Family Guy’s Creator Seth MacFarlane Doesn’t Get Alcoholism and AA

Reading about alcoholism bores almost as much as writing about it so I’ll make this brief. I caught the recent Family Guy episode where Peter and Brian are sentenced to 30 days of AA meetings. Hi-jinks ensue as Peter turns the meetings into booze filled parties. Seth MacFarlane shares my interest in classic musicals, so there was a fun piece called “Mr. Booze” where alcohol is made a scapegoat for everyone’s moral failures. Peter ends up drunk driving and killing himself whereupon the Grim Reaper shows him what his life would be if he continues down the path of alcoholism (not sure how the path continues after dying in a car accident…), and another path in which Peter never touches alcohol in his life. Peter asks whether there isn’t a third way between being an alcoholic asshole and a dry douche – and the Reaper informs him about moderation.

Seth MacFarlane is a raging liberal and Family Guy is spotty, but I have followed it since its beginning and overall like the show. But moderation being the key to alcoholism is just another simple solution for a complex problem that liberals like MacFarlane preach, along with the fiction that Israel’s returning to its 1967 borders will end the Arab-Israeli Conflict, showing terrorists how we respect Islam in America will make them change their minds about killing us, and spending more money on education will make American kids smarter.

Moderation… why didn’t I think of that when my wife was threatening to leave me before I got sober over 10 years ago? Moderation. How many drunks in church basements have failed to turn around their lives with one word? Moderation. If only Jack Kerouac had known about that maybe he wouldn’t have bled to death after decades of pickling his liver.

Or maybe it’s because for most alcoholics moderation doesn’t work. Does MacFarlane seriously think that the answer is that easy? How much time has he spent around drunks? Has he met people who literally cannot stop drinking? I know of an alcoholic on hospice who was dying of liver failure caused by her alcohol consumption, but couldn’t stop. She was relieved to learn that she didn’t qualify for a liver transplant because she didn’t have to stop drinking, and the nurses on hospice actually poured her drinks for her. She only stopped drinking when she died. In my experience my life revolved around my next drink, and moderation wasn’t possible. I had tried it several times from the time I started drinking in high school until the time I began my current ride over 10 years ago. One beer inevitably turned into two which inevitably turned into six which inevitably turned into so much alcohol that it forced me to switch to the metric system so that I could calculate my consumption in liters because the Imperial system was too complex when I was drunk.

The stories I gleaned in church basements were always the same as mine. Moderation simply wasn’t possible for those of us who ended up there.

Moderation? MacFarlane’s knowledge of alcoholism is as shallow as his most of his non-sequitur humor and this episode proved it. In the episode Brian stated something along the lines that all people did was turn their alcohol addiction to an AA addiction. Something tells me that MacFarlane’s knowledge about AA only extends to rehab where the people attending have only days or even hours of sobriety under their belts. They tend to be giddy about their sobriety and in desperation almost as high on it as they were on alcohol. But I’ve been to meetings where the average sobriety was measured in years, and sometimes in decades. The long-timers at those meetings hadn’t substituted one addiction for another: they had achieved a level of calmness that drunks only glimpse in the oblivion they so crave. Every meeting is different, and some have terrible chemistry and are a waste of time. The bottom line remains that when it comes to addiction, AA is the only game in town. While I have not been to a meeting in years and remain sober, I know it is there and carry a number in my pocket – a lifeline that I haven’t had to use but know is there. I’m glad AA is exists.

MacFarlane is a comedian; his cartoons won’t change the world honestly and shouldn’t. But when he preaches as he did in this episode, I’m going to call him out on it – and it’s clear to me that he doesn’t understand what the hell he is talking about.

UPDATE: The Mr. Booze piece isn’t a MacFarlane original: it’s from the Rat Pack classic Robin and the 7 Hoods (1964). Here’s a link to the original.

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  1. Jack:

    Every person I know that personally supports AA or NA are liberals. Period. Every conservative person I know discards it as liberal nonsense. Period. When I worked at Diversified Labs (remember that place, you worked there too) and I had family members in both AA and NA, I told several co-workers (all of them conservatives, the same people you worked with) that Alcoholism was a disease. The gaffaws and personal attacks on me and my stupidity was deafening. Their view, plain and simply, people who can’t have a drink once in a while (translation: moderation) was crazy and stupid, and calling it a “disease” was a copout. This was the predominately conservative view and it still is. Organizations like AA and NA are highly progressive. The vast majority of people I know who have sought help from those organizations are progressives.

  2. Scott Kirwin:

    I’m not arguing that addiction-as-a-disease is a liberal belief; I am stating that the myth of moderation that MacFarlane espoused in the episode is just that: a myth. I attributed his position to his other liberal positions, but it may be possible that it is due to nothing more than ignorance or stupidity.

    I will call out conservatives on this topic as well. Their position is that addicts use the disease as an excuse (not so different from MacFarlane’s portrayal in the Mr. Booze sketch) and it is true that many addicts misunderstand the 12 Steps in that way. But by the 3rd Step one must own the disease by accepting responsibility to continue in recovery.

    Addiction isn’t a disease in the same way AIDS or cancer is. Cancer patients cannot stop the progress of their disease by simply attending meetings and avoiding what caused their disease in the first place. Addicts can – so they should be treated differently. Yet they still need help.

    AA gets a lot of criticism but it is the only game in town. While I disagree with you on it being a progressive organization (it depends on the meeting – each one is different and the ones you went to may have been in liberal communities vs the ones I have attended in more conservative areas) it is the only game in town. Nothing treats addiction better.

  3. Jack:


    I don’t think I was clear on my point. I think that addiction is a disease and I completely agree with you that, for the addict, abstaining from alcohol is the only real solution. Moderation is a ridiculous and uninformed position.

    I took exception to your statement that moderation is a liberal stance, and had a knee-jerk reaction saying just the opposite (which is just as silly).

    In reality, understanding addiction is neither liberal nor conservative. There is plenty of ignorance, as well as those who are informed, on both sides.

    McFarlane being a liberal is irrelevant. On this topic he’s just an idiot.

  4. Jack:

    It’s Rat Pack, Scott, not Brat Pack. The Rat Pack was Sinatra and company, the Brat Pack was a termed coined in the 80s and referred to most of the cast of St. Elmo’s Fire and the Breakfast Club.

    You can always count on me for your Hollywood information. 🙂

  5. Scott Kirwin:


  6. Dave:

    AA is a scam, if not a cult. Its success rate is laughable. Check out for a good essay on the matter if you want to see an objective review of AA. Be sure to check out the reader comments section!

    AA is not “the only game in town”, but it is a very well-played farce.

  7. John:

    I already knew MacFarlane was an ignorant prick, but I didn’t know he was this low.

    Moderation? MODERATION? Really man? If it was that easy do you think that people would ruin their lives due to their addictions? If I have so much as a taste of an opioid my life is over. I don’t know how to stop let alone moderate the use. Addiction is a very difficult thing to understand. I can’t even explain it and I have been to the depths of it. So what the hell does Seth MacFarlane thinks he knows about it? I disagree with the opinions that Family Guy puts out all the time. But to insult AA, a program that saves lives, and say that moderation is the cure to alcoholism is too much to bear. Family Guy is a funny show. But it is a show that I now refuse to watch.
    I am of the school of thought that addiction is a disease. There are many studies that point to it as such. So how do you moderate a disease? You don’t. Thanks Seth for spreading your stupidity.

  8. Donna:

    What scam??? It’s free…there are no leaders…each meeting is independent. The only thing AA ever asked of me is to be there to share my experience, strength, and hope with others so they might break free, too. What are you smoking, Dave??? I have a very strong bullshit-meter and the only time it went off wrt AA was back in the beginning of my sobriety (13+ years ago), I was invited to a meeting that turned out to be a cult that called themselves AA. It’s never gone off since. The reason the success rate is low is because people don’t work the program. The program absolutely works if you work it. I believe that in my heart. But, you have to be willing to get brutally honest with yourself. Addicts and alcoholics are liars by nature. And, we lie to ourselves the most. It’s sad but true.

  9. lee:

    well how bout this for something rehab for three years where you are monitored everyday of every second. someone lives with you follows you around and are paid by you but only for an average amount of how much booze cost them a year as an alcoholic. or just let them drink kill people while driving and put them in jail for 1st degree murder or fingers crossed death penalty. I believe it is a disease but it can’t be cured like a cold. Treatment is AA stuff. Its their to make you think your doing better by having people tell you things they’ve done that you have done as well. THis is all well and good, but not stopping the behavior. This in some ways makes it worse because it gives people in these meetings the idea that it is ok to be like this because you aren’t the only one. I’m sick of treatment. Lets try some extreme measures to cure em. negative reinforcement combined with some treatment can’t hurt. Maybe i’m wrong and i’d be happy to discuss it. Seth Macfarlane was just giving his opinion and the thing about opinions is they don’t have to be well thought out and read through. I believe moderation is somethign you should strive for, and for some alcoholics it might work to help you out. Seth also is writing a cartoon. Some of this is meant to be laughed at. He just needed a resolution for the episode so they pick the middle ground. South park does it constantly. DOesn’t make their opinions right or wrong, just funny.

  10. Davo:

    most people can drink in moderation. the people who can’t drink in moderation shouldn’t drink if it is affecting their relationships and health

  11. Carolynn ni Lochlainn:

    AA is political? Really? I’m 20 years sober and I’ve never seen any such thing. We are not allied with any sect, denomination, organization, institution…these responses are among the most idiotic things I’ve ever read, and all in response to a tempest in a tea pot. Only in the age of paranoiac extremism is it possible to ascribe political motives to AA or its members. Do we drink the blood of infants as well? There. I’m done wasting my time.

  12. Scott Kirwin:

    Sorry for the delay posting your comment.
    I just passed my 12 year anniversary a few days ago and while I’m not attending AA regularly, I’m glad they are around.
    No one understands addiction. Medicine is in the Dark Ages when it comes to understanding it and Society isn’t much better. AA may not be perfect but what is?

    Sethh MacFarland has lost his creativity. American Guy, one of his creations, just had an episode that made fun of male rape. Now I am far from a prude but rape just isn’t funny no matter regardless of the victim’s sex. But MacFarland is so desperate that he’ll try anything. The only thing worse than failure is reaching the pinnacle of success and falling off it.

  13. Arnold:

    I don’t think you understand Seth MacFarlane. Do you think the sole purpose of his shows are to “preach” his philosophy? No, the purpose is to entertain and gain viewers which, if you haven’t noticed, him and his crew are doing pretty well at. Besides that, though MacFarlane oversees the production of his shows, the ideas contained in the episodes are a function of the collaboration of several people. There isn’t much evidence that they are “desperate” to continue their success.

  14. Scott Kirwin:

    Have you seen Family Guy recently? I still record it and watch it even though I don’t laugh at it anymore. I’m not sure why but I just don’t find the show funny. American Dad has fared much better. I do plan to watch Ted. Maybe MacFarlane needs to exert MORE control over the content of these shows. His best work still centers around the relationship between Stewie and Bryan, and since I share his love of classic musicals I still chuckle whenever I think of The Road to Rhode Island. “You got the stuff?” “You got the money?” Stewie: Oh for heaven’s sake he’s wearing a wire! (gunfire – and Stewie sleeps in peace). Brilliant stuff.

  15. Giulio:

    Moderation is useful before being an alcoholist, you dumb! If you use that, you don’t take the addiction, because the addiction to alcohols come after the abuse. If you abuse you become an alcoholist, and than it seams obvious that moderation isn’t the solution. If you’re an alcoholist you have to be always sober, but it’s your fault, because you HAD to use moderation. The abuse comes by the prohibition and the taboo. If everyone speaks about moderation, maybe the abuse will be less. And “money for education” is not a solution against stupidity (there’s nothing we can do for you), is against ignorance, and in America there’s a lot of ignorance, as we can see. I hope my message is correct because i’m not english, and unfortunately my country spend few money for my education.

  16. steph:

    Aa member here. Seth MacFarlane or any other person can have any views on alcoholism that they like. But any person who ever insulted aa or thinks it’s bullshit finds that they need help, we’ll be there. Jsyk, aa does not ask for people from court to be sent to us. The courts do that on their own. People who have experience with alcoholics and addicts know that unless someone wants help, forcing “help” on them does more harm than good. I also have no moral issue with alcohol or drugs except that I can’t use them. If people are happy drinking, that’s their business. If they want help, then it’s my business. 😀

  17. Matt:

    After doing much research for a College Composition II paper on the effectiveness of AA/NA, and being in recovery as well, I believe I have something to bring to the table here.

    Definitions are important. We need to define things when it comes to data. If 10 people go to AA meetings and 9 of them relapse once, then 7 out of those 9 relapse a second time, but then 3 go back to the program and stay sober for 3 years, and the others get 6 months here, 1 year there; was the program successful? It was a very difficult paper to write, and definitions were important. How long should someone be sober until, for data purposes, being considered as “cured”. Or, since there’s no currently-known way of “curing” the disease, when can the program be deemed a “remedy”?

    Then, you would need to take into account the average random remission rate of any disease and also subtract that from the “AA/NA remedied the problem” group.

    If we look at other diseases, people are considered cured after being in remission for 5 years. So if we use that same number, we’d have to say someone would need to be sober and actively working the program for it to be considered a “remedy” or “cure”. Then we take the % of people that get to the 5 year mark, out of everyone that goes to meetings, subtract the random remission rate, and voila.

    HOWEVER, and it’s a BIIIIG however; if it works for some people, then who gives a damn? It shouldn’t be so misleading about it’s success rates, but those rates shouldn’t matter if it’s helping YOU.

  18. Me:

    I think you’re taking a show about a talking dog and baby a little too seriously. As the show itself said, if you’re getting your values from a TV show, you’re an idiot.

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