How 'Family Guy' Called Out Kevin Spacey and Brett Ratner Way Before #MeToo

Family Guy Still and Seth MacFarlane - Inset - Getty - H 2018
Courtesy of FOX (Still); Donato Sardella/Getty Images for PORTER Magazine

"The writers have always had very open ears," says Seth MacFarlane.

The Harvey Weinstein scandal and subsequent fallout involving sexual misconduct accusations against other high-profile men in Hollywood had some Family Guy fans doing double takes. 

The Fox cartoon staple, which is about to celebrate its 300th episode milestone, has been dropping hints for years that something was amiss. 

At the time, the jokes were likely just considered jabs at celebrities whom the show's writers didn't care for. But, it turns out, there was more to it. 

The Hollywood Reporter spoke with showrunners Richard Appel and Alec Sulkin and creator Seth MacFarlane to better understand how the apparent warnings appeared in the show. 

The instance most noted to this point was when Kevin Spacey appeared to be called out in the episode "Don't Make Me Over," which first aired June 5, 2005. That gag had baby Stewie running naked through a crowded mall, yelling, “Help, I’ve escaped from Kevin Spacey’s basement! Help me!”

"Obviously, it's a terrible thing to say, how we've had a lot of good luck predicting sexual predators, but I do think a lot of people — like Kevin Spacey — there have always been rumors out there about him," Sulkin said. "So we will just kind of say those things. We write things that we hear about and then a year and a half later, they're on TV and then 10 years later they happen."

"Don't Make Me Over," was written by Gene Laufenberg. Spacey, the former House of Cards star, has been accused of sexual assault by numerous men. Authorities in the U.S. and U.K. are investigating accusations against the two-time Oscar winner.

"The Kevin Spacey thing is something I had not heard when it was pitched," MacFarlane said. "The Family Guy writers have always had very open ears. And I think a lot of these things were things that were talked about and whispered about in Hollywood, but nobody had any direct anecdotal information about what was really going on, so all you had to work with was rumor."

Appel explained how such jokes make it to air. 

"The episodes are vetted by the legal standards department," he said. "And either there has to be some basis for a joke or it has to be so insane and unbelievable, that no one would take it seriously. And honestly, in some of these instances, both were true."

Another instance of calling out a well-known Hollywood personality, in this case Brett Ratner, occurred in "Leggo My Meg-O."

In the May 2012 episode, a play on the Taken films, Meg travels to Paris and is kidnaped, and Brian and Stewie have to save her. Stewie, dressed as a little girl, infiltrates a sex-slave auction. There, Brett Ratner bids $75,000 on him. The episode was written by Brian Scully.

The Rush Hour trilogy director has since been accused by numerous women of sexual assault and harassment.

"The idea that we had some inside knowledge — I wish we were that Kreskin-like that we could predict the future, but we were hearing the same rumors as everyone else in town," MacFarlane said. 

Still, even though it was not done through his show, MacFarlane did not mince words when he directly called out Weinstein in 2013 while onstage with Emma Stone during the Oscar nominations telecast.

After naming the five nominees for best supporting actress, MacFarlane remarked, “Congratulations, you five ladies no longer have to pretend to be attracted to Harvey Weinstein.”

"The Weinstein thing, I had a very good friend who had a very troubling run-in, and I despised the guy for direct reasons," MacFarlane said.

A version of this story first appeared in the Jan. 10 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.