"Family Guy," Fox network's satirical animated comedy show, is known for pushing things to the edge. But its Sunday episode depicting domestic violence, "Screams of Silence: The Story of Brenda Q," has evoked genuine outrage from viewers.
The episode features a woman named Brenda (Quagmire’s little sister) who is in denial about the fact that her boyfriend, Jeff, is abusing her.
"Jeff's sweet, you don't see how gentle and softly he hits me when we’re alone," Brenda says to Lois in one of the lines that producers apparently intended to be funny, but that many viewers perceived as sad and generally in bad taste.
"She's still with him? Isn't he the one that beats her?" Louis asks about Brenda at the beginning of the episode, to which Peter replies: "Yeah, but she's gotten a lot better."
"This is just the first of many, many disgusting non-jokes," Whitney Jefferson of Jezebel wrote in her review of the controversial episode, which seems packed with jokes that are serious and brutal even for this controversial show.
Joe, the policeman character, for instance, says at one point: "Sorry, police policy is that we can't step in until it's too late." At another instant, Jeff calls Brenda a "fat, ugly, [expletive]." At the end, the couple announces that Brenda is pregnant and that they are getting married.
"I'd show you the ring, but it's under this splint," Brenda says.
"They made fun of the victim more than they made fun of the assailant," Dr. Wendy Walsh, a popular relationship expert often appearing in media, told CNN in an interview.
Walsh added that she respects "Family Guy" as a source of good, adult comedy, but this time the show has pushed it one step too far.
"What we're watching is not comedy. We're watching somebody rationalizing domestic violence in a relationship," Walsh said. "And this is the kind of process that actually goes on in real life. So it's not satire any more. It's too close to real life."
The Twitter-verse and other online debate grounds show the viewers' disapproval of the episode.
"I totally didn't get that last episode of Family Guy. There's nothing funny about domestic violence," one person Tweeted, followed by many similar comments.
Other tweets state, "If you're looking to the Family Guy to educate folks on the effects of domestic violence you need to be beaten" and "Nothing like domestic violence and terrorism jokes to make another stellar Family Guy episode."