Always willing to put out a contrarian point of view, "Family Guy" on Sunday addressed perhaps the most sensitive subject in modern America: the attacks of September 11th, 2001.
The episode saw baby Stewie and dog Brian going back in time, at one point intervening to prevent the terrorist attacks of 9/11. But when things go awry, including the outbreak of a civil war and subsequent secession of southern states, they have to make a decision: should they keep history changed, or just let 9/11 stay on the record books and keep 2011's true reality?
The decision? Make sure 9/11 happens. And so they do, ensuring the chaos and destruction.
Seth MacFarlane's flagship cartoon has become both one of television's top comedies and sources of social commentary through a willingness to tackle any subject without fear of potential criticism and blowback. And this episode is sure to generate some discussion as to just how far they should go in the pursuit of pointed laughs. The show often mentions 9/11 in a satirical way, and Stewie acknowledged that their decision “didn’t look good out of context,” but will people be more offended this time than ever?
To be fair, the choice was made to prevent a civil war and an apocalyptic future. Then again, that future was created by the writing team. The larger question to ask is whether 9/11 can be part of humor, or, ten years after the attacks, is it entirely off-limits for jokes?
One interesting note: MacFarlane has told interviewers that he was scheduled to fly on one of the planes that crashed into the World Trade Center on September 11th, and only a hangover and fate kept him from boarding.