Family Guy: Why Brian Is Able To Talk (When Other Dogs Don’t)

Unlike many other dogs in Family Guy, Brian the dog can talk — but why can Brian talk when other dogs can’t? As an intellectual rival to his time-traveling baby friend Stewie, Brian’s human-like capabilities surpass not only dogs but even most humans in the Family Guy universe. As revealed in season 4, episode 15, « Brian goes back to College », his high intelligence enabled him to attend Brown University and temporarily land a job as a writer for the New Yorker. His talent for writing and admiration of author Fyodor Dostoyevsky is matched by his musical talents. The dog from Family Guy has been seen playing the guitar and drums, loves to sing, and is an opera fan. Yet for all his human-like skills and traits, Brian’s canine appearance, barking, and attraction to female dogs like Seabiscuit indicate that he is still a dog.

Like the varying conversational abilities shown by Family Guy’s baby Stewie, Brian’s speech and his other human traits are never fully explained in the show. Equally likewise, there are many times when the inexplicable nature of his verbal ability is the butt of the joke. In season 2, episode 4, « Brian in Love », Peter randomly exclaims « Oh my God, you can talk. » Similarly, in season 19, episode 16, « Who’s Brian Now? » a man at the pound wants to film Brian the dog to prove to friends that some dogs can speak. It appears that this trait is rare in dogs of the Family Guy universe and that there is no real reason why Brian can talk when other dogs cannot. Yet in a world where various animals and inanimate objects are given speech abilities for comedic effect, there is equally no reason why the dog from Family Guy shouldn’t talk.

Family Guy Is Full Of Talking Animals (And Objects)

While many of the show’s dogs such as Coco, Biscuit, and Seabiscuit appear unable to speak, other Family Guy dogs like Vinny, Jasper, and Ellie are just as talkative as Brian the dog. Talking animals including dolphins, gulls, and owls are often seen in sketches, and even inanimate objects are given voices for comedic effect. In season 15, episode 16, « Saturated Fat Guy, » some talking quinoa is denied access to Peter’s stomach by a human bouncer, and in season 4, episode 7, « Brian the Bachelor, » a pimple named Doug encourages Chris to commit evil acts. There are even some singing trees in season 1, episode 6, « The Son Also Draws. »

In a show like Family Guy which makes fun of its inconsistencies and seems to have no clear universal rules, Brian’s chatter comes as no surprise. Maybe the dog from Family Guy talks simply because there is something inherently funny about a dog who barks at vacuum cleaners while also being a pretentious intellectual. When it comes to the ever-surreal South Park rival Family Guy, a talking dog isn’t the most outlandish aspect of the show. Questions like « why does the Kool-Aid man smash through the courthouse wall if ‘oh no’ is said three times » or « how hasn’t Peter Griffin died of his injuries » need answering first if one is to try and make sense of the logic of Brian the talking dog’s universe. Seth McFarlane uses speaking creatures whenever they have the potential to generate laughs, without worrying too much about the plausibility behind eloquent Labradors or harmonizing trees.

Brian Griffin’s Sex Life Raises More Questions Than His Speech

Talking isn’t the only human activity Brian Griffin partakes in — he has also had a very healthy and active sex life since the first season of Family Guy. While this has led to some incredibly memorable episodes and characters, notably long-term girlfriend Jillian voiced by Drew Barrymore, it also raises questions. Brian historically doesn’t just date humans but other dogs too. Brian has both had puppies with normal dogs and has also had relationships with human women. Even in a show with talking dogs like Family Guy, this is downright bizarre, and quite unsettling if thought about for too long. If Brian identifies as mentally more human than dog, which he seems, then his unspeaking canine partners are incredibly problematic. There’s also of course the legality issue brought up by Brian, a dog, having sexual relationships with human women. Brian straddling the line between man and dog has led to some great Family Guy moments, but it also creates some implications that are incredibly gross (and not in the way the edgy humor of Family Guy often aims for).

Brian Isn’t The Most Confusing Animated Dog

In actuality, Brian the dog being able to speak could be a riff on the original cartoon dog anachronism: Pluto and Goofy. In the Disney universe, both Pluto and Goofy are dogs. However, Goofy, and the rest of his family and friends, are able to walk, talk, hold down jobs, and go to high school (as referenced in A Goofy Movie and its subsequent sequels). Pluto, on the other hand, is Mickey’s dog — and the only thing he’s capable of is being a dog. Comedians and theorists alike have drawn light to this, both for comedic effect and to spin dark « hidden meaning » fan theories. It could be a reason why Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane chose to make Brian speak when the rest of the dogs in the Family Guy universe cannot. The series makes a regular job of ripping on Disney, and MacFarlane has included talking animals in his other cartoon, American Dad. He’s also openly spoken about Disney’s influence on his wider career in many interviews. There are plenty of theories surrounding the Goofy/Pluto debacle, and the phenomenon clearly predates Family Guy. However, the fact that the two Disney dogs exist this way makes the Family Guy joke of Brian being able to talk, but almost no other dogs can, much funnier.

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