That is, it seemed that way until Sunday (Dec. 15) night’s episode. Brian was back! Thanks to time travel or something like that, Brian survived and will continue through the timeless world of animation for as long as “Family Guy” gets its ratings.
But this was a terrible idea on the part of “Family Guy.” The show should never have brought Brian back from the dead.
It’s a mean trick.
Death is kind of a big deal out here in the real world. While an animated series like “Family Guy” is removed from that reality, its viewers are still processing their emotions out in the world. Because of this, “Family Guy” creator Seth MacFarlane’s tweet after the big reveal seemed a little mean.
I mean, you didn’t really think we’d kill off Brian, did you? Jesus, we’d have to be f***ing high.
— Seth MacFarlane (@SethMacFarlane) December 16, 2013
Maybe fans should have been smart enough to disbelieve Brian’s death. That wasn’t the case, of course, as seen in this ill-advised tattoo on a fan:
Well, at least nobody got an “RIP Brian” tattoo… Oh wait http://t.co/vqgqciLJML
— Huffington Post (@HuffingtonPost) December 17, 2013
The thing is, any fans who are invested in a character should feel bad when misfortune of any kind befalls the fictional creature. If viewers of “Family Guy” were just supposed to blow it off when Brian died, doesn’t it logically follow that those viewers never cared about the dog in the first place?
Any invested audience cares. Add in the fact that Brian is a dog — killing a dog is taboo in most entertainment — and it would be a heartless or disinterested fan indeed who didn’t feel concern and a sense of loss when he passed away.
It turned an interesting creative choice into a cheap grab for attention.
Cartoons don’t have to follow the rules of nature. Characters don’t have to age and situations are limited only by creativity. Thus, killing a character is a big deal in animation — when no one has to die, the choice matters even more than usual.
Brian’s death initially seemed to be such a choice. It was bold. It was unexpected. It provoked conversation.
Now that Brian is OK, however, did the dog’s death serve any creative purpose? Or was it just a trick to get attention redirected to a specific show. It seems likely that the truth is in the second option.
It destroyed all possibility of the ultimate penalty for “Family Guy.”
If Brian didn’t die, then no one on “Family Guy” ever has to die. No matter what they do, they will survive to renew their antics in a week or two.
For a full explanation about how this cheating of death can destroy a story, “The Death and Return of Superman” video from Max Landis explains it best.
(Warning: This video is very, very NSFW.)
Obviously “Family Guy” is not the first story to kill off a character in order to get the fans’ attention. But the show is not following in the greatest of footsteps by doing so.
Maybe Brian should have survived the initial incident. Maybe it shouldn’t have happened at all. Maybe this was a good creative choice that “Family Guy” could have embraced.
Whatever the case, Brian should not have come back from the dead.