Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Liberal Studies


Jean Halley

Subject Categories

American Popular Culture | Critical and Cultural Studies | Cultural History | Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | Gender, Race, Sexuality, and Ethnicity in Communication | Sociology of Culture | Television | Women's Studies


abortion, television, stigma, media representation, adult animated comedy, adult animated sitcom


This thesis documents and analyzes representation of abortion in American adult animated comedy, charging that it is under-examined and significant because representation on television in other genres has traditionally been absent or misleading. It covers theories on how pop culture communicates social norms, and posits that greater truthful representation of abortion in popular culture may be effective in reducing prevalent abortion stigma in the U.S. amongst the young by normalizing and more accurately representing the procedure. It reviews why our culture should be concerned about reducing abortion stigma in the U.S. It also identifies the “taboo ratings paradox,” wherein television programs that address taboo topics garner higher ratings. The thesis presents a brief history of television censorship, exploring why abortion has been a taboo topic, and explains the development and popularity of adult animated comedy in the U.S. Finally, it analyzes 93 segments containing a mention or allusion to abortion across five programs— Archer (seasons 1-8), BoJack Horseman (seasons 1-3), Family Guy (seasons 1-15), Rick and Morty (seasons 1-2) and South Park (seasons 1-20).

Representations of Abortion in Adult Animated Television Comedy (1998 to 2017).xlsx (107 kB)
Dataset for Representations of Abortion in Adult Animated Television Comedy