Stan Smith, the patriotic patriarch at the center of American Dad!, isn’t like the other cartoon dads. Whereas Homer Simpson or Peter Griffin will realize the error in their ways after doing something foolish and make up with their family, Stan will only learn a very simple lesson he should’ve known all along after doing something downright psychopathic. And he never seems to fully understand just how terrible some of the things he does are.
That might be a side effect of being a trained killer for a living, but either way, here are the 10 worst things Stan has ever done, ranked.
10 Running a sweatshop out of the basement
The season 2 episode “American Dream Factory,” back when American Dad! had more of a political bent, tackled the immigration issue. Stan started a seasonal teddy bear business and, in order to get the bears to stores in time for their corresponding holidays, he hired a bunch of immigrants to make them in a sweatshop in his basement.
Later in the episode, Stan would realize that those immigrants are people in pursuit of a dream, just like him, but he doesn’t realize this until he’s spent a long time underpaying them (he gives them less than minimum wage and warm Mr. Pibb) for working under illegal conditions.
9 Bullying Steve
When Steve told his parents that he was getting bullied at school, Stan decided to take matters into his own hands. He took some time off work, dressed up like an angry teenager, and started harassing Steve on the playground and on his way to and from school. He even threatened to kill him when he took it to the school principal.
In the end, Steve paid Stan’s own childhood bully, Stelio Kontos, to come to his school and beat the crap out of Stan, teaching him that he’ll always be able to take care of himself by paying people to do the heavy lifting for him.
8 Kicking all his neighbors out of their homes for gossiping about him
When a clear-out at the CIA lands Stan some surveillance equipment, he uses it to listen to his neighbors as they gossip about him. He’s so hurt by this that he tries desperately to win their affection – dumping paint on their houses from a plane, sharing embarrassing personal secrets, pushing a kid who can’t swim into a pool with rocks in his pockets just to then save him etc. – until he eventually uses his government power to seize all of his neighbors’ homes. The CIA come down to kick Stan’s neighbors out of their houses and relocate them to a hotel.
7 Putting his family in the vacation goo
In the season 4 premiere episode “The Vacation Goo,” it is revealed that Stan has been staging all of the family’s vacations by putting Francine, Steve, and Hayley in vats of goo and hooking them up to CIA machines that simulate experiences.
Stan doesn’t actually want to go on vacation with his family, and would rather have a vacation away from them, so he uses the goo to give them the illusion of a family vacation and give himself some time alone to watch football with Klaus. When he takes them on an actual vacation, Francine goes crazy thinking she’s still in the goo.
6 Blinding himself to bear being with Francine
When Stan and Francine decide to renew their wedding vows, Stan admits that he only loves Francine for her looks. So, to prove a point, she stops exercising and dieting and covering herself in beauty products. Stan responds by blinding himself in order to stand being with the new, less attractive Francine.
It turns out quite sweet in the end, because Stan finds that he can listen to Francine for hours without the use of his sight and they become closer than ever as he learns more and more about her, but it was a pretty terrible thing to do.
5 Abducting Greg and Terry’s baby
When Greg and Terry asked Francine to be the surrogate mother to carry their child, Stan was immediately dubious. He didn’t believe that a same-sex couple could raise a child. So, right after Francine gave birth, Stan stole the baby and headed across the country to give her up for adoption where she couldn’t legally be given to a same-sex couple. Along the way, he met a lesbian couple who had seen him on the news and wanted to show him that there was nothing wrong with their way of life.
And after briefly abducting their kids, he realized they’re just like Steve and Hayley and decided to return all the kids he stole to their respective parents. He came to the right conclusion in the end, but he did some awful things along the way.
4 Locking his neighbors in an internment camp
When Francine invites the new neighbors, Bob and Linda Memari, over for a barbecue in the season 1 episode “Homeland Insecurity,” Stan becomes instantly suspicious. He grills Bob about where he’s from and Bob says his parents are from Iran and he was born in Cleveland. Stan goes on assuming that the harmless Memaris are terrorists and even locks them in an internment camp in his backyard.
He electrifies the fence and shoots at them with a water gun. The early episodes of American Dad! were far more concerned with Stan’s political views than the more recent installments have been.
3 Ruining an atheist’s life to get him to believe in God
Stan thinks he’s found a new best friend in the episode “Dope and Faith,” but things get complicated when he learns that his new buddy doesn’t believe in God. In order to get him to have faith, Stan decides to destroy his life – blowing up his home, infecting his restaurant with bird flu to get it shut down, brainwashing his wife to change sexuality and leave him with the kids etc. – but it doesn’t make him have faith in God; it just makes him attempt suicide.
And then he makes a deal with the Devil to become one of his minions in exchange for eternal life under his dark rule. The irony is that God wouldn’t look too fondly on what Stan did to his friend.
2 Convincing Francine she murdered her best friend
In the episode “Four Little Words,” Stan reveals his biggest fear: Francine telling him, “I told you so.” So, when she says that setting up Bullock with her best friend is a bad idea and Bullock ends up killing her, Stan will do anything to stop Francine from finding out what happened.
This eventually leads to Stan drugging Francine, digging up her best friend’s body, putting the body in bed with her, and convincing her that she got really drunk and murdered her – all so he wouldn’t have to hear Francine say, “I told you so.” She ends up moving to India to become a missionary and the guilt tears her up inside, so she’s pretty miffed when Stan tells her the truth.
1 Getting Francine lobotomized because he forgot about their anniversary
In the episode “American Fung,” it’s revealed that Stan’s solution to forgetting his and Francine’s wedding anniversary is to give her temporary amnesia so that he has time to get a present and she doesn’t remember that he ever forgot about it. However, when Stan insults the memory-wiping psychiatrist, he gets revenge by giving Francine her memories back.
Then, Stan’s solution is to take Francine to a mental institution to get her lobotomized. This screw-up is so terrible that there’s no way out of it in the actual narrative. The show has to get meta just to recover from it.