Now we can't pretend like Family Guy hasn't "gone there" before with its offensive jokes. It's been racist at times, sexist at others, and it's probably offended every group there is. But tonight's episode took things too far when it acted like domestic violence was a huge joke.
We're not talking about one little domestic violence joke in a flashback, the whole episode was about two people in an abusive relationship - the guy, a typical jerk, and the woman, a weak, sodding idiot. I'll address that later. If you didn't think domestic violence jokes were funny, chances are you wouldn't have laughed at all during the episode, that's how much of the humor was based on the abusive relationship.
This isn't just poking fun at a group, this was probably psychologically harmful to abuse survivors watching the episode, and probably struck a chord with their friends and families as well. The truth is, everyone knows someone who's been abused - either sexually, physically, or at least emotionally - if you say you don't, you probably just don't know who it is. Yet. Not everyone likes to come out about their experiences, because they may be labeled as dramatic individuals trying to get attention.
The problem with this episode is that it only reinforced a lot of problematic assumptions we make about domestic violence. Aside from the humor going too far, the episode did speak some truths about how we treat domestic violence in this society. We assume that the victims are all weak and stupid individuals who are incapable of asserting themselves and therefore deserve what they get, and we only encourage them to leave, rather than try to get the abusers to stop beating their partners. We act as though abuse is an unstoppable force of nature, that some people are just sick individuals who don't care if they hurt others, and there's nothing we can do about it except keep the ones we love away from them, and scold our friends and family members for dating them. At no point in the episode did anyone try to intervene in the abuse - they all heard it, saw it happening, and no one tried to stop it, or call the police, or take the guy aside when he was calm and say "you really need to stop beating her." If anything, Peter validated the behavior. Nice.