Modern Family

Growing up, my family was mum, dad, me and my three younger brothers. Everyone’s family is different. There are a massive number of combinations. One parent. Two parents. Step parents. You might live with your grandparents. You might be adopted or live with foster parents. What makes the modern family? My experience is going to be different from your experience. But almost every family has one thing in common: they’re a goldmine for humour.

And that’s why Modern Family is a very funny show.

Shot documentary style (think of The Office), Modern Family explores the lives of three families. There’s Jay (played by Married With Children’s Ed O’Neil), an older guy who’s recently married a much young and very attractive Columbian woman, Gloria. Manny, Gloria’s ten year old son from a previous marriage joins them. Then there’s Phil and Claire, married for 15 years and their three children. And the third family is Mitch and Cam, a homosexual couple who have just returned from overseas with their brand new adopted daughter, Lily. Three very different families. Except they’re not three families. They’re one. They’re all related.

There’s no laugh track in Modern Family. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of laughs. There are some outright hilarious moments. But they aren’t over the top. They’re the kind of moments that you might have experienced yourself. And while it may feel like they’ve been exaggerated, or that the characters are a little too quirky, I’m sure it wouldn’t take you long to think of similar situations and people that you know.

The thing I love most about Modern Family is that while it is a comedy, it’s not the laughs that grab my attention. It’s the heart. I actually want to get to know these people. I want to share in their moments. In their achievements and their losses. The actors do a really good job of selling the fact that this is a loving family. It’s not cheesy and overly sentimental. It doesn’t feel manipulative, like an episode of Full House. This is the kind of show where you tune in each week because you want to check in and see how everyone is going.

The show is not without some criticism. Some of the characters in the initial episodes feel one dimensional, that they are there for a punchline and that there’s not much depth. Jay and Phil particularly fall victim to this. Jay is portrayed as an older man trying to hard to be youthful. Phil seems like a man of simple intelligence who is desperate to be liked. But as the show goes on, these flaws are dealt with and these characters have a chance to show that there is something there that is worth watching. If this is your problem after episode one, give it a few weeks and see if your opinion, like mine, changes.

A bigger criticism is that Modern Family depicts three families that are pretty much… what’s the opposite of dysfunctional? Functional? While they have their moments, this is a family that is close. They spend a lot of time together and grow as a family. It’s almost a fairy tale presentation of modern family life. Sure, there’s a mixed marriage, which means that there’s divorce in the past. And there’s a homosexual couple, which makes it oh so trendy. But where is the brokeness? I feel that many people will watch this show and feel saddened that this is not their family. People who have felt the pain and suffering that our broken world brings to family life. Not everyone has a happy family life. I’m concerned that this “perfect world” that Modern Family exists in will cause anguish to those who don’t have the perfect family life. That they will look on in envy. Modern Family is A modern family. But it’s not everyone’s modern family. It may show some things that are true, but it won’t be true for everyone.

I’ve heard concern over the inclusion of a homosexual couple. That this is an example of the media “normalising” homosexuality. That children and young people may be exposed to a life style that Christians believe is anything but normal. There is some merit to this. On the other hand, I think it’s a bit late to be trying to fight this. There are prominent homosexual characters in many TV shows. Should we not watch Modern Family for that reason? Well, you have to make your own mind up. My point of view? I go to college in Newtown, one of the gayest suburbs in one of the gayest cities in the world. For me, homosexual couples are not an abstract concept but a reality for the people I interact with each week. Shows like Modern Family give an insight. I know what it’s like to live in a family with mum, dad and kids. But I don’t know what it’s like to live in a family where mum and dad have remarried. Or where there’s two dads. Or what it’s like to be adopted. Shows like Modern Family can help me understand what it’s like for them.

In 1 Corinthians 9:22, Paul says “I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.” Paul goes out of his way to reach people with the gospel. Now I’m not going to find myself a gay man to be my partner so I can reach the gay community. But watching Modern Family may be a good way to getter better insight and help me evangelise.

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About Joel A Moroney

Associate Minister at St Luke's Anglican Church, Liverpool (in the Sydney Diocese). A very strange man, but he usually has Pez, so that makes it okay.
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