I will admit, up until last night I was under the impression that ABC’s sitcom Modern Family was the depiction of exactly that – a modern family. The show about three families, all related, one the traditional two parent/three children structure, another the marriage of an older man and a younger woman, and lastly the partnership between two men raising an adopted daughter. (Watch the preview here.)
The relationship between Sofia Vergara’s sexy, passionate Latina character and Ed O’Neill’s stoic American male provides a lot of laughs, while satirizing the stereotypes of each personality. The gay couple raises their daughter with love, perhaps overzealously so at times, and the representation of the “drama queen” gay man à la Will and Grace style is equally amusing. Check out the Lion King introduction ceremony below:
All this is fine, well and good, ABC has created another parody of family life in America while seemingly pressuring it’s viewers to accept non-traditional family structures. Some may feel Modern Family is pushing too hard to this end, posting videos on Youtube titled Modern Family: ABC’s homosexual propaganda show.
However, in a presentation for another class at The New School, a student pointed out that despite showing alternative lifestyle families in primetime, ABC has presented us with little more than a renovated version of Full House. The students explained that of the three families, only the traditional middle aged couple are shown in any sexual situations (the kids walk in on them). The other two couples are rarely seen even kissing. Also, it is the case that in all three families one parent stays home to raise the children while the other is the breadwinner.
I had come to the realization that Modern Family is only modern on the surface.
But I then asked myself, in America where the surface is often all we see, where the “widely held” perceptions are the means by which we understand reality, is this show modern enough?
I think the answer is yes. The stereotypes remain the source for much of the comedy, thus allowing us to be more aware of them, while the familial structures sneak by garnering more acceptance over time. There is a lot the creators of Modern Family could do to become a better representation of America’s more modern families, and hopefully in time they can do that, but until then perhaps another awkward Dad will have to do.