Season three of F is for Family left us with concerns about Sue’s pregnancy — how would an already dysfunctional family handle another child? As season four progressed, it was clear that the baby itself was not the biggest issue for Frank and Sue. Because the show is animated, it inherently becomes more palatable for a wide audience and, in this case, it makes the story relatable to a variety of social issues. The issues of racism and sexism proliferate in tandem with the precarious concept of the “American Dream” that was oh-so-popular back in the day. It’s a comedic series for sure, but it has its heavy moments.
Take, for instance, the strained relationship between Frank and Sue leading up to the birth of their fourth child. Both partners became increasingly upset and eventually ended up being angry and separated when Sue went into labor. Her struggle to get herself to the hospital, because no neighbor would take her, was definitely comedic. But Frank, who was out of town on a work trip, had to race against time to get home before Sue went into labor. His sudden concern turned quickly into fear about leaving his wife on her own, especially because he was not supportive enough about Sue’s natural birth plan. This is a great example of the “opposites attract” phrase, but also how the writing takes two opposing moods and situations to create a tragic comedy.
F is for Family has a unique comedic style that is relatable for people near Frank’s age and also creates a narrative that introduces younger crowds to the stereotypical functioning family in the 1970’s. What’s more, the show touches on social issues that were prolific at the time. For example, Sue continues to struggle with feeling competent and needed in life, especially when she becomes pregnant at the end of season three. But in season four Sue realizes that she doesn’t have to follow all of life’s rules according to others: she decides to have a natural birth without the knock-out drugs that were popular at the time because women were asleep for the entire birthing process. From first to last, Sue grew into a stronger version of herself in each episode.
Chauncey “Rosie” Roosevelt also had some great growth in his fight against racism. As a newly appointed alderman, it’s no surprise that Rosie quickly racks up an ever-growing list of neighborhood fixes to be done. And when his demands are not met, Rosie finds a way to get what his neighborhood needs no matter how far he has to go. Historically speaking, it’s unsurprising that a Black man is struggling in the systemic and social racism of the 70’s. But the most poignant aspect of Rosie’s episode is that his experience is the antithesis of the white “American Dream.”
This is what makes Rosie’s episode so significant in the middle of this season. For four seasons, Frank has become increasingly unhappy with his life despite having a traditional “American Dream” lifestyle. This implies that he’s taking his advantages in life for granted even if he is truly unhappy. In contrast, Rosie just wants to help his Black community feel comfortable and safe even if it means going through the ridicule and scrutiny of a political career. The crass humor of the series certainly touches on these issues, but giving Rosie an entire episode to explore his side of life perfectly showcased how his “American Dream” is a tragic joke during that time.
Although it was unintentional, dropping this episode during the Black Lives Matter movement following the murder of George Floyd demonstrates how racism in the U.S. permeates our current society as it did in the 1970’s. The concept of the “American Dream” is especially important as protests for basic human rights continue around the country. Rosie’s struggle back then is just as applicable now.
The fourth season of F is for Family gave nearly every character some significant growth and a combination of societal nihilism and crass humor expected from co-creator and voice actor Bill Burr. And with how the characters interact, with how the writing flows seamlessly and how social critique is expertly laid into the plot, I personally think a live-action adaptation could be made of this series. But for now we can only wait for season five!
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