American Dad/Tropes U-Z

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

Tropes used in American Dad include:


Teacher: [pointing to "Tenure" written on board] And that's why it's virtually impossible for me to get fired, no matter what I do. [flying-kicks a student in the face]

  • The Unintelligible: Inverted with Toshi. He only speaks Japanese, but it's subtitled, so the audience can understand him but none of the characters can. This is lampshaded a few times, such as when Toshi mentions that he is haunted by the disembodied spirit of a 12th century samurai. When the spirit talks to him in Japanese, Toshi can't understand it properly.
    • He can also speak Russian and in one episode Francine ends a phone conversation with him with "Bueno gracias". Though the last may just be another joke about everyone perpetually misunderstanding him.
    • He actually speaks English at one point, after Snot yells at him to learn the language: "EAT... MY... BOWLS!"
  • Unreliable Narrator: Done in "The American Dad After-School Special". Throughout the episode, Stan is becoming ludicrously overweight despite all his exercise, apparently because his family is sabotaging him (injecting lard into his celery) to teach him a lesson about his hatred of fat people. Just before the commercial break, we see that Stan is in fact ludicrously underweight, having developed anorexia, and his family was trying to keep him from starving himself to death.
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: Hayley credits this as the reason behind Stan and Roger's hostility in one episode, telling them to just fuck already and get over it. At the end of the episode, the two get arrested for public indecency[1] and, as they're being carted off, praise one anothers' acting talent; Hayley smugly tells Francine I Told You So.
  • Unstoppable Rage: At least two separate episodes show Hayley as being capable of this. One happens when she gets dumped. The other takes place when she becomes hormonal as a result of going through puberty. "What do you mean 'the rest of my life'?"
    • Francine is also capable of this, two prominent examples being when she screams at Stan for ruining her plan to break George Clooney's heart, and when after discovering that Stan tricked her into believing she committed murder, her response to him is angry to the point of psychotic.
  • Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist: Stan Smith, though he is shaping up to be a fairly sympathetic character. True, he retains some Jerkass qualities, but enough episodes end with *him* delivering the Aesop or at least on the moral high ground for him to go beyond just being an Expy of Peter Griffin or, worse -- Jerkass Homer.
    • Roger seems to be filling this role in more recent seasons.
  • The Untwist: Played for Laughs. In the end of the episode "Roy Rogers MacFreely", the titular Roy Rogers turns out to be... Roger.
  • Unusual Euphemism: In "Iced, Iced Babies", Stan says that when Francine goes through menopause her "uterus will fall like Saigon, and Steve was the last chopper out."
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: The B-Plot for "Stan Time" features Roger and Steve trying to write a porn film but unable to come up with a script, while completely ignoring the sexual antics of two young blonde waitresses.
    • More recent episodes have him sidetracked in his quest for boob, though - even to the point where he'll ignore it altogether.
    • Nobody seems to particularly care that Klaus and Reginald can talk.


  • Very Special Episode: Subverted. Some episodes give the appearance of this before descending into chaos, as seen in Season Two's "The American Dad After School Special", where Stan forbids Steve to date Debbie because she's overweight, then Stan realizes that he's fat too and becomes anorexic.
    • Also "A.T. the Abusive Terrestrial", which deals with spousal abuse in a surprisingly realistic way
  • Villain Protagonist: Zig-zags. More than a few episodes are centered around stopping Stan from doing something terrible, and it's revealed fairly often that, while he does a lot of the things he does because he genuinely believes that everything he does is justified by the situation, he's done more than a few things that are just downright horrible, like the time he tried to get a guy to believe in god and ultimately ended up ruining that man's life and killing his family, to the point that the man had a near death experience, got to meet god long enough to be sent to hell, and came back as a worshipper of Satan. Stan's involvement in this trope can be best summed up with one scene: "I'm not a monster... am I?" *a human skull falls out of his furnace, which Stan quickly kicks back in*
    • One of the most extreme examples of this came from a Christmas Episode, where Stan accidentally killed himself, went to heaven, and found out that his family would die because of his actions. In the scenes that follow, Stan ends up fighting his way to confront God and holds him at gunpoint, demanding that he changes what is going to happen. God calls Stan out as a serious control freak, states that the very behavior that has brought him to this point is what has caused all of his problems and Stan isn't even slightly sorry for his obviously evil actions, and when Stan tries to argue, God says that Stan is holding a gun to God's head, demanding that he do as Stan wants. Even God can't come up with a better metaphor than that. Que Stan's My God, What Have I Done?.
  • Vocal Evolution: Three characters come to mind when re-watching the pilot episode: Steve, Stan, and Klaus. All three had prominently deeper voices. Steve and Klaus's voices slowly increased in pitch, while Stan's became more refined in its quality.
  • Volleying Insults: We get this little exchange between Stan and Hayley in "Stannie Get Your Gun":

Hayley: You're such a fascist!
Stan: Peacepusher!
Hayley: Murder!
Stan: Hermaphrodite!

    • A few moments later, we they continue exchanging:

Hayley: Gun toting maniac!
Stan: Beatnik!
Hayley: Warmonger!
Stan: Chupacabra!

  • Vomit Shots: One of the most recurring events in the series is for one of the characters (usually Stan or Roger) to vomit violently due to various reasons. It can be discreet, indiscreet, or outright over the top.
    • A couple people throwing up is all it takes to start a chain reaction of people throwing up in Mexico, where apparently they collect it and resell it as horchata.


  • We Are Experiencing Technical Difficulties: Twice in "Bar Mitzvah Hustle" - first, Steve falls out of Roger's attic while pitching his plan for revenge. It immediately cuts to a Technical Difficulties screen, then replays the scene with a badly injured Steve. Later, Stan and Francine come in to retell their misadventures on the way to a pitch meeting. Stan then points out Plot Hole after Plot Hole in his story, then gives it the Screw This, I'm Outta Here into another Technical Difficulties screen. Both times, it's made to look like the cartoon is being shot on a sound stage.
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy: Steve. He tries to get his dad to respect him multiple times... the results are mixed.

Steve: Are we having a father/son moment?
Stan: *hits Steve in the crotch* We were, you ruined it by mentioning it.

    • Stan's relationship with his own father has elements of this as well.
  • We Want Our Jerk Back: In "Frannie 911", Roger is forced to become nice, but when the family discovers that being nice is actually harming his health, they beg him to go back to being a jerk.
  • Wham! Line: "Now picture that boy [that was cut from the team by his dad] is you." -Steve
    • Lampshaded in "Return of the Bling" when Roger bites Stan's finger off, the only reason being "It was in the movie."
  • What Does She See in Him?: Played with for Stan and Francine. More evident in early episodes where Stan is more malevolent and chauvinistic, often leading Francine to suffer or be belittled in his antics (the smitten Klaus asked this multiple times and at one point was close to wooing her in a new human body). In later episodes, however, Stan becomes slightly more sympathetic while more enthasis is put on Francine's own unpleasant tendacies the former has to endure.
    • One early episode has this driving the main plot, with Francine's memories reverting to the state she was in during college, and Stan tries to win her back over, but she's put off by his being a "narc" as well as his violent attitude and rudeness.
  • What Do You Mean It's Not Heinous?: Stan makes Steve participate in a Vietnam War reenactment in order to make him sing the National Anthem with more passion. After the reenactment, Steve starts acting as if he actually fought in the War when he suffers from "war flashbacks".
    • In "Not Particularly Desperate Housewives":


    • In "Threat Levels", when Stan is outraged at liberal reporters moving in:

Francine: You're overreacting...
Stan: Overreacting? OVERREACTING?! (headbutts a hole in wall)

    • The CIA generally qualify for this:

Bullock: They're using [our torture budget] to teach inner city kids (sobbing) to read!
[Stan, Duper Jackson and Sanders smash up everything nearby, while Bullock picks up Dick and throws him through a window]

  • What Happened to the Mouse?: In "Of Ice and Men", Svetlana, the Russian mail-order bride, marries Toshi after he steals her away from Snot. Nothing else happened to her. She's never seen again. This is lampshaded in a later episode when the topic of girls comes up and Toshi says "Didn't I used to have a wife?"
    • The Golden Turd Saga. Each time, someone would come across it and they become entranced by it, even doing drastic things to keep it. The last one featured the policeman's wife about to poison her husband when he suggested getting rid of it. The writers intended to show what happened next in a later episode but they weren't able to due to time constraints on episodes. It's been several seasons since the last one, so the viewers are just left wondering what happened.
    • If one accepts that everything after the Apocalypse episode exists in Stan's Heaven then it was seen being used as the fuel for Roger's ship to get Stan and Jesus to the final battle with the Anti-Christ and to rescue Francine before Stan's death and gaining his heavenly reward.
  • What Measure Is a Mook?: In "Con Heir", Stan beats up an elderly guard he believes to be a terrorist, and the narrative explores this trope to make it worse:

[a voiceover of a lighthearted flashback plays as Stand pummels the elderly man]
Lady: Dad, you're 76, just retire! Mark and I would love for you to live with us!
Guard: Well, I can't leave the museum, Sheila, they need me!
Lady: But these are your golden years! You should be enjoying life with your family!
Guard: (laughs) I never stopped enjoying it Sheila... in a way, those paintings are my family...

  • What the Hell, Hero?: Everyone calls everyone else out on a pretty regular basis. Especially when it's one character's turn to be more heroic than usual.
  • Whole-Plot Reference: Done very sparingly, and (usually) effectively; the show still manages to put its own unique twist on things even when it's largely basing its plot on an existing story. An excellent example is "Irregarding Steve", which not only features Steve and Roger in a take-off on Midnight Cowboy, but has a running B-story which recreates What's Eating Gilbert Grape with squirrels.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Early in "The Magnificent Steven", Steve expresses an irrational fear of moths. Sure enough, later in the episode, he has to face a swarm of moths as part of the story (Lampshaded by him saying, "Why did it have to be moths?").
    • Even better is Stan's bizarre, occasionally referenced aversion to seagulls. He even has nightmares about them ("Seagulls!? Francine - this time they could drive!").
  • Why Don't You Marry It?: Stan snaps this about Best Buy when a guy talks about the the pay benefits they gave.
  • Wig, Dress, Accent: Roger makes extensive use of these and could arguably fit into Paper-Thin Disguise territory from time to time. The show has even pointed it out by having him choose a disguise from an automatic rotating wardrobe full of outfits, and again in "The One That Got Away" when Roger changes into about a dozen of his characters in half a minute.
  • A Wizard Did It: Roger has fooled Steve with these several times - once when Steve believed he was an actual Potter-esque wizard. Steve sometimes gets his revenge.
  • A Worldwide Punomenon: They crop up semi-frequently, but Bullock pulls an epic one in "Tearjerker".
    • In "A Ward Show":

Principal Lewis: Is that what you intended to say, Superintendent?!
Superintendent: It's what I super-intended to say.

    • In "Bully For Steve", when Roger plans to photograph Steve's fight:

Roger: Gonna shoot it in black and white so it looks like Raging Bull. Call it Raging Bully-- OH MY GOD I DID IT!


  • Yandere: Francine has shown these tendencies towards her son, not wanting any other woman to get closer to him.
    • Stan gets this way when someone starts dating his mother.


    • Not to mention the rest of her family. Let's face it, she's not far away from snapping at any time.
    • Roger definitely fits this. He's either crying for the family to love him or trying to kill them. Sometimes both in the same episode. Also, you could probably argue for Cute and Psycho or Tsundere depending on the writer.
    • And then there's Hayley. If she's the one who breaks up with her boyfriend, no big thing. If she is the dumpee, cue the rampage. It's gotten to a point where the police have issued Stan an ultimatum: One more meltdown and she goes to prison.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: Let's face it. If there's even the slightest hint that Steve may get the girl, something always happens to ruin it.
  • Year Inside, Hour Outside: In "The One That Got Away", Klaus is zapped into another dimension at one point. When he returns moments later, he claims to have been gone 60 years (and become the king of whatever place it was that he was visiting).
  • You Do NOT Want to Know: The website of Roger's persona in "Shallow Vows" allegedly has some awful images on it:

Roger: The second rule you can read on my website. You have to be 18 to log on. I have some sexy barnyard stuff on there that is not for everyone, I could get in a lot of trouble. If you do decide to check it out you're gonna have to clear your history right away- you may need to un-install your browser. I'm telling you, scrub that thing clean. If you think you're being too cautious you're not. They will take us both to jail.

  • Your Mom: In the episode "Bully to Steve", Stan bullies Steve to make him tougher. He makes several Your Mom comments towards him, which are likely true.

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  1. They were trying to out-act one another in a love scene and ended up simulating sex on-stage