Family Guy is no stranger to controversy. But after Sunday's installment of Fox's animated series, some critics are insisting that this time, the show really went too far. In the episode, Stewie the baby and Brian the dog travel back in time to prevent the terrorist attacks of 9/11 from happening. The duo succeeds — but subsequently, the country lacks the goodwill and national unity that followed the attacks. America then continues down its rancorous, bitterly-divided path until a civil war breaks out, southern states secede, and a nuclear war begins. Ruling that the world would be better off if 9/11 happened, Stewie and Brian go back again to make sure the attacks take place. "We did it Brain — we made 9/11 happen! High-five!" Stewie says, adding moments later, "Wow. That probably wouldn't look good out of context." (Watch the video below.) Did Family Guy finally go too far?
The show crossed a line: It's easy to see why so many people are offended, says Kate Moon at TV Fanatic. The high-five celebration after Stewie and Brian successfully ensure that 9/11 will indeed happen was "definitely" inappropriate. Sometimes, you just shouldn't go there.
"Family Guy: Back to the Beginning"
This is par for the course with Family Guy: This episode went so far over the line that the show "might need a pair of binoculars to see the line," says Terri Pous at TIME. But what else do you expect? The show's loyal viewers "live for 'too soon' moments, no matter how sensitive the material." What amazes me is that Fox allowed this to go on the air in the first place, after famously shooting down an earlier episode about abortion. Still, people shouldn't read a serious political agenda into this. The show's creators "probably just wanted to cause a stir — and some laughter."
"Did Family Guy's 9/11 satire go too far a laugh?"
It was actually smart commentary: This episode was kind of brilliant, says Alyssa Rosenberg at ThinkProgress. It was "both charming and politically astute." It's true that if the events of 9/11 didn't unfold as they did, we likely "would have done some bad things to ourselves and our country." The episode smartly captured the notion that "the attacks may have been an initial victory for al Qaeda, but it's a victory we consolidated ourselves."
"Family Guy's 9/11 counterfactual"
And there's more to the story: Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane was closer to the 9/11 attacks "than you may realize," says Mike Ryan at Aol. That morning, MacFarlane was scheduled to fly on American Airlines Flight 11 — the flight that struck the North Tower of the World Trade Center. MacFarlane missed the flight because he overslept and because his travel agent gave him the wrong time. Maybe Sunday's episode of Family Guy was his attempt to finally deal with the weight of that situation — or maybe it was "just another piece of entertainment that went too far." Either way, the controversy "is even more interesting" knowing MacFarlane's history.
"Seth MacFarlane: Was last night's Family Guy his 9/11 catharsis?"