The Emmy-Award Winning “Modern” Family

Every Wednesday at 9:00 pm, NBC has situated a time slot for the Emmy-Award Winning for Best Comedy Series called “Modern Family”.  This show puts a comedic twist to families struggling with difficult situations in their everyday lives.  Each episode portrays three different families: a traditional family, a blended family, and parents in same-sex relationship.  The traditional family consists of a middle-age mother and father, Claire and Phil, and their children, Haley, Alex, and Luke. The couple in a homosexual relationship, Mitchell and Cameron, adopted an interracial child, Lily, who completes their family. Claire and Mitchell’s father, Jay, who was recently remarried to a considerably younger woman named Gloria, make up the blended family, along with Gloria’s son, Manny.  Although this may sound like a colourful bunch of characters, through narrative analysis of the pilot episode, one could suppose that the morals they influence the audience to believe are not as “modern” as they appear. One can see that being married with children is the ideal family life, which is a definite outlier from present family life. In addition, the moral of the importance of family approval is still embraced rather than shown in a different perspective. One could also suggest that this show conceptualize the traditional family roles rather than modern family roles. Although Modern Family tries to situate itself as different from the all-American family life, it still influences their audience to ought to believe in the conventional family lifestyle.

When one thinks of a conventional family, the image that comes to mind is a married couple is children.  Modern Family is a perfect example of a show that is dedicated to this belief, targeting an audience that appeals to the family life. Claire and Phil’s family shows the image of a traditional family, where children show constant bickering with their siblings and the parents must act in their traditional family roles in order for them to properly function.  The pilot episode entails the major event of Cameron and Mitchell adopting a child, completing the traditional family persona. When Mitchell states, “Cam and I started feeling this longing for something more…maybe a baby…”, it is implied that having a child will fill a void in a relationship. As a result, the belief that is portrayed in this television show is that family must consist of a two-parent family with children.

Support within a family is of great importance; however, one could suggest that approval is not necessarily achieved in the modern day family life.  In Claire and Phil’s household, Phil was not approving of the way Claire chose to handle Luke’s punishment, but he supported this action regardless.  After the major event of Mitchell and Cameron adopting Lily, Mitchell was afraid of telling his family about this decision because of the judgement they may ensue.  He was right in assuming this fact, as Jay and Claire both initially agree that Mitchell might not be able to handle this responsibility; however, in the end of the episode, both Claire and Jay approve of this decision.  In this episode, Manny takes on the task of confessing his feelings for a girl in which Gloria insists that Jay should support his actions, even though Jay was strongly against it.  Consequently, the message that is being communicated to all viewers is that approval just because they are a family member is emphasized, a conventional moral that does not relate to modern day life.

The all-American family often suggests that there are two conventional roles that a person should take in a family situation: the mother and the father.  In the pilot episode, the motherly figure is clearly demonstrated in Claire and Gloria, who are overbearing when it comes to their children.  Even initially, Claire is adamant in the fact that Haley should not be wearing short skirts and Gloria is overly passionate during Manny’s soccer game. Both acts are clear overbearing attitudes that a traditional mother usually has over their children.  Even through Cameron and Mitchell, it is clear that Cameron is seen as the motherly figure, as Mitchell comments that Cameron has a more “womanly shape”.  In addition, the fathers of the household, Phil and Jay, are shown as the breadwinners of the family, who work and are less involved in supporting the growth of their children.  This can be seen through the scenes where Jay is less committed to supporting Manny’s quest of love and Phil not having the courage to discipline Luke.  Because of such a wonderful ending to the episode, the moral they suggest to the intended audience is that having these family figures will increase the chance of a successful family life.

To conclude, Modern Family tries to perform a modern take on the family life, but still falls short in this goal.  From watching the first pilot episode and analyzing it from a narrative perspective, one can see that conventional family life is still being supported.  The image of a traditional family is still supported where a couple must have a child to achieve happiness.  Moreover, approval and support from family members as a significant part of family life is another moral presented in this show that does not have a modern day perspective.  In addition, the belief in which family members must situate themselves in specific roles to live contentedly is emphasized in this television show.  Although Modern Family does try to influence a modern society, one can only advocate that the messages and morals it tries to portray does not correlate with the majority of modern day thinking.


One thought on “The Emmy-Award Winning “Modern” Family

  1. I am quite aware of the Emmy and Golden Globe winning comedy series, ‘Modern Family’. The show has received praise for its comedic and relatable approach towards observing the way three families deal with everyday issues. The narrative analysis done on this show was fairly well done, as the author suggests that although this show looks at the modern lifestyles of traditional, blended and same-sex parenting families, they are primarily approached through conventional means. The author identified this well, but could have further analyzed the show’s intent and presentation to viewers in order to further support why this comedic series is conventional.
    Through narrative analysis, the author accurately notes that the show looks at three families through conventional means. The author identifies that this idea of ‘modern families’ is well represented through the three different types of families, but are not as ‘modern’ as they should be since they take part in conventional mannerisms. This idea is well developed with references to characters such as Claire and Phil whom illustrate a traditional family where they have three kids. The author identifies that a conventional approach is first established with their family structure, consisting of a mother, father and their kids. In the episode the parents are forced to deal with the bickering and arguments between their children. This is dealt through the mother punishing the kids while the father supports his wife’s decision, reluctantly in some instances. This situation was approached in what could be said as a traditional manner because of how the mother had the main responsibility of watching her kids and dealing with their problems. This illustrates traditional family beliefs through how the mother assumes more motherly roles, cooking, cleaning, taking care of the kids, while the father supports his wife’s decisions and is not directly involved with such decisions.
    Also, the author mentions that despite same-sex parenting approached as something more modern than traditional, the couple still had ideal morals comparable to ones often practiced in ‘traditional family’ settings. It is identified that Mitchell and Cam, the same-sex couple, felt obliged to having a child in order to achieve a proper family. Therefore, they adopted a child in order to fulfill that need. In addition, the impact of the relations within the show could have been analyzed to further enhance the reasoning for why these families are approached in a conventional manner. For instance, with Mitchell and Cam it can be said that as a result of being a couple living in the suburbs, they felt the need to have a child to fulfill the ideal family scenario showcased by their community. Oftentimes, the suburbs are an ideal location for families and this would have further reinforced their need for a child to complete their family and be like a ‘normal family’. Moreover, the idea of a normal family consisting of parents and kids further establishes the idea of a conventional family. Thus, despite trying to portray these families as ‘modern’, aspects of the show such as the setting, the relations and morals conveyed, are fairly conventional.
    While analyzing this show, the author mentioned that oftentimes approval is not evident in modern family settings. A strong example of this was seen with Manny’s stepfather’s disapproval of his confession of his love. Despite this being a good observation, one could argue that approval is not necessarily evident in conventional family settings either. Likewise, in conventional settings the step-father may not approve of such behavior out of concern for his step-son. Therefore, the idea of disapproval is not something evident in only present day families. Character analysis would further support why despite being a part of modern day families these characters follow conventional mannerisms. For instance, Claire appears to have the main responsibilities in the household, while Phil tries to take on a more ‘modern’ and youthful approach to parenting techniques, failing to maintain an orderly family setting, as depicted in traditional families. Through narrative analysis one could determine that Phil’s character was made this way with the intent of creating a connection with the intended audience, modern day families. Phil’s character would be relatable to housewives and husbands in present day American households because of the widely accepted belief that men are lazy, and women take on more responsibilities in most households. First and foremost this would be achieved because of the 9:00 pm time slot and the ABC network the show is on; convenient for parents and adults who would watch this ideally after dinner. Secondly, the show is based upon three different family settings; varied family settings that are more accepted and common in American households, and thus, attaining a bigger audience and greater opportunities to form various connections. Lastly, regardless of the way the show is put together, it essentially showcases traditional morals and values. An example of this would be with the simple idea of family. At the end of the pilot episode all three families come together in an accepting manner when they are introduced to Cameron and Mitchell’s adopted daughter. The concept of everyone being happy and together is clearly depicted within these last few minutes of the episode that reinforce the concept of family. Where family consists of people who accept you for who you are.
    Essentially, the author’s analysis of ‘Modern Family’ was very accurate with respect to how despite attempting to showcase present day families; the show still conveys conventional concepts. It could clearly be determined that despite the attempt the show makes towards presenting viewers with a different perspective to family lives, it illustrates numerous traditional morals.

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