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Modern Family's Gender Stereotypes

Modern Family Is Not So Modern When It Comes to Women

Here's a post from OnSugar blog My DISFunkshion.


Modern Family, created by Steven Levitan (Just Shoot Me) and Christopher Lloyd (Frasier), is a show about the daily adventures of a big, apparently “wacky” American clan. However, their female characters portray traditional stereotypes.

Like the popular mockumentary The Office, Modern Family uses character interviews for an intimate, improvised effect, while the shaky camera work gives it the appearance of a home movie, a la the critically acclaimed series Arrested Development.

We’re quickly introduced to three related families: Mitchell and Cam, a gay couple with a newly adopted Vietnamese baby; Mitchell’s sister, Claire, a stay-at-home mom, her goofball husband Phil and their three kids; and Jay, the patriarch, his Colombian trophy wife, Gloria, and her son from a previous affair.

When I first watched the show, I was desperate for distraction, thanks to a messy breakup. I laughed aloud at their quirky imperfections and ridiculous love-hate squabbles, and even choked up at their heartwarming reconciliations. But as I hunkered down for the next serving of benign fun, something started to bug me. Find out what after the jump.

Each branch of the family lives in a large, designer home in a SoCal suburb. Hardly anyone has to go to work, least of all the women, who are represented only as mother, wife, or sex object. Even the two young daughters in this family are labeled separately as “smart one” and “pretty one.” Claire and Phil actually remark that their beautiful teenage daughter isn’t good at anything, but that her looks will help her meet a man who is.

In October, when women became the majority of the paid work force for the first time in American history, Maria Shriver celebrated the news, published in The Shriver Report, by the interviewing hundreds of families across America about the change. For an entire week Shriver was featured on NBC Nightly News to discuss the new face of laborers and to highlight that housewives are definitely no longer the norm. Having only one working parent is also unlikely.

These are not feminist speculations, but overwhelming facts. So how is it that the women of a so-called modern family are represented on television explicitly as exceptions to this historical revolution? Not to mention that no one in the family has been touched by our very modern recession and that they all seem to live more than comfortably on only one income.

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Join The Conversation
lilkimbo lilkimbo 5 years
Blank, did you read all of the comments? As has been stated, even though you may think it's "unrealistic," many families survive or thrive with only one parent working. There is more than one "realistic" possibility. Additionally, it's pretty obvious (from their homes and general lifestyles) that these families are upper middle class.
ichicas ichicas 5 years
It's just a TV show for crying out loud people! I find it very funny!!
marcied23 marcied23 5 years
i agree yesi, they claire, gloria and cameron have so much going on, that it's not noticed. anyway, its a funny show that i enjoy watching and i think it's nice that they have the option to take care of the home, honestly I believe feminism means that women have a choice when it comes to deciding what to do with their lives, it doesn't mean that they have to be out in the workforce, because honestly taking care of home is a full time job all it's own.
Yesi-Jukebox Yesi-Jukebox 5 years
Y'know I actually love this show and I watch it every week but I hadn't noticed that the women are just housewives. I mean they have so much going on in their days that it wasn't something that stood out.
nikkisoda nikkisoda 5 years
I love this show!!!!!!
nikkisoda nikkisoda 5 years
I love this show!!!!!!
GregS GregS 5 years
This isn't my normal fare of TV watching as I usually watch Discovery or Smithsonian or something along those lines. But I agree with Jenny's and Lilkimbo's comments. There continue to be single earner families, and as long as there are, it will be fertile grounds for comedy. I would also suggest that there is probably be good sitcom material in there for a SAH dad where the wife worked and brought home the bacon. It's the single income family thing with a twist. Mr. Mom kind of thing. I also agree that we shouldn't over analyze this. It's an entertainment and is meant to be humorous and allow us to escape from reality.
GregS GregS 5 years
This isn't my normal fare of TV watching as I usually watch Discovery or Smithsonian or something along those lines. But I agree with Jenny's and Lilkimbo's comments. There continue to be single earner families, and as long as there are, it will be fertile grounds for comedy. I would also suggest that there is probably be good sitcom material in there for a SAH dad where the wife worked and brought home the bacon. It's the single income family thing with a twist. Mr. Mom kind of thing.I also agree that we shouldn't over analyze this. It's an entertainment and is meant to be humorous and allow us to escape from reality.
kurniakasih kurniakasih 5 years
Sometimes this show is fun to watch, sometimes, it's just not that fun. We catch it when we can. For us, it's a sitcom, we don't analyze the show that much.
kurniakasih kurniakasih 5 years
Sometimes this show is fun to watch, sometimes, it's just not that fun. We catch it when we can. For us, it's a sitcom, we don't analyze the show that much.
chloe-bella chloe-bella 5 years
I totally agree with ShaynaLeah. Also, there was the episode where Claire has lunch with Minnie Driver, her former co-worker, and it's clear that she questions her decision to leave the workforce in favor of being a stay at home mom. In reality, there are still plenty of middle-class and upper middle-class families who believe that one parent should stay home full time, so I don't think the show is unrealistic in that sense.
totygoliguez totygoliguez 5 years
I agree with anonymous #8. I watch TV to forget about reality and to relax. Why do I want to watch something about a family that is having a hard time? I watch TV to forget about reality. If I wanted something real I would watch news instead. Moder Family is a good show and it makes me laugh.
ShaynaLeah ShaynaLeah 5 years
I happen to love this show because the archetypes are shown to be hysterical --- they know they're unrealistic and they're having fun showing how absurd the stereotypes are. Also, women may be the majority of the workforce, but we certainly aren't at the top of it. I suggest checking out the Catalyst organization's recent report on the wage gap - go to their website at Catalyst.org, or check out my write-ups of their work here at lifeforward.onsugar.com.
bethinabox bethinabox 5 years
Really? We can't just enjoy a hilarious TV show without analyzing every last detail? It's a good show.
lilkimbo lilkimbo 5 years
I agree, Jenny. It may no longer be the norm, but there are still plenty of families who live on one income and plenty of families who haven't really been significantly affected by the recession. Also, the jobs of those who do work have been mentioned and there was an episode featuring Phil selling a house.
Pistil Pistil 5 years
I watched one episode and decided I wasn't really interested. I assume, like most other TV shows that play on stereotypes, the show is using it for comedic purposes, not to be a serious critique of modern society. Also, unless the show is specifically about a workplace, it's not often featured. For example, how often have you seen the characters at work on a show like Two and a Half Men? We are aware of their jobs, but they definitely spend more time outside of work, somehow still living very comfortably. Anyway, I don't watch the show, so I can't offer more of a criticism. When an overwhelming amount of TV is "reality" programming, and/or focused on celebrities with too much money, time on their hands, and no talent, I don't take it too seriously. I don't watch.
JennyJK JennyJK 5 years
I don't know... I actually don't see the show as all that sexist. They've had episodes where Claire meets up with an old girlfriend who did go to work instead of a family and talk about Claire's job before she became a mom, and there are still some families like this. I think the Al Bundy couple it's his second marriage, he's retired and it's kind of assumed money has a bit to do with the marriage, and there are lots of issues with the overworked half of the gay couple. As far of the sibling thing I think it's just exacerbating the jokes every group of siblings have, I mean the "pretty" daughter is 16 and the other one is probably 9. What else could you really characterize them as and have something to make jokes about. While I can see how some might view the show as sexist, I really think upon looking closer it isn't trying to be at all.
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