February 2023

Peter Griffin Is Insane And So Are You

“Family Guy” Is Creepy, Or At Least, That’s What The Internet Wants You To Think

Peter Griffin Is Insane And So Are You: “Family Guy” Is Creepy, Or At Least, That’s What The Internet Wants You To Think

In the modern age (if you don’t consider the start of "Family Guy" as the modern age) making memes about "Family Guy" isn’t about screenshotting a funny cut-away gag and captioning it anymore. Instead, it’s become about subverting the mundanity and corporate influence of the adult animated show that’s produced some of comedy’s most inventive and least inventive jokes. There is no in between. However, when it comes to "Family Guy" memes, there is no “in between” to speak of. It’s all ironic chaos, which has led to post-ironic chaos and has, in tow, made "Family Guy" creepy, or perhaps, not creepy in the sense that it is creepy, it’s rather that, for adults who are the same age as its history, there needs to be something more to Peter Griffin, something eerie, resulting in a mass longing for "Family Guy" to be creepy.

For this longing to manifest fully in the generation that grew up with it, the show had to become so obviously embedded in popular culture that the concept of it itself had become absurd. This is for a couple of factors. One, it’s been on the air for so long that its characters, settings and punchlines are embedded within popular culture to a point where one doesn’t need to be looking at the screen to watch the movements (both comedically and physically). Two, because of its long history, its past feels dramaically different than its present, alluding to some sort of shift since its creation that’s alienated its creator, Seth McFarlane and likened it to a brand that has a rotating cast of nameless employees feeding off of its clout in a very “late capitalist” sense. And three, because it’s a show that’s ultimately shaped the way that Zoomers make jokes (both in real life and online) it is entitled to some sort of praise; in this case, both earnest and ironic praise are the same. 

Therefore, for those who can’t remember a single moment without its existence, "Family Guy" has to be creepy, right? It’s as if it’s a dark, witch’s spell that’s been cast over the entire globe since 1999, keeping it on the air every season no matter how cringily topical Peter’s shenanigans get. However, if you don’t believe that this societal longing to make "Family Guy" creepy exists in internet culture, there is evidence that has peaked in engagement this year.

Maybe the first piece of creepy "Family Guy" content was a YouTube poop uploaded in 2017 which had Glenn Quagmire looking into the camera and saying, “I’m Glenn Quagmire,” with devilish intent. The over-pixelated mess of a video read as “found footage,” eventually showing Quagmire screaming and writhing in pain on the ground as subliminal messages played in the audio and picture.

Even though the video was ultimately ironic, in that, it insists through using "Family Guy" that there’s nothing creepy about good ol’ "Family Guy", it ultimately is creepy because of that contrast, in that, it portrays "Family Guy" as an illusion too good to be true.

Although it was just the start, the video, along with similar "Family Guy" content, inspired a wave of ironic, "Family Guy" memes that flooded Instagram “hood irony” pages and /r/OkBuddyRetard starting in 2018. From then on, "Family Guy" entries on the Know Your Meme website became less about certain quotes and screencaps and almost entirely related to absurdity, late capitalism and creepypastas.

For instance, TikTok users just resurfaced an old creepypasta called the “Peter Is Going Insane Theory,” which when it was first posted to Reddit in 2012, only got about 500 upvotes. That’s not terrible engagement, but since it landed on TikTok, the concept has earned millions of views and likes with many on the new app sinking their teeth into the concept.

In all honesty, however, the “theory” is not that deep. It’s basically just that the entire plot of "Family Guy" is in Peter’s mind. This is made plausible by the outlandish gags that occur in the show which no normal human could survive or encompass. Ultimately, the theory is akin to many “the main character is actually insane” theories and “they’re in a coma” theories, but with "Family Guy", the collective “buying into it” is a lot more mainstream and therefore the discourse surrounding it are a lot louder than parallel theories about competing cartoons. This mainstream discourse alludes to the fact that most people are "Family Guy" fans and it is not a niche fandom.

This “fandom” will latch onto any creepypasta that hints about "Family Guy’s" creepiness, even if the “creepypasta” was synthesized by TikTok’s algorithm. Enter the “’Family Guy’ Pipeline Incident,” which sounds a lot like an epic creepypasta akin to some of the greatest cartoon creepypastas like “Squidward’s Suicide,” however, the “incident” was only a “reccomended search” glitch that started with insidious "’Family Guy’ Clips” channels on the app that added a secondary “ADHD video” to the bottom half showing a DIY pipe cleaning video in which the nameless repairman’s hand filled the metal tubes with carrots and cigarettes in an oddly satisfying manner. The TikTok algorithm somehow recognized the two visuals side-by-side and invented a “recommended seach” query to place at the top of the comment section to be clicked, reading, “"Family Guy" Pipeline Incident.” Inherently, this caused many to wonder what the “incident” was, only to find nothing in return.

Thus, the urge to solve the creepy "Family Guy" lore was born. Unfortunately for those who wanted to know what the “pipeline incident” was, parody “"Family Guy" Clips” took advantage of them by sneaking jumpscares of Jeff the Killer overtop running clips of “Subway Surfers.”

In truth, the longing for "Family Guy" to be creepy is not so different from similarly creepy SpongeBob memes like “We Have Come For Your Nectar” or “Sandwiches at a Cheap Price!? Satisfactory.” Both shows are established and long-running (to the point of nausea) and there needs to be something more to their current, post-capitalist mundanity. Additionally, the subversion of their histories and currently vapid nature has tinged on the ere of making them absurdist and creepy. Right now in memes, cartoons aren’t the only subculture following this trajectory, entire states such as Ohio have become so Americana and mundane that they’ve been likened to creepiness and absurdity.

As more and more Chinese mobile games and ASMR visuals get pasted around the edges of the best "Family Guy Clips” channels, one will start to wonder how deep the peak capitalist cartoon’s lore actually goes and ultimately, they’ll discover that the abyss their staring into is not that deep at all.

click here to read this article in the February 2023 Meme Insider issue.