13 Moments That Prove ‘Family Guy’ Was Secretly Way Smarter Than You Remember

Family Guy has a torn reputation on the internet. It has been praised for its irreverent humor and clever writing, yet as the show has continued to run over two decades it has been criticized as “blunt and witless – contrived shock tactics delivered with all the subtlety of a supernova.” But, regardless of how one feels about the show in its current state, it’s fairly undeniable that over the course of twenty years the show has bravely tackled some very important and sensitive subjects with its signature dark humor.

Whether the writers and animators of Family Guy are trying get across a message as broad as “friendship gives you purpose” or dealing with subjects far more controversial and poignant like the modern anti-vax movement and domestic abuse, the show has undoubtedly had it’s share of fearless yet smart writing. While to some viewers Family Guy may not have “the heart of The Simpsons” nor “the searing wit of South Park,” Ranker readers believe Family Guy does have it’s share of good points and voted these as the very best of them.

1. The Episode That Addressed Domestic Abuse

When It Illustrated How Domestic Assault Really Affects People

Photo: Fox

“Screams of Silence: The Story of Brenda Q” caused controversy when it first aired, due to the plot’s serious nature. Unlike most other episodes of Family Guy, this was a far more dramatic story that did not have a lot of time for comedy. It told the story of Quagmire’s sister Brenda and detailed her physical and emotional suffering at the hands of her partner.

Although it was sometimes crude, Family Guy did show how those who experience these issues can rationalize their pain and stay anyway. The episode also dealt with how the topic can impact friends and family. A speech by Quagmire summed this up nicely.

2. The Episode That Showed Joe’s Disability Doesn’t Diminish His Life

When It Showed How Joe’s Disability Doesn’t Diminish His Life

Photo: Fox

In “JOLO,” there is a poignant moment when Joe tries to end his life at Niagara Falls. Joe explains his disability perpetuated the attempt. Joe’s marriage is falling apart as he can no longer engage in physical intimacy. He is also unable to do other activities he once enjoyed.

The episode makes the case Joe has a life worth living, arguing those with disabilities can still have engaging and active experiences. 

3. The Episode That Stressed The Importance Of Friendship

When It Stressed The Importance Of Friendship

Photo: Fox

Despite almost constant bickering, Brian and Stewie are good friends who navigate many of Family Guy’s wild scenarios together. The “Brian & Stewie” episode makes this crystal clear after the two characters accidentally get locked inside a bank vault.

As they await help – and engage in ridiculous antics in the process – Stewie confesses how he feels about his canine friend. The monologue ends with him telling Brian: “You give my life purpose, and maybe, maybe that’s enough. Because that’s just about the greatest gift one friend can give another.”

It is a significant point about the importance of friendship, even if you don’t always agree on everything.

4. The Episode That Promoted Vaccinations As Necessary For Public Health

When It Promoted Vaccinations As Vital For Public Health

Photo: Fox

The anti-vaccination movement has gained traction in recent years. The fear of vaccinating children stems from concerns over potential side effects. The “Hot Shots” episode tried to combat these fears by focusing on the importance of vaccines.

Using a parody of The Dark Knight and some inappropriate Heath Ledger jokes, Family Guy offered observations on why vaccinations for curable diseases are vital. By (temporarily) turning Peter and Lois into anti-vaxxers, the episode ultimately dismantles these arguments. 

5. The Episode That Underscored The Importance Of Paying Attention To Messaging

When It Underscored The Importance Of Paying Attention To Messaging

Photo: Fox

The episode “Family Gay” focuses as a brief moment when Brian and Stewie are talking. The show then makes an observation about how some people misuse religion. When Brian complains to Stewie he is just quoting Bible verses despite the fact he is a baby and cannot even read yet, Stewie replies with the perfect response.

He says “Welcome to America, Brian.” The point made is many Americans use religious texts to support an argument even if they don’t truly understand the underlying message.

6. The Episode That Demonstrated Sometimes Your Heroes Are Only Human

When It Demonstrated Sometimes Your Heroes Are Only Human

Photo: Fox

The “Road To Europe” episode sees Stewie and Brian take a trip around the world. The genius baby wants to travel to London to meet the cast of his favorite television show. There are, of course, plenty of adventures along the way. However, the episode makes a point about what it might be like to meet your heroes.

Stewie finds the entire cast to be unfriendly and unenthusiastic. The encounter destroys his love for the show and reveals that the people he idolizes are not so great after all. 

7. The Episode That Underscored The Dangers Of Smoking

When It Underscored The Dangers Of Smoking

Photo: Fox

In “Mr. Griffin Goes To Washington,” a tobacco conglomerate takes over Peter’s company, and he takes the job of promoting the products. The goal is to sell more and change their image as a deterrent to good health.

Peter initially goes along with the plan to keep his job. However, he eventually realizes what he’s promoting and decides to be honest about it. In the process, he also vilifies the executives that now employ him. 

8. The Episode That Suggested You Shouldn’t Date Somebody Just For Their Looks

When It Suggested You Shouldn't Date Somebody Just For Their Looks

Photo: Fox

Brian has something of a tragic love life in Family Guy, but none of his relationships carry such an important message as the one he has with Jillian. She is a gorgeous character who Brian dates for several episodes. However, he only stays with Jillian because of her attractiveness. She’s not the most intelligent individual and is an entirely incompatible match for Brian. 

The “Movin’ Out” episode sees Brian end things with Jillian, as he finally realizes it’s a bad idea to date someone based on looks alone. 

9. The Episode That Offered The Downside Of Political Correctness

When It Offered The Downside Of Political Correctness

Photo: Fox

In the age of political correctness, where anyone can be outcast for an ill-timed quip, it is important not to be hypocritical. The episode “The D in Apartment 23” demonstrates this. A group of students is outraged by a joke that Brian tweeted. They almost immediately move to outright hostility, directing aggression towards Meg and Chris even though they had nothing to do with the tweet. 

The episode culminates in a fight scene that posits offensive physical responses are sometimes worse than the initial inflammatory statements. 

10. The Episode That Encouraged You To Not Let Others Bring You Down

When It Encouraged You To Not Let Others Bring You Down

Photo: Fox

When Stewie develops a crush on Joe and Bonnie’s new daughter in “Ocean’s Three and a Half,” he writes her a song. Brian thinks this is a silly thing to do and suggests Stewie give up on the idea and carries out his plan anyway.  

While the final product doesn’t lead to a relationship, it does demonstrate the importance of remaining true to your goals. Brian didn’t agree, but Stewie pushed through anyway and seemed satisfied to at least have tried. 

11. The Episode That Addressed The Destruction Of Small Businesses By Huge Conglomerates

When It Addressed The Destruction Of Small Businesses By Huge Conglomerates

Photo: Fox

“Mr. Griffin Goes To Washington” makes several salient observations throughout the episode, but among the most important centers on business. The toy shop that employs Peter is taken over by a tobacco conglomerate. What happens next is a cautionary tale about the intentions of many large corporations. 

While larger corporations might entice with lower prices, Family Guy makes the point there is still a tangible cost in the form of local jobs or moral decay from executives running the show. 

12. The Episode That Pointed Out You Only Get One Family

When It Pointed Out You Only Get One Family

Photo: Fox

In the early days of Family Guy, Meg wasn’t as much of a target for ridicule by her family as she later becomes. For example, “Fifteen Minutes Of Shame,” sees Meg embarrassed by her family to the point where she leaves. The family replaces her. 

However, it doesn’t take long before everyone realizes how much they miss each other. Peter and Lois even meet up with Meg in secret. They eventually reunite and demonstrate just how essential family is.

13. The Episode That Told You To Pay Your Debts

When It Said You Should Pay Your Debts

Photo: Fox

Although the episode “Patriot Games” doesn’t relay a profound message, it still serves as something of a cautionary tale. After Brian borrows money from Stewie to place a bet, he realizes he cannot pay the money back. The result is a slew of antics inflicted on the dog as the youngster does everything possible to get his money back.

The episode makes a point about paying off debts, even as viewers get a glimpse into the perils of gambling.