peter is now a cruel, abusive, and extremely selfish exaggeration of Homer Simpson, Lois is a hypocritical and uncaring nymphomaniac, Chris just kept getting dumber, Meg is a punching bag whose desperate situation is appalling, Brian is a straw liberal and a failure, and Stewie is the show’s conduit for gay innuendos.
With regards to the liberalism of both shows, in The Simpsons, politics doesn’t often show up, so the extreme liberalism of writers shows up when the writers want. In Family Guy, the writers’ liberal views show up practically all the time now.
In conclusion, The Simpsons has had a long and storied history, and Family Guy ripped off that history over the course of its so far 14-year run. If you want me to pick, The Simpsons is obviously much better. There are a lot more good episodes to come out of The Simpsons than Family Guy, and at least the Simpsons is more subtle than Family Guy, whose newer episodes can only appeal to those with no understanding of subtlety.