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What I Learnt About America from ‘Modern Family’

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

Reading about a nation through its sitcoms seems like an odd exercise, but what a nation finds hilarious tells you a lot about it. National identity through sitcoms greatly influences how a nation or culture represents its shared unity within humor and determines how successful a TV series will be. This is because in the media business, particularly in television, identity plays a significant role. Nonetheless, the popular comedy ‘Modern Family’ is the clearest example of how American culture interprets humor in light of how a typical family functions on a daily basis.

‘Modern Family’ is the first family show to be filmed as a “mockumentary,” which is a documentary-style television show that makes a parody (New York Times). Each episode depicts several points of view that are easily relatable to American viewers, as well as how most of our families deal with internal difficulties.

Now, this isn’t a flawless sitcom – it drew a lot of humor from derogatory stereotypes. Choosing this show does not necessarily mean that it is flawless in any way, but because it looked to be reasonably observant of a certain segment of the American population. And it’s not about all of America, all of us know better than to place an entire nation within a reductive bracket. So, what does the America of a rich, upper-class, slightly-racially-diverse family look like? Here are 5 things I am deducing from the show about America :

Their love for Halloween:

America absolutely loves Halloween. If every country has an occasion that it is obsessed with, America’s obsession is Halloween. And as it happens with many family gatherings across the world, be it of any culture, race, ethnicity, etc, women get clothes-shamed. Every Halloween, girls get scrutinized for dressing up in costumes that expose their skin and a similar incident as such happens when Haley dresses as young Mother Teresa where she gets ‘covered up’ by her mother, Claire Dunphy. 

High School Blues:

Academic pressure is both inhuman and debilitating, and it must be spoken about. In those nations where the work culture is based on hustling, such as America, children need to be reminded of their value outside of their achievements. When it comes to the pressures teens face, academics top the list as they’re tied in part to their post-graduation goals. Just like Alex, most U.S teens feel these shackles and need to be validated about their experiences from every now and then. 

Moving out at 18:

A lot of people do move out of their parents’ homes at 18, either to attend college or work. This is typically not because the parents are anxious for their children to leave, but because the children are now adults who want to live on their own, or at least with roommates their age. There is an emphasis on children moving out to be independent (especially at a time when the economy is very hostile towards young people, jobs are difficult to find and most of them are underpaying). This has created an old/young divide in America, and that divide needs to be addressed. 

Differences in Upbringing/ Family Structure:

Family structures in the West, especially in America are vastly different, which means modes of parenting have to be different. This is fine because asking for help to make things easier for your children is something every parent can/should do irrespective of their family structure. It’s normal for a gay couple like Cameron and Mitchell to ask the former’s stepmother, Gloria to spend time with their adopted Vietnamese daughter for ensuring feminine energy in her life.

Family structures in America can be complex or maybe even weird, but not necessarily uncomfortable. 

Values and Losses:

Every nation has its socio-cultural way of coping with death and loss. While America is often stereotyped as a country where the concept of a family is undervalued, we must understand the depth of the relationships between parents and children. Losses are difficult everywhere. When Dede passes away, the Dunphy’s have their way of coping with it, but no matter what it was, they did it within the ambit of their own family and with each other’s support.

Families are the cornerstone of society and have long been depicted as the comedic center of television sitcoms. This show was/is not only a popular and successful franchise, but also does a good job at showing how families were constructed at the time of the shows, how families are broadcasted on television reflect the makeup of families at that time, and what society deems a family should look like. And that is what I learned about the western ideals that exist.   

Priyal Nanda

Delhi South '23

19| Economics Major "I don't know how much value I have in this universe, but I do know that I've made a few people happier than they would have been without me, and as long as I know that, I'm as rich as I ever need to be." - Robin Williams, 'Mork and Mindy' 1978
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