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Bart Simpson is all grown up and still dealing with the trauma of growing up with a violently abusive father. His partner, Chris Griffin, is working through similar issues over his own father.
Like The Simpsons and especially Family Guy, it seems like a joke on the surface, but there are deep issues and seriously broken homes at play here. Sure, the familiar faces are probably driving the popularity of “Couples Therapy,” but readers also recognize their own situations in the story.
“I’m waiting for someone to come into your inbox and say, ‘It’s just a cartoon! Stop taking it so seriously!'” a fan wrote to Volkushka, “But Family Guy teaches some really dangerous lessons so shouldn’t we take it seriously?” The premise of the comic is: Yes, we should.
As Volkushka explained on Tumblr, “This comic came about because I‘d read several commentaries comparing Homer Simpson and Peter Griffin, specifically in regards to how they treat their daughters.”
Almost everyone I know who takes the time to think critically about The Simpsons or Family Guy hones in on the fact that Peter physically and emotionally abuses Meg, whereas Homer is incompetent, neglectful, and absolutely does not understand Lisa – but he loves her and he tries.
In the commentary about how Peter and Homer treat their daughters, I didn’t really see anyone bring up the physical/emotional abuse of their sons.
So that’s what “Couples Therapy” deals with, head-on: the idea that corporal punishment has been shown to be ineffective and harmful, and is no longer a funny joke, and that childhood abuse carries over into adult relationships in toxic and destructive ways.
The Simpsons is a hilarious, groundbreaking show full of jokes that shaped the sense of humor of a whole generation of American kids, but some aspects of the show hold up better than others. Family Guy is ¯\_(?)_/¯.
“To lay it out there—I loathe Family Guy. Fucking hate it,” Volkushka writes.
And as for Bobby growing up to be a therapist—and a pretty good one!—that makes a lot of sense. His family wasn’t perfect, but they did accept his differences. He was drawn as a sympathetic character despite (or maybe because of) the ways in which he didn’t conform to his assigned gender role.
So, yeah. The biggest thing on your dashboard this week is a dark, too-real interpretation of your problematic childhood faves. If you see yourself in these panels, the comic makes a pretty strong case for finding someone qualified talk to about it.
Jay Hathaway is a former senior writer who specialized in internet memes and weird online culture. He previously served as the Daily Dot’s news editor, was a staff writer at Gawker, and edited the classic websites Urlesque and Download Squad. His work has also appeared on nymag.com, suicidegirls.com, and the Morning News.