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.)
I chose South Park as a show to examine through the lens of media grammar because it’s one of my favorite shows and it always changes in relation to subtext. Usually each episode has an underlying message that the writers of the show are trying to get across to the audience, but not necessarily a specific subtext. A general subtext that the show exhibits in its fundamental structure and with its continuing themes is usually racism, sexism, and downgrading religion. Although most of this seems to be pretty sarcastic, it is implied to the viewers that these topics are what the show is meant to be about. The sarcasm and mockery of each of these ideas provides a larger level of entertainment, while the setting of the show and/or the demographic of its characters focus on the issues and topics we as a society usually deal with in everyday life. Thus the subtext of the episodes in general are not meant to be taken seriously, but to provide a new viewpoint to the viewers. One episode could be making fun of news or a show on television that has been receiving lots of coverage, while another could be making fun of a culture “fad” or celebrity. South Park has been featured in magazines, newspapers, and sometimes books. Usually when South Park is featured in print media, it receives a lot of negative and sometimes positive criticism. This is due to the extent of mocking the show does in order to get its point across to the viewer. It even contains a sarcastic warning message at the beginning of each episode not to take it seriously.
The music in the show varies from time to time, but usually each episode starts off with a folk country song that mixes with the characters voices. Throughout the episode, the music varies from serious orchestra music to happy tunes. The genre of this show is comedy, but the authors add a bit of cleverness to the humor in each episode. They carefully try not to subject themselves to contradictions and aim to get as little negative criticism from viewers, but it still manages to offend a select few every time. The point of view in the show is generally done in a 3rd person view, but it really depends on the episode because the producers like to switch it up a lot. I feel that the audience they’re trying to aim at is anywhere from a high school level to anyone in baby boomer generation because it contains pieces of culture from different eras. It borrows from the online environment because they see that since the Internet has become a big phenomenon, they want to interact in a more personal way with their audience. One example is an episode known as “Canada On Strike”, in which they make fun of YouTube stars and the fame they have acquired over time. Though it is a bit graphic in parts, it is still an enjoyable episode to watch for anyone that knows of these people.
Doctor Who Subtext
Doctor Who is a British television show whose main character, the Doctor, travels through time and space, usually with a companion, saving the world from threats, both terrestrial and extraterrestrial. The show originally began in 1963 and ended in 1989, only to be revamped and aired again on BBC in 2005.
There are many different subtexts throughout all the episodes of Doctor Who. One of the most prominent messages in the series is the constant concept of equality. The Doctor’s companions are usually women- even though he is the smartest of the two, the women are always there to save the day because the Doctor cannot do it alone. In the new series, the Doctor’s companions are white or African-American, and he is constantly fighting for the equality of all alien races. Other subtext includes the Doctor’s complete aversion to guns. He refuses to kill anyone or to use a weapon that could do such damage, and always gives the villain in the episode a choice: to continue on its deadly path which will be stopped by the Doctor, or to redeem itself. Lastly, Doctor Who does have negative subtexts surrounding Americans and government. The Americans are always the ones who interfere with the Doctor and make his job more difficult by taking over situations that are not theirs to take over. They usually end up getting killed. Government is also depicted as evil, constantly hiding the existence of aliens and choosing to sacrifice some of their own race to keep their jobs. They constantly look out for themselves, just as the government does today.
Doctor Who has been featured in many different types of print media. Books have been written detailing the Doctor’s various untold journeys, in addition to academic analyses of the entire show. The books have mostly been written by previous writers on the show such as Steven Moffat and Russell T. Davies. Numerous magazine articles and newspaper articles have been written about the science fiction phenomenon that has been playing for over thirty-one seasons. It’s genre is purely science-fiction: when the show first began, it was a children’s scifi show, but upon the reairing of the series, it began to reach out to an older audience, while still appealing to younger viewers. The point-of-view is constantly changing in the show- mostly the episodes revolve around the Doctor and his current companion, but sometimes there are “Doctor-light” episodes, in which a normal human is thrown into extraordinary circumstances and the Doctor helps them a little along the way.
Doctor Who is a revolutionary show, one that uses a wide range of aspects to draw its viewers in, whether it be through the aliens, the futuristic technology, the tragic hero, the powerful and emotional writing, or the score by Ron Grainer. It reaches all audiences and will be commended for its revolution in television.