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‘Family Goy’ Episode Explores Lois Griffin’s Jewish Identity

posted by Esther Kustanowitz

People who watch “Family Guy” are used to a strong case of the random and bizarre. This week is no different, as we’re treated to a seemingly appropro of nothing Superfriends intro credits and two seemingly unrelated storylines (Quagmire discovers internet porn, finally; and Peter falls in love with a Kathy Ireland cutout from the 90s). But after Lois has a health scare, we get to the kosher meat at the heart of the show: Lois is Jewish, which of course has predictably zany effects on her bizarre family. After viewing the episode, titled “Family Goy,” it occurs to me that the seemingly out of place intro is actually a perfect callback to the role that Jewish comic book writers had on the industry. Many comic book heroes – Superman and Spiderman among them — were created by Red Sea pedestrians, as an outgrowth of outsider status. And in today’s TV cartoon families, Jewish identity is a theme that’s played for both semi-serious inquiry as well as laughs. Both the Simpsons and South Park devoted episodes to finding out what it means to be Jewish: now it’s time for Judaism to get the Griffin treatment,For people who think that the concept of “spoilers” applies to Family Guy, you’ll want to end your reading of this piece here and go directly to Hulu to view the episode. Everyone else, continue after the jump.Predictably, there are broad stroke trappings of Jewishness that the Griffins embrace and lampoon – Peter’s Star of David plus chest hair, plus his insistence that people call him by his Hebrew name (“chcchchchchch”); Lois puts on a Passover seder; Stewie chants a brachah (blessing) over holiday candles; and Ben Stein plays a monotonous rabbi. Plus, the characters make their regular quota of Star Wars and Indiana Jones jokes. But there are deeper moments Their friend Max notes that “becoming Jewish doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a process that involves spiritual education and good works.” This is of course lost on the intellectually stunted Peter, who exasperated, echoes generations of kids forced to go to Hebrew school: “Leave it to a Jew to take all the fun out of being a Jew.” Later, Peter, newly convinced that his family needs to remain Catholic, explains that “we believe in the Easter Bunny – he died for our sins in that helicopter crash,” which comments on the chasm between a holiday’s actual meaning and the commercialized, materialistic versions that pervades people’s cultural and religious literacy.At the end of the day (or in this case, the episode), Jesus saves, explaining to Peter that Judaism and Catholicism are “two sides of the same coin.” When Brian tries to include Islam is also in that same spiritual family, as part, Jesus cuts him off: “Let’s not muddy things up here.” By the episode’s end, Peter is confused. Which religion should he be? he asks Jesus. Well, at least that moment I won’t spoil. View the episode here.



  • losinginla

    I never have watched family guy before and now I know why. It is so inappropriate. I don’t know if I am insulted as a jew because this show probably would offend anyone. So so so inappropriate. How does the network allow this?

  • Adrian Durlester

    So what if Family Guy has always been sophomoric, even inappropriate, perhaps, in some contexts. Often, it is oddly on the mark. FG is an equal opportunity offender, as it has demonstrated countless times, and especially in earlier episodes dealing with Judaism and other religions. As an active Jew and Jewish educator, I found the episode simultaneously delightfully thought-provoking and sophomoric. In other words, I loved it. Lois (and her mother) are surprisingly thoughtful in their dialog, and Peter is the perfect idiot, as always. Stewie recites a perfect brakha, and Brian gets to remain the Malcolm Gladwell of FG.(Is that a spoiler?) This episode fits in perfectly with the FG mold, even with its bizarre and diverse plot threads. (Thanks Esther, for pointing out the obvious Jewish connection to the opening credits that I missed.)

  • Julie Ann Josephson

    I thought this episode was extremely offensive to jews. I am Jewish and will will never watch this stupid show again.

  • D

    I agree with Adrian– Family Guy is an “equal opportunity offender” and for that it’s hilarious. I’m a Christian and can’t even count how many times they’ve made a Christianity or Jesus joke. It’s all in good fun though–mindless, escapist entertainment.

  • sickened

    the amon geoth scene was wy over the top and far beyond any potential standard of decency. funny how kustanowitz doesn’t even mention it.
    deplorable.

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  • pedro

    get over it people. its a bloody cartoon! it makes fun of everything and everyone. besides what you going to do when jesus comes back and kicks your ass.

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