An analysis on the TV show Modern Family

Table of Content

Modern Family

Television network ABC Family’s breakout comedy series, Modern Family, is a show full of life lessons and hidden meanings. Most television shows nowadays are all about sex, alcohol, and the dramas that occur because of them. Modern Family is not an exception, however it focuses more on the family aspect of life’s many dramas. On the surface, it is similar to the sex and drugs filled television shows that consume the media these days, but underneath that surface each episode has a moral to be learned, and the show overall represents many different assumptions America makes on what a “typical” family is. Modern Family is different mainly because of the variety of characters.

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Made as a mockumentary (a documentary but for a parody), it centers on the daily lives of Jay Pritchett, a middle aged man who recently married the much younger Gloria, a gorgeous Latina who hails from Colombia. Gloria has a young son, Manny, who is very introspective and mature beyond his years. Jay has two grown children, Claire and Mitchell. Claire married Phil Dunphy and had three very different children, Haley, Alex, and Luke. Claire is a bit of a control freak; family gatherings must be perfect. When things don’t go as planned, she feels like a failure. Phil is a real estate agent who tries to be the “cool dad” and is basically just a kid himself, causing him to create problems often so he’s always finding new ways to hide his screw-ups from his wife. Haley is a typical teenage girl; her worries are about boys, driving, her embarrassing father, and arguing her rights as a young woman with her mother. Alex got all the brains in the family; she loves taking advantage of her older sister’s stupidity and her younger brother’s naiveté. Luke is his mother’s baby and the epitome of a sweet innocent boy. And finally, Mitchell, who is a somewhat sensible lawyer, which makes him the exact opposite of his longtime partner, Cameron, also known as Cam. He is flamboyant with a capital F and makes up for Mitchell’s stuffiness by coming up with interesting activities for the two of them. Their family is made complete with Lily, the beautiful baby girl they adopted. Though the show is called “Modern Family” it heavily promotes our cultures dominant ideology of a family, which consists of a father, or more masculine partner, who provides for his family while the wife, or more feminine partner, takes the role of caregiver who tends to the children and household duties.

Modern Family focuses more on female stereotypes to further promote the male-dominant family ideology. The caregivers in this show are Claire, Gloria, and Cameron. They all act as the stay at home moms who clean house and busy themselves with fundraisers or little events like bake sales. However, in the episode “Mother’s Day” it is revealed that, Mitchell is the one who assumes the mother role not Cam, which is contradictory to the ideology of a family used in this show. What gives it the more modern aspect is the many different types of relationships in the show. Jay and Gloria are an interracial couple, which veers away from what is viewed as the typical relationship of same race marriages. While this shows a more modern marriage, Gloria’s character also embodies perceptions many Americans have regarding Latin American women, such as being dependent on men, hot tempered, and sexy. Contrary to Gloria’s racist stereotypical description, Claire Dunphy represents a traditional stay-at-home-mother, who has dedicated her life to the domestic realm. In comparison to Gloria’s glamorous looks, Claire dresses more casually, indicating that her priorities lie within the family. Her family is closer to the cookie cutter, typical family America expects. Two parents who are married, with two or more kids. Then there is Mitchell and Cam. Obviously a homosexual couple is not considered the dominant ideology of a family, which adds to the modernity of the show. This along with their adopted Vietnamese daughter Lily is the show’s main deterrence from the “typical” family.

As stated before, Modern Family tends to send better messages to the audience. In the episode “Caught In the Act” there are three separate events that are all based on being caught doing something that harms someone else, and shows either the consequences or how they worked it out. Haley, Alex, and Luke made their parents breakfast in bed on their anniversary, only to be scarred for life when they opened the door to surprise them because their parents were caught in the act of having sex. They all ran downstairs screaming in horror, Haley and Alex became hysterical, pacing back and forth or rubbing their eyes with water in hopes to forget the image. Luke keeps asking what they were doing, because he still has his innocence, but his sisters can’t bring themselves to say the words of what they just witnessed. Meanwhile, Claire and Phil are holed up in their room trying to figure out what to say to their traumatized kids. In the end the best they could come up with is telling them they know it was terrible to see their parents that way but when they grow up into their sexuality they shouldn’t be embarrassed about it.

Their approach was probably not the best one, but its underlying message is that parents should address issues, and be there for their kids. While their talk was awkward, it put the issue to bed instead of leaving it hang in the air. During all that mayhem in the Dunphy household, Jay and Gloria are getting ready to fly out to Las Vegas for the week. Before they leave, Gloria wants to email Claire about the bake sale they have coming up because Gloria was getting tired of Claire’s controlling nature. She wrote out the email in anger, saying malicious things but having no intention of sending it. However, accidents happen and Jay hit send on the hateful email, throwing Gloria into a panic about making things right with Claire before their trip. When Jay tries calling Claire she won’t speak on the phone because she is more concerned with what to say to the children. This is never specified though, which convinces Gloria that Claire read the email. When Jay and Gloria arrive to the house, the children are leaving in dismay saying their parents have been locked up in their room and won’t come out.

As soon as the kids walk out the door, Claire and Phil come downstairs. Gloria starts rambling on, as does Claire until she realizes what Gloria is saying has no relevance to being caught in bed by the children. This is when Gloria realizes Claire hasn’t read the email so she tries to hack into Claire’s account. When she is unsuccessful, Jay comes to her rescue and says the email Gloria wants to erase has naked pictures and was sent to Claire by accident. Though the rest of the show’s message is to tell the truth, this sends the opposite message that sometimes a little white lie is better than hurting someone. To follow along with the episode’s theme of getting busted, Mitchell and Cam are caught in their own web of lies. In the beginning, the couple is complaining that the only restaurant within walking distance is a shawarma joint with less than exceptional customer service.

Then a fancy new restaurant opens up two blocks from their house named “Amelia’s” and they believe all their problems are solved. This proves not to be true when the two can’t get a decent reservation within the next couple weeks, which is when they realize the owner of “Amelia’s” is one of the mother’s at Lily’s school. Mitch and Cam arrange a play date with Lily and Amelia’s son, Jackson, with the ulterior motive of getting Amelia to get them a table at the restaurant. Just as Amelia is about to tell them how they can get into the restaurant, she has to take a phone call. Mitch and Cam accidentally hear the conversation over a baby monitor and discover that Amelia is a very angry woman. After her phone call she rushes out to the living room to ask if Mitch and Cam they can watch Jackson for just a bit while she deals with things at the restaurant. While she’s away, they realize that one of Lily’s juice boxes has burst and leaked red liquid all over Amelia’s white carpet, which Cam soon recognizes as a $50,000 alpaca-hand-made rug. At first they contemplate rotating the whole rug to hide the stain under the couch, but choose to face the consequences and tell the truth.

When Amelia returns she sees the stain, and in the heat of the moment they quickly blame it on Jackson saying he took one of Lily’s juice boxes and spilled the rest. Upon hearing this, Amelia races around the room to get Jackson’s epinephrine injection because he is allergic to strawberries. Mitch and Cam help hold the poor boy down as Amelia prepares to inject him before finally giving up their ruse. With a table at “Amelia’s” forever lost to them, Cam and Mitch return for more shawama and indifferent customer service. The lesson that comes from this is it’s good to tell the truth, and consequences always follow a lie. In a time like the present, when media has so much effect on our minds it is good to have a show with more substance. Modern Family has many different morals to be learned, and reveals America’s stereotypes of family and different races. This show also proves that, while families have evolved over time, America’s dominant ideology is still the prim and proper cookie cutter family that’s been heavily broadcasted over the years.

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An analysis on the TV show Modern Family. (2016, Dec 07). Retrieved from

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