Home > #3, Media grammar > The best show on television: Modern Family

The best show on television: Modern Family

The television show that I chose to examine through the lens of media grammar is one that I consider one of the best and most entertaining shows on TV right now, Modern Family. Modern Family premiered on ABC in the fall of 2009 and was an instant success. The show follows the families of Jay Pritchett, his daughter Claire Dunphy, and his son Mitchell Pritchett, who live in a LA suburban community. It follows the families through the many trials and tribulations that many families face through everyday life while still trying to remain close and supportive of each other. I believe the subtext of the show is that no matter what happens to you or how many embarrassing mistakes you make, your family will always love you and be there for you, even though sometimes they might make matters worse. Modern Family has appeared in print in many magazines including on the cover of Entertainment Weekly and TV Guide and interview with various members of the cast have been featured in New York Magazine and The Examiner. There is no music featured in the show because the genre of the show is a comedy “mockumentary,” in which the family’s everyday life is observed by cameras, broken up my interviews by each member of each family. Thus, if music started to play throughout, it would ruin the authenticity and mood of the show. Modern Family is appealing to all different kinds of audiences because the three families are so different with one racially mixed family, a gay couple and divorced parents with step-children. Although the families have diverse characteristics it also highlights the relationships between parents and their children, siblings and how these relationships can change or stay the same over time. I believe with every episode of Modern Family its audience expects to be able to laugh out loud while relating to the characters and the show’s positive subtext. It also borrows from the online community because it has a very popular webpage on ABC.com with episode recaps, videos and cast member biographies. The show also has it’s own application that includes funny quotes and summaries from episodes that can be purchased for the iPhone, iTouch or iPad. Like previous great comedies that have come before it, Modern Family knows that its not just about making their audience laugh, but about how they make them feel after watching it. Modern Family is especially unique because they have managed to take the tired subject of dysfunctional families and breathe new life into it, all while using a positive subtext to leave their audiences feeling joyful and positive at the end of each episode.


Categories: #3, Media grammar Tags: ,
  1. tessdoez
    January 17, 2011 at 10:45 pm

    Overall this is a good post. Your comments about the use of music fit well with the assignment.
    The subtext you propose may be part of what the show is about but we are looking for a little bit more critical thinking about what the show implies about society, culture, race, gender etc. What you have suggested is a little bit closer to a moral or a theme.
    One technical error that I noticed is the misuse of “its.” Its is the possessive of it while it’s is the contraction of it is. Watch out–they are so easy to mix up! Please just comment back with a deeper analysis of some subtext of the show for credit.

  2. January 18, 2011 at 12:00 am

    I agree with your comment tessdoez, and will absolutely watch my misuse of “its” thank you for the tip! In regards to a more in depth critical analysis of the subtext of the show, after re-reading the chapter I think the show is re-enforcing old stereotypes about the “American family” and about the other races and sexualities portrayed in the show.

    In regards to re-enforcing the stereotypes of the “American family” that we have seen in many family sitcoms such as The Simpsons and Married With Children, I think Modern Family purposefully re-enforces them in order to be relatable to the audience. For example in Modern Family, the Claire’s husband Phil thinks that he is a “cool dad” because he is able to preform all the dance routines in the Disney movie “High School Musical.” This concept has been done several times before with various American sitcom fathers thinking that they are “cool” or “hip” when in reality they are more clueless and actually not too bright. Also in both The Simpsons and Married With Children both dads, Homer and Al are both portrayed as not the brightest bulbs and in dead-end jobs that they despise. Modern Family re-enforces this stereotype by having Phil be a not so successful real estate agent. Also Claire’s father Jay, re-enforces more stereotypes about the American dad by portraying him as a very macho, football watching man who feels like he can not relate to his gay son and his partner. The same kind of scenario is portrayed with Al in Married With Children, where Al feels uncomfortable around “those homos.” This is extremely coincidental since Jay and Al are portrayed by the same actor, Ed O’Niell.

    Modern Family also re-enforces racial stereotypes by having Jay married to a latino woman Gloria, who is very curvy and has a very heavy accent and has trouble speaking proper english. One episode even pokes fun at her speaking issues when Gloria asks Jay’s assistant to order him several “little cheeses” but in reality the assistant sends Jay several “baby jesus’ ” because she could not understand Gloria through her heavy accent. This kind of stereotype is portrayed in the sitcom Will and Grace, where Karen’s maid has a very thick accent and Karen claims she can never understand her. Also portrayed in the sitcom Will and Grace is the stereotype that all homosexuals are extremely high matenience and feminine. This is also shown in Modern Family when a pigeon gets stuck in Cam and Mitchell’s house, and Mitchell is terrified of the bird because he finds them “gross.”

  3. tessdoez
    January 20, 2011 at 6:52 am

    Riley, great job revising your analysis of the subtext. I have updated Blackboard, giving you credit for this blog entry.

  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: