'Modern Family' follows the daily lives and antics of three different, decidedly modern households. (Image via TV Overmind)
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For a show once considered controversial, ‘Modern Family’ has become a staple of modern television.

Over the years, the ideals and expectations of families have changed drastically. Fifty years ago, the ideal family dynamic was that of a man, a woman and at least two children. Men and women were expected to settle down, have children and remain together for the rest of their lives. However, as times, gender roles and acceptance of different sexualities have changed, so too have typical family dynamics.

The hit show “Modern Family” demonstrates in several ways how what constitutes a “stereotypical family” has changed over the years. Several episodes of the show emphasize the ways in which many people view homosexual relationships, diversity between families and unconventional relationships.

These are the top five ways that “Modern Family” has portrayed the shift in family ideals over the years and encouraged society to be more accepting of familial differences.

1. Homosexuality

Two of the main characters on the show, Mitchell Pritchett and Cameron Tucker, are a gay couple who are working toward getting married. Mitchell’s father, Jay Pritchett, who could be defined as a standoffish, conservative patriarch, was initially against their relationship and refused to give any type of support to the couple.

However, the show demonstrates how, eventually, Jay was able to open his mind to the idea of two men being together because of his deep love for his son and his ultimate desire to see him happy and fulfilled.

As times have changed in the United States, older-generation folk like Jay have had to become more accepting of homosexuality as they began to experience it in their own homes and families. The undying love a father holds for his son is what makes Jay realize that his own views are irrelevant when it comes to the happiness of Mitchell.

2. Unconventional Relationships

In addition to being somewhat crotchety, Jay Pritchett has also divorced and remarried. Years ago, society stigmatized divorce as something akin to a character flaw; however, as the importance of social decorum has loosened, divorce has becoming increasingly accepted. Jay, who is in his 60s and extremely wealthy, remarries a woman named Gloria Delgado, a Colombian woman in her late 30s.

gloria and jay
Gloria and Jay have an unconventional marriage, with a 30-year age difference. (Image via NPR)

Conversely, while Jay destigmatizes divorce with his marriage to Gloria, her character helps dismantle the trophy wife taboo that surrounds women marrying older men. By showing the two characters genuinely happy with each other, the show demonstrates that love comes in many forms and that age is merely a number.

3. Underwhelming Children

Jay’s daughter, Claire Dunphy, and her husband Phil Dunphy are the parents to Haley, Alex and Luke. Haley is known as the less-than-smart, fashion-forward and popular child. She cares more about her appearance and popularity than she does about high school, which, let’s be honest, is a characteristic of a lot of teen girls. However, her lack of motivation toward academics results in her getting ousted from college after her first semester.

Alex is the brainy, sarcastic and socially awkward child of the three. While she excels in academia, she is underwhelming in the area of human interaction and relationships. Luke is the youngest of the three and takes on his father’s dopey and accident-prone attitude. Manny Delgado-Pritchett, son of Gloria and stepson of Jay, is a dandyish boy who is more worried about romance and fashion than he is about sports, destroying things or other boy-like qualities.

Through the character development of these four children, “Modern Family” shows that many children do not fit into the cookie-cutter mold of ideal offspring; every child is unique and has their own ways of contributing to society.

4. Women Who Take on Husband-Like Characteristics

The relationship between Claire and Phil Dunphy is unconventional in several ways. Claire is the CEO of her father’s company, and Phil is a realtor. Claire is high-strung and a control-freak, while Phil is a soft-hearted goofball. In many traditional marriages, the man is typically the one who enforces the rules, calls all the shots and is stern and unforgiving, while the woman is typically the forgiving, empathetic and doting parent.

However, the relationship between Claire and Phil is reversed. While Phil can almost be considered one of the children, Claire is the parent who is constantly enforcing rules, controlling every detail in her children’s lives and being the breadwinner. “Modern Family” uses the dynamic of this relationship to show that not every husband/wife relationship fits the traditional mold of older generations.

5. Adoption

Mitchell and Cameron eventually adopt a baby girl from Vietnam due to their inability to procreate. Older generations tend to look down on people adopting a child that does not have the same genetic makeup of the parents, let alone a baby of a different race.

The show emphasizes the importance of unconditionally loving a child no matter where he or she may have come from. When they first announce that they are traveling to Vietnam to adopt their child Lily, Jay’s initial response is one of apprehension. However, as soon as Jay lays eyes Lily, he falls in love with his new granddaughter.

Ultimately, “Modern Family” has shown millions of viewers that families are different, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. They are diverse and ever-changing, but that’s what makes them families. The show has been on for 10 years now, constantly challenging the way people think of families and challenging stereotypes with every new episode.

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Anastasia Cottone

St. Bonaventure University

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