When I was little, my friends and I would sometimes play a game where you'd stick your hand in something disgusting - say, a pool of slimy gutter run-off water or a piece of carpet soaked with what we hoped was rain - until you couldn't take it any more, and ran away giggling.
It was a very specific giggle, different from the Funny Cartoon Giggle or the Knock-Knock Joke Giggle; it was the Grossed-Out Giggle.
I was reminded of this tonight while watching Family Guy Season 12 Episode 16, every time a drawing of a ripe, glistening herpes sore came on screen. For the first time in probably two decades, I busted out the Grossed-Out Giggle.
Family Guy lives to push boundaries and gross the living hell out of us, of course - that's what it's here for.
But it usually does so from the confines of clean-line drawings, which make every heaving puke, gush of blood, and horrific moral transgression seem just a little bit cute.
But there was nothing cute about the herpes that populated this half hour. They were pulsing wounds drawn in a style somewhere between photo-realism, an acid flashback and a particularly gnarly '80s heavy metal album cover.
The skin-crawling sight of these skin sores harkened back to another beloved boundary-pushing animated show: Ren and Stimpy.
But while that show rarely went more than a few seconds without a close-up on some mottled, distorted flesh, this is a new one for Family Guy.
The sores flipped the script - for a show that usually focuses on the shiny, happy banality of evil, the herpes shined a light on the nightmares lurking in all our day-to-day lives.
It was all, of course, in service of making the viewer feel repulsion at the true source of the episode's horror: Brian's betrayal of Stewie's trust.
As we learned way back in Family Guy Season 8 Episode 17, Brian is the only person Stewie truly cares for and his casual betrayal of Stewie's comfort and happiness, now and throughout the future, is the real horror.
Even after the two reconcile, the cut-away to Future Stewie's pus-filled job interview hinted at the lasting fall-out from this act. Much like Peter and Co.'s defeat at the hands of bullies who happen to also be war heroes, there's a lingering sense that punishment comes more for the victims than the victimizers in this world.
(Yes, yes, I know I'm making this all sound like Proust and not an episode whose Family Guy quotes featured an exchange that revealed Peter's confusion at the concept of being gay - but such is the power of Family Guy.)
Family Guy is always looking for new ways to surprise us and shock us. And when violent murder and sexual perversion don't work any more, a realistic shot of an infection that 1/6 of Americans have will have to do.
But maybe I'm being too soft on the whole messy issue. So tell me:
Were all the graphic depictions of herpes in this episode too gross?
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