The Evolution of Sexist Language in the Animated Sitcom Family Guy (1999-) Analysis and Comparison between English and Spanish Subtitling

2019 edition

Mariazell-Eugènia Bosch Fábregas

Family Guy (1999-), in Spanish Padre de Familia, is an American adult animation situational comedy created by Seth MacFarlane. The show is famous for dealing with socially and culturally controversial issues by using humour. The show, which revolves around the Griffin family (Peter, Lois, Meg, Chris, Stewie and Brian) is packed with satirical and off-colour humour. The creators’ perspective is to laugh at every single  thing and almost all situations (immigration, homosexuality, religion tolerance, gender violence) are exaggerated and brought to an extreme, which in some cases may be understood as bordering on disrespect and bad taste. The mechanism of humour serves as a critique of the American society, which is embodied by the Griffin family, though at the same time the show itself takes part in a society and culture that (in)directly foster certain values and behaviours.

One of the aspects that brought my attention when watching Family Guy is the way in which women are (re)presented in the show. I realised that many chapters seemed to both use a certain and recurrent type of language towards women (mainly degrading, insulting, off-colour), while framing and displaying female characters in specific roles (their objectification and sexualisation within the family and society areas), which in a way reflects how the patriarchal society perceives women’s body and sexuality, language and thought, attitude, personality, and above all, identity.

The aim of this project, therefore, is to find out a possible evolution (ascending, descending or neutral) of the way in which women are described and portrayed in a corpus of 17 episodes of the series, while studying the role of translation in the transmission or subversion of gender roles. However, this series is very complex, not only in the number of seasons and episodes (17 seasons, 284 episodes) but also in its essence: there are many topics entangled, which makes the research and analysis even more complex. Even though I decided, in broad terms, to analyse the series from a perspective of gender and translation, I reckon that there are other related issues intertwined, such as sex and gender, stereotyping, feminism, humour, language (verbal and non-verbal) discourse analysis; audiovisual translation (dubbing and subtitling). Given the magnitude of topics and subtopics, I consider that examining the connections among all of these can definitely bring about a powerful insight on how women are portrayed in the show.