Geekdom Come, Reference Humor

Reference Humor: Family Guy Season 8 Episode 1 “Road to Multiverse”

This week we take a look at a show which is known for relying heavily on pop-culture to make its jokes fly. To be honest I’m a bit hit or miss with Family Guy. But I picked an episode I haven’t seen before so we will see how this goes. As always bold numbers represent the time at which the reference happened and Spoilers abound for a wide variety of films. Scroll down at your own risk. Okay, let’s get started.

00:00 The entire episode is a play on the central premise of the show Sliders (1995-2000), which feature four people who were forced to travel randomly between parallel world but were unable to find their way home.

00:21 This title card is based on the video game Pac-man (1980) With Brian playing the game, Stewie portrayed as Pac-man, and the rest of the Family portrayed as the colored ghosts who try to eat Pac-man.

0:27 This title card depicts Mt. Doom from The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) with Stewie as Gollum and Brian as Frodo.

0:42 This title card shows Brian as Godzilla from the film Godzilla (1954) Stewie is seen as a fleeing Japanese citizen, which is straight from the movie when Godzilla invades Tokyo.

2:21 The steropticon in 1910 blowing minds. This reference should actually be to the stereoscope which is a way of viewing a three-dimensional image using a merged left and right image and a special pair of lenses. It was all the rage in the early 20th century.

2:48 Stewie references the Multiverse theory. If you’re a fan of this blog, and I know you are, you recognize that they mean the Many (or Infinite) Worlds Theory made popular by Bryce DeWitt which postulate this is but one of an infinite number of universes and that each universe will be slightly different from this one.

3:40 In this universe the Dark Ages never occurred. The Dark Ages were a period of European history ranging from the 5th to 15th century where the church dominated political and cultural life and scientific discovery was widely suppressed.

4:52 The Sistine Chapel is located in the Vatican. It is known as one of Michelangelo’s greatest works. On this world John Hinkley Jr. Is said to have decorated it instead. Photos of actress Jodie foster are shown on the ceiling. John Hinkley Jr attempted to assassinate President Reagan and had a fixation with Jodie Foster.

5:18 Brian and Stewie jump into a universe resembling the Hanna-Barbera cartoon The Flintstones (1960-1966).

5:30 Peter and Lois overuse of the word rock is mocking The Flintstones tendency to do the same.

5:46 Peter suggests using a “frog condom” with the bad pun “ribbited for your pleasure” The frog talks to camera complete with The Flintstones sound effect. This is another gag making fun of The Flintstones regular jokes
effect

6:13 In this universe the atomic bomb on was never dropped on Hiroshima. On August 6, 1945 the United States dropped the first atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima, hoping to break the spirit of the Japanese people and force a surrender thus avoiding an all-out invasion. The bomb killed more than 129,000 people. Most of whom were civilians.

6:19 Meg is seen committing Seppukku; a form a ritual suicide used by Japanese nobles and military men in an effort to retain their honor.

6:35 The characters over-narrate their actions. A common occurrence in Japanese cinema.

9:12 Stewie tells Brian to press the red button. Dogs are color blind. Thus Brian would not be able to see the color red.

9:45 The pair enter a universe where everything is drawn by Disney. Disney is a large multimedia corporation that began as an animation studio in the 1920’s. The company was founded by the brothers Walt and Roy Disney but it is Walt who gets credit for the studio’s distinctive style.

9:57 Lois is dressed like Snow White from the Disney animated film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937).

10:10 Peter breaks into song about how wonderful the day is. This is a spoof of the tendency for Disney cartoon characters to break into overly optimistic songs about fairly innocuous things. During the song we see Joe as an enchanted coffee pot like Mrs. Potts in Beauty and the Beast (1991), Cleveland is Flower the skunk from Bambi (1942) Tom Tucker is Br’er Rabbit from Song of the South (1946), Meg is drawn as Ursula from The Little Mermaid (1989), Chris as Winnie the Pooh from
Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree (1966). and Herbert the Pervert as the evil queen offering an apple from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937).

11:24 The animated characters turn dark and angry when a Jewish character arrives. This is a blatant jab highlighting Walt Disney’s known anti-Semitism.

11:40 Instead of the usual teleportation we’ve seen so far this time they are whisked away by Bruce the Performance Artist drawn as Tinkerbell from Peter Pan (1953)

11:50 This universe is a spook of the show Robot Chicken (2001). This is an in-joke because that show was created by Seth Green who voices Chris on Family Guy.

11:53 The action figures of characters Optimus Prime (Transformers, 1984); Lion-O (Thundercats, 1985); He-Man(He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, 1983) and Duke ( G.I. Joe, 1985) walk into the room. All were beloved heroes of animated children’s shows in the ‘80’s.

11:56 Chris “yeah those shows existed” making fun of Robot Chicken’s over-reliance on nostalgia jokes.

12:00 “How does it feel to be on a major network for 30 seconds” Family Guy airs on Fox (a broadcast network) while Robot Chicken airs on Cartoon Network (a cable channel).

12:01 Chris swears and its bleeped out. Highlighting the difference between network and cable television.

12:13 In this Sinatra-less universe, Kennedy doesn’t get elected, Nixon wins 1960 election, botching Cuban missile crisis, WW3 ensues. Frank Sinatra was a popular singer and movie star. An icon of his age. John F. Kennedy served as President of the United States from 1961-1963. Richard Nixon was JFK’s opponent in the 1960 election and would later serve as president from 1969-1974. His presidency is generally viewed as national disgrace ending in impeachment. The Cuban Missile Crisis was a 13-day showdown in October of 1962 that began when the Soviet Union deployed ballistic missiles on the island of Cuba. It is believed to be the closest the world has ever come to nuclear war.

12:23 “Then Lee Harvey Oswald never shot Kennedy?” Oswald assassinated Kennedy on November 22, 1963.

12:26 “nope he shot Mayor McCheese” The Zapruder film is shown with Mayor McCheese as Kennedy

13:21 Washington Post political cartoon universe “liberal dog tag, baby 2002, McCain-Feingold, cat with dollar signs, social security, alternative minimum tax” This is just a jumble of political jargon designed to show how deliberately obtuse the newspaper The Washington Post can be.

15:49 “Damn dirty dog” This is a play on the famous Charlton Heston quote “Damn, dirty apes” from the film Planet of the Apes (1968)

19:54 “I hope the next leap will be the leap home” This is a line from the opening credits of the television series Quantum Leap (1989-1993).

Well, I have to say, while the references were certainly flowing during this episode I was a bit put off by the segment in the Japanese universe. It felt pretty racist to me. Like Mickey Rooney in Breakfast at Tiffany’s racist. I’m not sure if animated characters can wear yellow face but if they can the cast of Family Guy did in this episode. I almost decided just to trash this entry and move on, but instead I decided to call it out down here in this afterword. If you have thoughts on the issue please feel free to share them below. I mean, unless you’re pro-racism in which case go fuck yourself.

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