The two shows are airing an hourlong crossover episode this Sunday, promoted using a trailer in which Stewie Griffin and Bart Simpson are prank-calling Moe the bartender. Unfortunately, Stewie’s idea of a prank call is to say, “Moe, your sister’s being raped,” and then hang up. Needless to say, this “joke” is not getting the most positive feedback.
This is one of the very few occasions when feminists and a Christian censorship advocacy group are in agreement. “I was blown out of my shoes when I saw the scene with the rape joke in it,” said Tim Winter of the Parents Television Council. “It really troubled me.” (The scene in question starts at 0:48.)
The joke may have been intended to court controversial publicity. The target audience for Family Guy is people who enjoy edgy humor, and part of that enjoyment often comes from the satisfaction that you’re rebelling against so-called political correctness. This wouldn’t be the first time Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane has been upbraided for including a rape joke in the show, after all.
This 30-second scene is actually a very appropriate summary of the difference between the two shows: Bart Simpson’s dumb, schoolboy humor versus Stewie Griffin escalating massively in a bid for attention. It probably won’t do much damage to the crossover’s viewing figures, though. Fans of Family Guy will already be familiar with this kind of joke, and the number of people complaining from the Simpsons side can only be a small fraction of their overall audience.
Neither Fox nor MacFarlane has issued a statement on the controversy.