Friday, August 29, 2014

"Modern Family" Values

The ABC show “Modern Family” is a primarily truthful reflection of everyday family life in America. The show follows one large extended family made up of three interrelated nuclear families. Although the show succumbs some personality stereotypes, it truthfully represents many aspects of American family life through its characters and the relationships between these characters.

A few characters on “Modern Family” are cliched and feel less truthful. Claire, the mother in one of families, is portrayed as just that- a mother, with no apparent life outside of her family. She is also shown as a catty, malicious woman, jealous of the beauty of her father’s new wife and constantly absorbed in revenge plots against everyone around her, including her children. This harmful stereotype brings down women by implying that they are inherently jealous and vengeful.

The other character who is quite cliched is Jay, the father of Claire and patriarch of the family. He is portrayed as a classic older, white, wealthy man- he spends most of his time at the country club playing golf, advocates for old-school manners, and dislikes his son-in-law. However, Jay’s relationship with his adopted son Manny shows him in a different light, making him a more unique and thus more truthful character by showing him within a realistic relationship.

Although Jay and Claire are somewhat unrealistic, stereotyped characters, other aspects of “Modern Family” are more true. For example, one of the families featured on the show is made up of gay partners, Cam and Mitchell, and their adopted daughter Lily. Their family presents an alternative the American ideology of a “cookie cutter” suburban family made up of a mom, a dad, and 2 or 3 children.

Another true element of modern family are the characters Haley and Alex, the two daughters of Claire. At first glance, these teen aged girls seem to fit into the false ideologies of American society- Alex is the geeky smart girl, while Haley is the dumb-but-pretty popular girl. However, their characters are rounded out and revealed to be far more nuanced as the show goes on. Haley is shown to be much smarter than she initially appears, albeit in a street-smart rather than book-smart way. She also reveals ambition, shrewdness, and kindness as her story progresses, all traits that do not fit into her stereotype. Meanwhile, Alex is shown to have a large group of friends who share her interests, a much-needed challenge to the ideology that “nerds” have no friends at all.

What is most truthful about Haley and Alex, though, is their relationship as sisters. Like real sisters, they alternately love and hate each other, best friends one moment and worst enemies the next. But their relationship does not only exist at extremes, and sometimes, they’re just normal sisters living together and facing everyday challenges, doing homework and worrying about applying to college. The truth of their relationship and their lives allows viewers to relate, making the show as a whole more successful.


  1. I agree with Mary when she states that the sisters in "Modern Family" have a realistic relationship. When looking at the relationship with my sister, I notice that Alex and Haley go through some of the same ups and downs I go through with my sister.

  2. I love this show and also love the way that you interpreted Haley and Alex! I agree that they do seem to be nothing but enforces of stereotypes, however, as the show progresses, the characters eventually break more stereotypes than they originally enforce. I believe that this adds to the aspect of truth in the show, just as you state. Nice job!

  3. It is interesting how each character on "Modern Family" enforces a primary stereotype, while eventually proving nuanced in some way. The show, however, consistently concludes optimistically and usually with some cliché moral attached. The endings tend not to be very true to life, and compromise the realistic elements of the show.

  4. I think it is hard to say what is "true" for a family because everyone's family life is so different but i do agree with your points. As the show progresses they are starting to develop as unique characters but in the end they usually fall back into a stereotype.

  5. I this was great Mary! While I agree with Frances that it is difficult to capture the lives of all American families, I often find myself comparing "Modern Family" to myself and my relatives. I also agree with Mary that of all the characters on the show Claire is very one-dimensional, and fails to show a more thoughtful compassionate side.

  6. I agree! This show definitely captures how families are changing. The characters on this show are also very easy to relate to, no matter what your home life is like.