Thursday, March 15, 2012

Killer robot monster saves Family Guy

Media Moment: Family Guy
Queen-related: Episode subplot features News of the World

Queen fans are now benefiting from Seth MacFarlane’s childhood nightmares. Apparently, he was so traumatized in his youth by the murderous robot on the cover of NOTW — the metal goliath that [accidentally?] killed Freddie, Brian, John, and Roger —that he believed he was going to be next. 

At least that’s the backstory to the subplot from the latest Family Guy episode the other night. Brian May even brought this up on his Soapbox in February when he learned of MacFarlane’s history with the album and the intention to use it as the basis of an upcoming Family Guy episode. (You can read about it here.)

The episode, called Killer Queen, is about a mass murderer that’s on the lam and Patric, the brother-in-law, is fingered as the culprit because he just escaped from the institution he was being held in.

In the end, however, it wasn’t Patric committing the murders but a cleverly disguised hot dog eating champion named Charles Yamamoto from Japan.

We first learn of Stewie’s fear of the NOTW robot when that album is rediscovered amongst attic junk and Brian the dog naively shows Stewie the cover at which point he screams out: “What the hell is that? A killer robot monster?”

Stewie’s paranoia about getting killed by the robot is so strong that he recoils in horror whenever he sees the album cover, which is a lot in this episode. Even buying a simple scratch-and-win lottery ticket after his panic in the attic brings another robot scare.

At this point, Brian the dog recognizes Stewie’s neurosis and takes it upon himself to help him overcome his fear of the robot.

Brian’s preferred treatment calls for Stewie to face his fears — that is, to see the album for what it is, just a painting and not a real robot — so Brian leaves the album cover in Stewie’s bed so it’s the first thing he sees when he wakes up.

Then he puts the entire album cover on the bedroom wall so it’s super sized for an extreme reaction. (At this point in the episode, I thought the producers were getting a lot of mileage out of that album cover merely by modifying its size and perspective. Personally, I’d love a wall-sized enlargement of the NOTW cover art. That would be sweet.)

Brian finally corners Stewie and convinces him that the robot isn’t real and that it’s just a record sleeve. He’s not going to die a horrible death like he’s been imagining.

At this point in the episode, a clever exchange of dialogue happens between Brian and Stewie:

Stewie: “It’s that robot! He’s killed Queen and now he’s going to kill me!”
Brian: “He didn’t kill Queen . . . they’re all fine . . . most of them are fine.”

Stewie quickly overcomes his paranoia and begins to see the robot as his friend rather than his enemy. That’s not to say the robot fails to instill fear in others because Stewie ends up wielding the album cover as a weapon against Yamamoto, the strangler, near the end of the episode.

When confronted with the image of the murderous robot, the superstitious villain cries out: “Why does robot hold dead people? Is that future or past?”

The NOTW subplot ends when Yamamoto is literally scared to death of the robot. The giant robot lifts the roof of the house up — not unlike the depiction of the robot on the inside artwork of the NOTW gatefold cover — and gives Stewie the “thumbs up” in agreeing that everything is going to be okay.

Killer Queen is played over the end credits, which is a nice tie-in to the music and theme of the episode. It would have been nicer if MacFarlane could have worked some NOTW music into this episode . . . perhaps a snippet of We Are the Champions could have been played when we’re first introduced to Yamamoto at the start of the hot dog eating contest. He was, after all, the world champion hot dog eater, so the song would have been appropriate.

In my mind, this episode brings up a bigger debate about the marketing of music today and how the fan experience with cover art is generally lost in today’s digitally downloaded and distributed music. Like Seth, I too was transfixed at the cover art for the Queen albums, not to mention Bat Out of Hell, The Wall, or any of the Asia sleeves.

Listening to the music was just one aspect of the experience. Imagining how the world depicted on the front cover correlated to the music added an entirely new dimension to the experience. Now, album cover art seems to be an afterthought . . . a thumbnail image to put on iTunes to help market the album in some small way so it’s not just a line of text on a screen to identify it.



No comments:

Post a Comment