The Merriam-Webster dictionary definesthe word “modern” as “of, relating to, or characteristic of the present or theimmediate past” (Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary, 2017). The word “family”is defined as, “the basic unit in society traditionally consisting of twoparents rearing their children” (Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary, 2017). Thetitle of the sitcom thus immediately conveys conflict within the stereotypicalfamily structure and sends the first message of challenging society norms. Thetraditional and most common family structure in the 1960s, in America was the “marriedcouple family with children.
” Ozzie and Harriet, and Leave it to Beaver, populartelevision shows in those days consisted of children living with married biologicalparents. This type of structure was known as the “nuclear family (US CensusBureau, 2003). This structure however, is no longer a predominant model inAmerica or for that matter in the developed world.
This is due to the rise in divorce,remarriage, single parenting and cohabiting. Family size is also shrinking due to economicreasons, lower fertility and the growth of single parent households. The Pew ResearchCenter estimates 40% of new births “occur to women who are single or livingwith a non-marital partner” ( Pew Research Center, 2015). A new familystructure, that of the “blended family” has also arisen due to remarriages. ThePew Research Center cites studies by the US Census Bureau, which defines blendedfamilies “as a household with a step-parent, step-sibling/half-sibling”, and estimatesthat “16% of children are living in blended families” (Pew Research Center,2015). The rise of immigration to the US and change in laws has resulted in anincrease in interracial marriages.
In 1967, the Supreme Court ruled thatinterracial marriages were legal. Among all married couples in the US 10%, arenow intermarried with Asian, Hispanics leading, and the most common paringbeing Hispanic and white (Pew Research Center, 2017). Finally yet importantly, the changing attitudestowards same-sex marriages and favorable ruling by the Supreme Court haveensured there is no dominant family structure in the US anymore. In the traditional family structure, therole of a woman was that of a wife and a mother taking care of the children andensuring the emotional needs of her family were met.
The mother was typicallyidentified as” being fully dependent” on her spouse for major decisions. Thefather’s role was that of a provider. Typically, identified as a strong,unemotional, dominant individual who laid down the rules of behavior for thefamily. These gender norms evolved from social, religious, and cultural beliefsand evolved over centuries.
Gender roles are however beginning to change withsocietal acceptance of gender equality. More women are now entering the workforce giving rise to a dual income family model. Parents are beginning to takejoint responsibility for raising children. Couples whether married or not wishto spend less time parenting and desire more leisure time with a higher qualityof life.Modern family revolves around the livesof three families that our related through the family patriarch, Jay Pritchett.
Jay represents the average America dad whose strict values of right and wrongrepresents the traditional strong father figure. He is sarcastic,short-tempered, and hates to be wrong. He has difficulty expressing hisemotions, loves sports and is highly competitive, is not technology savvy, butan acceptable handy man.
He is the family’s anchor and “goto” person when theyneed guidance. Jay has difficulty accepting his sons’ gay marriage, but makes an effort. Jay’s brother Donnie and ex-wife, Dee Dee,make appearances frequently.
Both have conflicting relationships with Jay withmoments of reconciliation and affection.Jay is married to a beautiful and sensualColombian woman, Gloria, who is half his age. Gloria is fiery tempered, and proudof her Colombian heritage. She portrays the suburban homemaker who is obsessedwith the well-being of her children.
As much as she loves living in America,she is seem struggling to speak English and coping with the cultural norms ofthe American way of life. On occasion Gloria’s mother, Pilar and sister, Soniamake an appearance to further raise complicated interracial family issues. Both,are portrayed as stereotypical, strong willed South American women. Theinclusion of Gloria and her family reflects the increase in the Hispanicdemographic in the U.S. It is interesting to reflect if any other ethnicculture could have been written into the script instead, and achieved the sameeffect. Gloria’s son Manny, from her previousmarriage is portrayed as a kind, emotional, sensitive young man who is extremelymature for his age.
He has refined tastes in food and clothing and prefersfencing to playing regular contact sports. Jay would prefer to see Manny play hard-hittingsports and would love to get an opportunity to be involved, something that hecould not engage in with Mitchell. Manny adores his biological, butirresponsible father, Javier, but is respectful of Jay, as his stepfather. Joedislikes Javier, intensely, which is not, an uncommon emotion for ex-husbands.Essentially, thePritchett family falls in the category of an interracial and blended family.The role assigned to Joe and Gloria is, functional and complimentary.
Jays’character is easy to identify with by baby boomers and relatable to their ownfathers by millennials. His role fits classically into the traditional familystructure of that of a provider and protector. Gloria’s role is also very much of thetraditional homemaker. A number of episodes deal with the issue of cultureclash. In one episode, the difference in cultural expectations over Christmascelebrations is played out. Jay wishing to celebrate with a tree and presentsand Gloria, and Manny with firecrackers and practical jokes.
The writers resolvethe issue through humor and compromise, but in general shy away from developingany complex situations that would reflect some of the