Home > #3, Media grammar > Modern Fam.

Modern Fam.

Modern Family is a half-hour long mockumentary comedy series that is broadcast on ABC. The series follows the lives of Jay Pritchett (a.k.a., Al Bundy of Married with Children fame), his son Mitchell, and daughter, Claire Dunphy. Jay is married to Gloria, his second wife, a much younger woman from Columbia (who is just as stunningly attractive as she is witty) and cares for her wise-beyond-his-years son, Manny. Mitchell, on the other hand, lives with his partner Cameron Tucker; together they raise their recently adopted Vietnamese daughter Lily. Finally, Claire is married to the goofiest guy around, Phil Dunphy. The couple has three kooky kids: Haley, Alex, and Luke. While this family tree may sound rather confusing, I believe that it exemplifies the show’s subtext. Modern Family does not portray the traditional nuclear family of father, mother, and child (ren)—dog optional—as seen on shows like Leave it to Beaver; rather, it portrays today’s more modern, and eclectic, definition of what it means to be a family.

Additionally, each family group experience comedic everyday scenarios that many of the show’s 12 million plus viewers seem to relate to. For instance, in one episode entitled “Moon Landing” Claire and Phil’s two youngest children go around the neighborhood collecting bottles and cans for recycling. They kids come home and ask their father what Jagermeister is. In classic Phil fashion he replies, “You know how in a fairy tale there’s always a potion that makes the princess fall asleep and then the guys start kissing her? Well, this is like that except you don’t wake up in a castle — you wake up in a frat house with a bad reputation.” Classic! With lines like that there really is no need for music—which may be why no tunes are featured in the show. As for borrowing from online environment, ABC.com has a webpage that is solely dedicated to the show. It features popular quotes, episode recaps, and character bios, just to name a few. With that said, tune in to Modern Family, Wednesday nights on ABC. (Check your local listings for times.)

Categories: #3, Media grammar Tags: ,
  1. January 13, 2011 at 4:52 pm

    I haven’t seen Modern Family, but it sounds like an update of Married with Children in the mold of The Simpsons, Everybody Loves Raymond, etc.. I agree that the program says something about changing families, but that seems to be more in the foreground than in the subtext. It seems to me that a subtext here is one that’s popular across a range of sitcoms: that working class dads are kind of tasteless, insensitive and crabby boors who nevertheless have big hearts for their families. I wonder why it seems that this image persists even as we move from The Honeymooners to All in the Family to Modern Family. What do you think? Can you offer some speculation? Or perhaps you disagree that this program can be seen as a continuation of this kind of class-based presumption? Please expand a little more on what you see in the program’s subtext to receive credit for this blog.

  2. amanda
    January 17, 2011 at 12:26 am

    I completely agree with your comments. I suppose the subtext was a bit more hidden than I thought–which, I guess, is what “subtext” means. Now that you brought it to light, I can definitely see that these doofy dad’s are well-meaning, despite their odd ways of going about things. Maybe I have been so submerged in my own dad’s quirky antics that I wasn’t able to identify it as the show’s subtext. It just seemed like everyday dad-ness to me. Nevertheless, I think that the role of dad-with-the golden-heart is still present in modern day shows because it is something that many people can relate to. They (the dads) offer comic relief as well as a bit of that TLC that we all need from our dads. With that being said, I think these classic characters are here to stay.

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