With all due respect to my fellow comic book fans, this post will not be about Bruce Wayne and his extended, bizarre family. This death is in a different sort of pop culture family all together: the Griffin family. Yes, the Family Guy Griffin family. Spoiler alert in the next sentence, although I am pretty sure the entire internet already knows the news. Brian Griffin has shuffled off his little, cartoon, (not quite) mortal coil. This is actually much sadder news than I think most of us, especially fans of the show, realize.
It would be easy to sum it up as a pang of loss born from watching a beloved character die. Brian was easily my favorite character on that show. He was the character I most identified with. I have argued in the past, however, that it is sometimes necessary, even good, for creators to kill the characters we love. I have jumped to Joss Whedon’s defense (seriously, did you think we would get through a blog post about gatting TV characters without bringing up his name?) I will likely do so in the future. I cry every time I watch Wash die, but he had to go. It was necessary for the narrative of the world in which he lived.
Brian’s loss is so much more. It is a loss not just for the fans. It is a loss for the show itself. It diminishes what has long been the beauty of the show, or at least makes it that much harder for that beauty to be apparent. Seth MacFarlane has long asserted, and his fans defended, that his humor is satire. In quick acts, like his homage to boobs, itself a stab at the hypocrisy surrounding the softcore porn act that is your Hollywood award show, it is not so easy to make it obvious. In shows like Family Guy, however, we have a POV character to help us with that.
Hence we get Brian Griffin. He was our onscreen eye-roll at the family that adopted him. While not perfect himself (shallow in his pursuit of love, a coke addict and alcoholic and he eats puke) he is more like us than the insane people around him. He is what let us know that Peter Griffin was not to be taken seriously, that in fact, people like Peter Griffin are fairly reprehensible. We could laugh at it because we, and Brian, were having fun at the horrible people’s expense. There really is no one to take his place. The closest we get is Lois, but she is in many ways at least as messed up as Peter.
Ultimately this is just a silly, little show on a silly, little network. This is not some grand upheaval. It will be sad, however, if Seth doesn’t turn around and bring Brian back (a possibility considering it is a cartoon.) Without this crucial character the show does become just a barrage of racist, sexist, transphobic, and homophobic jabs. We will have no one on-screen to sympathize with us, and unlike his performance at the Oscars, no one to laugh at when we witness the shallow outrage. Today I mourn not the loss of a great character, but of a great satire. Rest in Peace Brian Griffin, you take the soul of a show with you.
- Family Guy: Was killing off Brian Griffin an act of sabotage? (metro.co.uk)
- Family Guy kills off major character, replaces him with Sopranos’ Paulie Walnuts (metro.co.uk)
- ‘Family Guy’ Kills Off Beloved Pet Dog In Emotional Episode (connecticut.cbslocal.com)
- ‘Family Guy’ Shocker: Did They Really Kill Off [Spoiler] Griffin? (hollywoodlife.com)
- 5 things Brian Griffin has taught us about life (metro.co.uk)