WARNING: This Family Guy article discusses suicide.
People probably know Family Guy as that weird animated show that’s crass and stuffed to the brim with cutaway gags, and they’d be right about 95 percent of the time actually.
But when the show decides to do something different or serious for that remaining five percent, the end result is usually something surprisingly good and there’s no better example of that than its 150th episode, ‘Brian & Stewie,’ which gave us one of the most mature discussions of suicide ever seen on a TV show.
Eschewing all gags and cutaways in favour of an intimate “bottle episode” setting, ‘Brian & Stewie’ sees Brian and Stewie get trapped in a bank vault and the pair end up just talking the entire time.
Things get cranked up dramatically towards the end though when Stewie discovers a gun in Brian’s safety desposit box. After confronting Stewie confront Brian, a vocal anti-gun left-winger, about it, Brian confesses he has it in case he ever wants to commit suicide.
When pressed, Brian admits that he constantly faces existential crises due to his anthropomorphism and he can’t find his purpose in life unlike other dogs.
It’s a wild shift in a Family Guy episode that had the pair getting drunk before culminating with Brian eating Stewie’s vomit just minutes earlier.
But beyond dealing with such heavy subject matter, this particular Family Guy episode also demonstrates how someone should talk to a friend who is contemplating suicide.
Stewie asks simple yet direct questions such as “why are you unhappy” and “why do you want to kill yourself?” Not only does this keep Brian talking (which is good as it keeps their mind on other things while allowing for aid to arrive), it also helps him talk himself out of going through with it.
What’s also great is how Stewie never criticises Brian for being suicidal as depressed people beat themselves up already and there’s no need for more dogpiling. Stewie also tells Brian that he is best friend and he would be lost without him, which gives Brian reassurance and a personal reason to stay alive.
There are no laughs to be had but it all works on both a dramatic and character level as the dynamic between Brian and Stewie has always been Family Guy‘s strong point and having them go through a conversation about suicide was an important development in their friendship.
Now this exchange is not all entirely accurate as Stewie does do some stuff you shouldn’t say to a person with suicidal thoughts, such not telling Brian to get professional help. But look, Stewie is a baby who is put on the spot by his best friend and he did a great job talking Brian down from suicide given the situation.
Who would’ve thought a show like Family Guy could actually teach us something meaningful?
If you or someone you care about needs help, please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.