Evolution of the Family

The five-year-old sitcom Modern Family is multi-awarded for good reason. For six seasons, the show has consistently delivered solid acting, hilarious writing, and, as the name implies, refreshing unconventionality. Modern Family’s tagline basically sums up its premise: “One big (straight, gay, multi-cultural, traditional) happy family.” The mockumentary-style sitcom revolves around the family of Jay Pritchett and his two children, Clair and Mitchell. It starts of introducing Jay as he recently remarries to a younger Colombian woman, Gloria; Clair has been married for 20 years with her college lover, Phil; and Mitchell living-in with his partner, Cameron.

The funny thing about Modern Family is that its characters are anchored on stereotypes, yet at the same time, it makes an obvious effort to deviate from it. Phil for example, is very much in-touch with his “feminine side.” He enjoys going to the spa. He’s undoubtedly more romantic than his wife. And, often, he is portrayed as someone who is sensitive and whose feelings are easily hurt. He isn’t the one who is in charge of disciplining their kids either. The role of the tough parent in their household goes to Clair. Another character that breaks stereotypes is Manny Delgado, Gloria’s son from her previous marriage. Manny is into poetry and the arts. He woes his crushes in school by cooking fancy dinners for them. He’s more interested in the fabrics of his shirts rather than playing video games. Then of course there’s Mitch and Cameron, the gay couple in the family. Cameron, whose interests include wall murals, musicals, and flashy fashion, is a proud farm boy. He takes pride in growing up in a farm and doing all the hard and dirty work like driving a truck and grazing the animals.

Yet, with all these deviations from the norm, Modern Family is still getting flak for being patriarchal and not modern at all. Clair and Gloria are still stay-at-home moms. Their husbands will always have the economic upper hand. Mitch and Cameron has well defined roles in their family when they adopted Lily from Vietnam (which is legally impossible by the way, but that’s a different story). Mitch is the father-figure lawyer who is in charge of taming-down Cameron with his flamboyant upbringing to Lily.

In defense of Modern Family, the show has been making efforts to evolve through out its seasons. The 6th season just started and it shows Clair killing it in her new job. Both Clair and Phil are working now. Also, Cameron and Mitch are newly wed by way of recently passed laws in their state. Plus, a new character was also introduced last season. A nanny named Andy—yes, a guy. Andy is portrayed as someone who is excellent with dealing with kids. Jay was hesitant to hire him and still remains to be the main patriarch in this unconventional family. However, at the end of each episode, he learns to accept his seemingly flawed family. He learns not only to tolerate his gay son, Mitch, and his not-into-sports step-son Manny, but to accept and respect their decisions. Modern Family is evolving through time, which really, reflects how it really is in society (though, it’s the American upper-middle class society, really). It’s also interesting to note that 11 out of the 26 writers credited on the show are female, thus we can’t completely say that that opinion of women have been silenced in this production. Modern Family’s characters both reinforce and debunk stereotypes in gender. It’s not very modern, but it’s getting there.


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