Did “Family Guy” Just Promote The “Good Guy with a Gun” Narrative?

Joe Swanson, Good Guy with a Gun

Joe Swanson, Good Guy with a Gun

Wayne LaPierre, CEO of the NRA, famously once said, “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun, is a good guy with a gun.”

I strongly agree with that sentiment.

Family Guy, created by super liberal Seth MacFarlane, is not a show I would expect to endorse that pro-gun narrative.

Yet there it was in this past Sunday’s episode, “Passenger Fatty-Seven”.

Peter, Cleveland, and Joe convince the ever-entertaining, horny pilot Quagmire to score them free airline tickets for a trip to San Francisco. However, their return trip is interrupted when ambiguously Eastern European terrorists whip out a few sub-machine guns and hijack the plane. Their intent is to crash the plane into Las Vegas as a statement against American materialism.

The episode doesn’t tell us how these terrorists even managed to get their guns on the plane. I’ve passed through airport security numerous times. The blue-uniformed, high school dropouts working for the TSA never seem like they could possibly be qualified for screening anything. The unspoken subtext here is the worthlessness of the TSA’s security theater at actually stopping a determined set of terrorists.

Onboard the plane, the terrorists take Peter hostage. They threaten to execute him unless Quagmire complies with their demands to open the cockpit. Being a good pilot, Quagmire naturally refuses, leading to a tense standoff between him and the terrorists.

Meanwhile, with the terrorists distracted, Joe and Cleveland devise a plan to take back the plane.

“You know, I have a gun in the bag I checked. If we can get to the galley, we can take the elevator down to the cargo hold,” Joe whispers to Cleveland.

Normally, this is where I would expect the liberal Family Guy writers to inject some witty commentary about how guns are bad. Or maybe shock and outrage from Cleveland that Joe brought a gun with him on a plane!

But surprisingly, none of that is present in this episode. Cleveland simply responds with “Good idea, Joe!” as they put their plan into action of sneaking around the plane to retrieve Joe’s gun from his checked bag.

As part of the suspension of disbelief, I have to ignore the part where a plane’s cargo hold is easily accessible by elevator from the passenger area. I have never once been on a plane like that.

Anyway, Joe’s plan works. He retrieves his handgun from his suitcase and successfully uses it to defeat the terrorists who were holding Peter hostage.

Although there is a surprise plot twist where Quagmire has to save the day at the end, it doesn’t negate Joe’s heroism in the episode.

There is a gag where Joe forgot his bullets because they were packed separately. So he has to resort to simply pistol-whipping the terrorists, instead of shooting them. Since Family Guy is a comedy show, this doesn’t bother me at all.

I actually have to commend Joe for knowing the TSA policy that guns in checked airline baggage have to remain unloaded. Although he doesn’t seem to know that guns must also be locked inside a sealed, hard-sided container. Joe actually just pulled his handgun out, loose and unholstered, from his bag.

I guess I can’t expect the Family Guy writers to know every single policy detail about flying with firearms in the United States.

Ultimately, however, Joe Swanson is, without a doubt, the epitome of Wayne LaPierre’s “good guy with a gun”. That good guy with a gun is the one who stopped the bad guys with guns.

One could still argue that Family Guy isn’t endorsing that the average citizen be armed for self-defense against bad guys with guns. After all, Joe is a police officer. So, of course, he’s the most natural choice to be packing heat. And despite the libertarian side of me that generally distrusts contemporary law enforcement, I have to admit that some cops are heroes who do selflessly save people’s lives.

However, Joe’s occupation is never once mentioned in this episode. And even if it had been, he was off-duty the entire time.

If you watched this episode as a stand-alone, you would get the impression that Joe was just an average, armed citizen. And not one single person had a problem with that.

Little by little, the culture marches forward in favor of greater firearms freedoms. I’ll count this Family Guy episode as a victory for gun rights supporters.

Oh, and the episode ends with a hilarious joke about the awful and shitty Spirit Airlines. Can’t beat that!