A post at Sociological Images about the gendering of sperm and egg in popular media got me thinking. I just saw the “brave little sperm” trope on an episode of Family Guy this Monday. Stewie, the hyper-intelligent, destructive, child genius, was celebrating his first birthday. He reminisced about his life in the womb and before, when he was apparently a tiny pilot in a sperm-shaped aircraft [see YouTube clip].
Stewie’s flashback showed him piloting his sperm ship toward the egg and firing at it in a scene reminiscent of the scene in Star Wars where Luke tries to explode the Death Star. He think thinks about being sucked in and “trapped” inside the egg. The relationship between sperm and egg is shown as adversarial, the egg evil, hungry and encompassing, not unlike a vagina dentata.
Of course, this flashback occurs in the context of a cartoon in which everything is supposed to be exaggerated and humorous. However, the fact remains that the humorous exaggeration is presented with gratuitous violence and misogyny. You might argue that violence and misogyny are part of Stewie’s character, which they are, but the flashback does not develop Stewie’s violence and misogyny in a way peculiar to his personality. Instead it just recycles wholesale a tired, sexist cliche about human reproduction.
And this is just one of many reasons that I hate Family Guy.