American Dad/Tropes F-J

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

Tropes used in American Dad include:


Bret: Your son dropped off this.
[Bret holds up a picture of Stan and Pat Robinson smiling]
Stan: So it's me and hatemonger Pat Robinson; I met him at some party.
[Bret unfolds it; it's an "Anti-Gay Palooza" pamphlet]
Stan: I was just passing through.
[Bret unfolds it again; it was held and funded by Stan]
Stan: It was just a momentary lapse of judgment.
[Bret unfolds it again; it's the seventh annual convention]
Stan: (beat) My mind is blank.

  • Fetish: Cornerstone of any MacFarlane product for quick and easy gags, some examples:
    • Bullock has a Groin Attack fetish.
      • While it's never explicitly stated to be such, Steve has a recurring fascination with robotic women that is usually treated as a real character trait rather than a joke.
    • In the episode "I Am The Walrus", Principal Lewis says that he works at the pottery center to pay for his watch fetish.

Principal Lewis: Now, if only I could tell time...

    • In "Hot Water", Stan pays quite a lot of attention to Francine's feet...

Cee Lo Green: Now he's got lady foot in his mouth!

  • Film Noir: "Star Trek" includes a soft trumpet theme in the background, first person seemingly Posthumous Narration, and it heavily references Sunset Blvd.
  • Flag Bikini: Obama in a flag speedo.
  • Flanderization: Roger's antics used to be quite varied, relating to his drinking, scheming with Steve, alien biology, television, etc. Now virtually everything he does is based on his role playing/dress-up obsession.
    • Truthfully, he still uses his alternative roles on occasion, just his more "out-open" lifestyle requires him to use his dress-ups alongside it.
    • His Jerkass traits also got Flanderized to sociopathic extremes, possibly to balance the other characters' more sympathetic qualities later on.
      • Originally, Principle Lewis had slightly quirky moments every now and then. By the sixth season, he's less a character and more a way to get his voice actor Kevin Michael Richardson to say the weirdest shit the writers can think of. This isn't at all a bad thing.
        • To add on, Principal Lewis had moments where it was implied he had a checkered past, but overall was a responsible and respectable educator. But more recent seasons show him as crazy, drug abusing, and wildly irresponsible.
    • Klaus has also become more of a Butt Monkey over time.
  • Flashback Cut: Used to embellish character backstories mostly.
    • In the pilot episode, they were used to provide random gags in the same fashion as Family Guy; luckily, after that episode, the writers banned cutaways in an effort to both distinguish the series from its predecessor and to focus on more character-based humor. It worked.
  • Flashed Badge Hijack: Stan once proclaims "Official CIA business" to do this to a woman and her sports car. Before she can say anything, he grabs her and tosses her out of the car, then drives off. A moment later he returns and throws her wheelchair out next to her before driving off again.
  • Foil: The relationship between Steve and Roger, with Steve usually being Roger's foil. They are similar in many ways but different enough to inevitably disagree, leading to the derailment of their schemes and usually some kind of fight.
    • Also Stan and Hayley, who both tend to be similarly minded people on the opposite ends of the political spectrum.
    • Also Stan and Jeff, who were both raised by really crappy parents in their youth. Stan grew up to be an ultra-conservative, Jerk with a Heart of Gold who tries to take down anything against his morals. Jeff grew up to be a decent (if Cloudcuckoolander and stoner) man, being able to take any levels of abuse and doing anything to help anyone. Naturally, the two will butt heads when trying to interact.
  • Foreshadowing: In "Joint Custody", we learn that Stan looked up to his mother as a role model, to which he admitted it set him back quite a bit. It's not until Season 3's "Odepial Panties" that we learn just how far looking up to his mother as a role model set him back.
    • Another, more subtle one occurs in "Finances With Wolves". When stopping the construction equipment from bulldozing a tiny patch of forest, Hayley gets trampled by a herd of different types of wildlife. One of the animals that she gets trampled by is the wolf that will later cause troubles for Roger, and eventually Steve in that episode's B-plot.
  • Forgot I Could Fly: Stan frequently seems to forget that he's carrying a gun.
  • Forgotten Anniversary: Episode 4 is about the second time Stan forgot his anniversary.
  • For Halloween I Am Going as Myself: In "All About Steve", Roger is so desperate for human contact that the only place he can go outside the house is a sci-fi convention. Of course, this was before he became a master of disguise.
  • Former Teen Rebel: Francine is continuously shown to have been a crazy and promiscuous party girl when she was younger until she met the ultra-Conservative Stan, whereupon The Power of Love made her choose a button-down life instead.
    • In Season 2 Episode 10 "Bush Comes to Dinner", then-President George W. Bush brings this trope up to Stan after he angrily tells Hayley that she's a lost cause. Bush reveals that he was a very wild party boy when he was younger (which, sadly, is Truth in Television) and that Hayley, due to her rebellious ways, is not a lost cause, but is on the track to becoming President of the United States.
  • For Want of a Nail: Stan convincing Martin Scorcese in the past to not do drugs forces Stan to go ahead a few years and shoot Reagan to prevent the USSR from taking over the USA.
  • Friend to All Living Things: Francine has a singing version in "In Country...Club" which is then subverted when she drowns the bird singing with her.
  • Furry Fandom: Referenced during a sequence in "One Little Word".

"I'm a squirrel and that feels fantastic."

  • Future Imperfect: How Stan imagines life after his death in "Stanny Slickers II: The Legend Of Ollie's Gold".


  • Gag Boobs: In "Helping Handis", some CIA-supplied steroids cause Steve, and later Stan, to sprout comically large breasts. And yes, it's both hilarious and extremely Squicky.
  • Gay Conservative: Explored extensively in "Lincoln Lover", where Greg is revealed to be a Log Cabin Republican... and Stan temporarily becomes one.
  • Geek: Steve, Barry, Snot and Toshi are a Four Man Band comprised entirely of geeks who adore Dungeons and Dragons, Star Trek, and World of Warcraft-esque computer games. Thankfully the show doesn't resort to making any one of them a full-time Butt Monkey.
    • Geek Reference Pool: Pretty much every stereotypical geek interest that's out there, Steve has been shown as being into it at some point.
  • Geeky Turn On: Akiko trick-or-treats as Chun Li which Steve finds very... happy. Though given Chun Li's general attire, it may be a turn on in general.

Steve: Hommina hommina hommina BONER!

  • Gender Incompetence: Averted for the most part. Stan is actually a pretty intelligent and efficient operative in many aspects, but is prone to making snap decisions and his judgement can often be clouded by his political views. Meanwhile Francine is (usually) more rational and has noticeable hidden talents and intellect, but something of a Cloudcuckoolander. Likewise, neither Hayley nor Steve seems especially more intelligent or competent than the other.
  • Gene Hunting: In "Big Trouble in Little Langley", Stan gets tired of dealing with Francine's adoptive Chinese parents and goes searching for her biological parents.
  • The Generalissimo: Roger briefly impersonates one of these.
  • Generation Xerox: Stan and Hayley. Despite being polar opposites in their political and social views, they're exactly the same. They're both controlling, obsessed with being right, and tend to treat their partners like crap.
  • Genre Blindness: Steve, who lies on the opposite side of the Idealism-Cynicism scale to the rather dark series; for example, during the conclusion of "Brains, Brains and Automobiles":

Snot: If only we could thank that magic, mystery underwear salesman.
Steve: Oh, I don't think we've seen the last of him...
[Cut to the salesman sitting in a boxcar train, pale and with a needle hanging out of his arm; he falls out of the train and into a river, where he sinks]

  • George Jetson Job Security: Stan has been suspended or lost his CIA job several times, yet he's always right back at work the very next episode. Sometimes it's explained in-story, sometimes it isn't.
  • The Ghost: Gwen, the biological daughter of Francine's adoptive parents. Based off what we've heard she's very attractive (Stan calls her "Hot Gwen"), but also very stupid.
    • For a long time, Bullock's wife fit this trope, though she was eventually seen in "One Little Word".
  • Glad I Thought of It: The CIA telethon episode.
  • Godwin's Law: Invoked by a man who's just been framed by Stan, and revealed to be a member of the Aryan Brotherhood:

"What do you think this is, Nazi Germany? Oh wait, that'd be AWESOME!"

  • Going Native: Stan often ends up going full throttle into any subculture he is thrust towards, such as illegal street racing or gay lifestyle. Francine lampshades this in "Stan of Arabia".
  • Good People Have Good Sex: Stan and Francine seem to have a healthy, active sex life.
    • Although Stan doesn't believe in the female orgasm.
  • Gosh Dang It to Heck: In "Ricky Spanish":

Roger: What the Dickens? I thought you knocked him out, Daniel. [shaking fist] WHAT THE DICKENS?!

  • Goth: Debbie Hyman (see Perky Goth below) is the de facto leader of a brood of goths, who haunt a candlelit stairwell. And believe that dancing to Joy Division is enough to halt a stampede of jocks.
  • Granola Girl: Hayley.
  • The Grim Reaper: Stan's publicity assistant in "Deacon Stan, Jesus Man" sports a red hooded robe and demonstrates many of the physical attributes usually assigned to the personification of Death, and some of his supernatural abilities (hovering instead of walking, clairvoyance, appearing mysteriously with no visible entry point).
    • He wasn't the Grim Reaper. He was Karl Rove (aroooooo...).
      • Or as Hayley calls him, "The amoral puppet master behind George W. Bush" (though I always thought that was Dick Cheney).
      • And his design and voice were based more on Emperor Palpatine (especially as "Darth Sidious" with the cloak partially obscuring the face) than on the Grim Reaper.
  • Groin Attack: Stan and Steve are subjected to one every now and then.. usually by each other for ruining a father-son moment by mentioning it. Stan's special CIA martial arts training specifically focuses on kicking people in the groin.
    • Francine chops Stan in the nuts when the two of them playfully dash down the stairs to go answer the door. She said he answered it the last time, and it was her turn.

Francine: Got ya!
Stan: *huddled over in pain on the floor* Punk!

    • Also invoked in "Stanny Boy and Frantastic" about four times.

Tom: He's right, you can't see a guy get hit in the groin and not laugh.

  • Guns Akimbo: Roger vs. the drug dealers. Stan has done the double once or twice too. Francine even dual wields machetes in the pilot ("If I die you must protect the clan!").


  • Hand Wave: Stan has an extreme fear of seagulls. The plot of "Choosey Wives Choose Smith" requires him to interact extensively with seagulls. How to solve the problem?

Roger: Aren't you scared of seagulls?
Stan: Oh, I got over that.

  • Happily Married: Hayley and Jeff. The events of the 2010 Christmas episode indicate it may actually last.
    • By the end of Season 6, this one has been averted and played straight in regards to status quo. Averted in that they're still married and have overcome a few marital issues, and played straight in that the show rarely brings up the fact that they are indeed married (on the infrequent occasions that Hayley and Jeff even appear at all). It's shown that Jeff has seemed to move in with the Smiths, and sleeps in Hayley's room, but most of the time he's nowhere to be seen.
  • Happiness in Slavery: Paco and his entire family while working far below minimum wage in Stan's "American Dream Factory". Notably, the relationship changes from Stan not caring to one of great appreciation when he sees how much they love his country, whereby he decides to do them a favor. Arguably, Francine is treated poorly enough to be something of a slave to Stan too - she certainly acts like the housewife from any fifties stereotype.
  • "Happy Holidays" Dress: The blue, winter themed dress the Ghost of Christmas Past (formerly a tooth fairy) wears.
  • Healing Hands: Spoofed in the pilot when Roger reveals his race have no such ability ("And don't expect me to bring him back with that E.T. finger thing because that's a giant load of crap!").
  • Healing Potion: Roger uses one on Stan to regrow his legs, after they've been bitten off by a polar bear.[1]
  • Henpecked Husband: Buckle the Mountain Man, married to Shari.
  • Hentai: Believe it or not, Hentai is referenced in the episode "Iced, Iced Babies", where Stan goes to have a vasectomy from a Japanese company, and is asked if he wants to bank some sperm just in case; in addition to a sample cup, he's offered two magazines: "Buxom Octopus Woman" and "Disobedient School Prefect".
    • In another episode, Stan hides in a whale skeleton:

Stan: Let me outta here! *holds up a squid* Squidface does horrible things to me during lights out! Unspeakable things!

  • Historical In-Joke: Ever wondered if George Washington Carver really invented peanut butter? See the episode "Black Mystery Month". There are other allusions throughout the show too, such as the truth behind Ollie North's gold, Reagan's assassination attempt and the rise and fall of disco music in the 1970s.
    • Also played with in "The Best Christmas Story Never". Stan goes back in time to stop Jane Fonda from ruining Christmas and inadvertently sets in motion a chain of events which leads to America being taken over by the Soviets. To put the timeline right, he must shoot President Reagan.
    • In this universe, Francine, after having a one-night stand with apparently the entire band, inspired Dexys Midnight Runners to write the song "Come on Eileen" (they couldn't remember her name).
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: In one episode, Hayley needs internship credits and works at Roger's bar in the attic; when Roger refuses to sign her papers, the two get into an Instant Costume Change battle, rapidly cycling through personas. Hayley resolves the conflict by dressing as Roger and saying "I'll never sign your form, Hayley!", prompting Roger to dress as Hayley and say "Well then I'll just forge your signature!" After she walks off with the signed form, Roger asks "What just happened? Did I win?"
    • In "May the Best Stan Win", Stan defeats Cyborg Stan using one of the ludicrous made-up martial arts moves that Cyborg Stan taught him to keep Stan busy so he could try to steal Francine.
  • Homage: Steve's plan in "Bar Mitzvah Shuffle" is presented in the exact same fashion as plans are presented in Ocean's Eleven.
    • The poison drinking scene in "With Friends Like Steve's" is a direct nod to The Princess Bride.
    • In "I Can't Stan You", Stan sends people to the corn field motel when he overhears them criticizing him.
  • Hot Mom: Francine. Stan's mother Betty also qualifies.
  • Housewife: Francine is an extreme parody of this. In the Thanksgiving episode, she was obsessed with having the most number of burners on her stove, and upon entering an enormous magnificent mansion, all she can think about are the burners.
  • Hug and Comment: Roger does this to Francine.

Francine: (Hugging Roger) Oh, Roger! You're back.
Roger: And you're starting to get lunch lady arms.

Roger: Something about your story seems... fishy.
Steve: [...] Klaus, you’re going to face the scales of Lady Justice!
Roger: We know you’re gill-ty!
Steve: Like it or not, fish, you’re on the hook for this one!
Roger: Your days of crime are H2Over!

    • Even brought back up in their own episode "The Case of Grandpa’s Key"; Stan plays a Composite Character of Wheels and The Legman. Since he is Steve’s dad and he rides a novelty unicycle, he names his character Poppa Wheelie.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Barry has commented on Debbie's weight a few times and once said that fat people disgusted him.
    • "A world without children. Future generations will thank us."


Francine: "Oh, has my pie fairy godmother finally arrived? ...Hayley?"
Hayley: "Mom! It's not what it looks like.. Uhh, I was cooking meth!"
Francine: "Oh really? Then where's your muriatic acid?"

    • In Phantom Of The Telethon, when Stan and co get excited about torturing a terrorist:

Stan: I get to strap him to the waterboard!
Dick: I get the car battery
Saunders: I wanna slather him in oil and make love to him all night long! [he realizes people are looking] Oh, I'm on the phone.

  • If I Wanted X, I Would Y
  • I Have Boobs - You Must Obey!: Francine uses this trope several times in Season 5 Episode 7 "My Morning Straitjacket" to get Stan backstage at a concert. A montage shows her flirting and flashing her way past several levels of security (including a lesbian security guard).
  • I Have No Son: Stan disowns Steve upon realizing that he is a total Geek.
    • Inverted when they think Roger died, Stan acts like a jerk about it, and Steve shouts "I have no father!"
  • I Just Want My Beloved to Be Happy: While Stan doesn't exactly treat Francine brilliantly a lot of the time, whenever he believes she may be happier with someone else he is willing to let her go. Naturally it always works out however.
  • "I Know You're in There Somewhere" Fight: Played with nicely in "Haylias", in which a too well mind-programmed Hayley turns on Stan and chases him back to their house. Stan tries to reason with her as she hold him at gunpoint, making a last gambit with a heartfelt confession and apology on trying to control her happiness. It fails, she proceed to shoot him anyway mid-sentence. Luckily for Stan, he manages to survive with just a concussion, with the brush of death he had allowing the program in Hayley to be completed and bringing her back to normal with no memory of the true reason she was trying to kill him.
  • Imagine Spot: Director Bullock has one of these in the Season Five episode "G-String Circus":

Bullock: [To Stan] The C in CIA doesn't stand for crestfallen. [To himself] But what if it stood for cat?

  • Incest Subtext: Hoooo boy. Virtually every member of the Smith household has had at least one scene built on this trope, and more often than not it's a great deal more than subtext. Comes to a head in "Virtual In-Stan-ity" when Stan takes control of a girl's body and tries to sleep with Steve (!) to get closer to him.
  • Incurable Cough of Death: Hayley coughs early in "Tears of a Clooney"; minutes later, she is suddenly stricken with cancer (though she ultimately beats it).
  • Informed Ability: Roger has a Masters degree in City Planning. He can tell you where to build a convention center, but can't tell when he's being played for a fool by a fish.
  • Ink Suit Actor: Avery Bullock looks more than a little like Patrick Stewart. And you'd never guess who voices him.
    • What makes it more conspicuous is that in Family Guy, Patrick Stewart has appeared as himself in "Not All Dogs Go To Heaven", as Jean-Luc Picard in at least one Cutaway Gag, and as Avery Bullock in a dream sequence, and in all cases the character model was exactly the same: no changes at all apart from clothing, proving once and for all that Avery Bullock is Patrick Stewart in everything but name, parodying himself to great effect.
    • There are also some cameos by some people that work on the show. Those scientists about five tropes up? The one in the mech is Mike Barker and the other is Matt Weitzman, the co-creators of the show.
    • Principal Lewis is basically the animated version of Kevin Michael Richardson.
    • And Snot's name and design are based on his voice actors most famous role, Booger in Revenge of the Nerds.
  • Inner Monologue: Crops up more than average, especially in episodes centering on Stan.
  • Innocent Innuendo: Or not so innocent. When Stan's teammate, Jim, uses his Casanova skills to seduce his way out of the bad guys' hideout and to safety. When Stan gets home, he hugs his wife.

Stan (still hugging): If I smell at all like sex it's because of Jim.
(Francine opens her eyes and gets an odd look on her face)
Stan: His hips never stopped moving as we porked our way through 200 miles of jungle. It was magnificent.

    • "This is the only photo from our honeymoon where you can't see Vag. [beat] You remember Vag, our native guide?"
    • In "Stanny Tendergrass", Steve throws out half of a can of soda and tries to justify it:

Steve: I don't like the last half, it's not as effervescent. Nope, the bottom's not for me; I'm what they call a top.
[Roger's eyes widen]

  • Interspecies Romance: Hayley and Reginald The Koala.
  • Intoxication Ensues: During a daring escape from a burning barn full of dope in "Joint Custody", this happens to Stan and Roger, who ride out the episode with some hilarious stoner behavior, and manage to resolve the plot by accident.
  • Invoked Trope: When an awkward fight between Stan, Steve, and Stan's dad starts in the kitchen, Francine points out that this is when Klaus would usually come in and say something funny for comic relief, the joke being that he doesn't make it until the end of the scene, despite Francine's repeated invoking.
    • And in "Iced, Iced Babies", Roger wants to discuss an intellectual article, but Francine and Stan point out that Roger is only good for spitting out cutesy one-liners and that he's "the Adam Sandler of the house."
  • I Owe You My Life: Stan owes Roger a life debt after he saves him at Area 51. It's finally repaid (twice) in the episode "Debt of Your Life", however.
  • Issue Drift: Inverted; the show has arguably become less political than originally intended, though it's still pretty heavy on it.
  • I Told You So: The episode "Four Little Words" centers on Stan's increasingly over-the-top efforts to keep from having to hear this from Francine.
  • It's Popular, Now It Sucks: In-universe, Stan decides to get a head start by hating on a singer before he gets popular.


  • Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: Stan even converts his backyard into a fully-fledged prison when he convinces himself the new neighbors are terrorists.
    • And in the same episode he uses the technique on himself.
  • Jerkass: Stan and Roger. And when they put aside their differences and get together...
    • With Roger, the Jerkass trope actually has some justification. In "Frannie 911", it's revealed that for Roger's species, their "bitchiness" takes the physical form of a poisonous bile if they don't vent it out on others on a frequent basis. It would literally kill Roger to be nice. That said it's not as if he has a hard time doing it.
    • Tank Bates, Terry's father. Tank understands completely that homosexuality is not a choice and he is still disgusted by it. Tank doesn't care how much stress it caused Terry to keep his homosexuality from him, wishes he never knew, and proceeds to act like Terry doesn't exist when he's finally been outted. Conversely, this episode plus later ones involving Stan's father have resulted in Stan and Terry being fairly amicable with each other.
  • Jerkass Realization: A recurring plot point that makes Stan repentant of his callous ways. Roger has a few moments of this as well, even if he is just as likely to fake one to get his way.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Stan... most of the time.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Jerk: Roger plays this a lot, a few episodes hint to Hidden Depths that possibly explain his personality issues, only for them to turn out as Blatant Lies and for Roger to simply be an out and out Jerkass For the Lulz. Stan also has occasional shades of this (particularly in earlier episodes) though he does seem more capable of genuinely seeing the error of his ways.
  • Jesus Was Way Cool: In a Christmas episode, the Rapture occurs and Stan and Francine were left behind. Jesus comes back to lead people against the Anti Christ. He doesn't have his superpowers (except for being able to withstand freezing temperatures and Walking on Water), but it's still a badass. He's hunky and charismatic and actually front flips onto the Anti Christ's shoulder and snaps his neck with his thighs. He's also allowed to date this time and Stan calls him the best guy Francine could ever end up with.
  • Just Like Making Love:

Jack: Now son, breaking in to a safe is like making love to a woman.
Stan: So, we should just pound on it for like two minutes?
Jack: No... you need to gently work the dials till she surrenders...

Back to American Dad
  1. Season 6 Episode 12 "You Debt Your Life".