Monday, September 23, 2013

“Modern Family” Gender Roles and Stereotypes

Exodus Cardoza

TV Criticism

September 26, 2013

“Modern Family” Gender Roles and Stereotypes

            ABC’s episodic series Modern Family was introduced into the hearts of Americans all across the country in September 2009. The hit comedy series features three families, all of which have a closely-knit bond with one another, and are all part of one big family.  Modern Family deals with the traditional family as portrayed by the Dunphys. It also introduces the homosexual family lifestyle in the Princhett-Tuckers and a mixed marriage in the Pritchetts, who are an older and younger couple. The combination of traditional and new elements within the show grow from the mixed discourse that the show portrays. The elements from every family help viewers look into each family structure deeper. This proves that the title of the show is a bit misleading. Modern Family also elevates traditional gender roles and stereotypes of women and race. Much like the episodes of Roseanne and All in the Family, they depict women as having a weaker stance in society.

            The traditional Dunphy family consists of Phil and Claire Dunphy and their three children Haley, Alex and Luke. Phil, the father, is the source of income for the family, while Claire is the stay-at-home mother. The construction of Claire’s character is based on the creation of the gender stereotypes that society and prime time television through the years have place upon women in general and women in relationships. This stereotype presents women as weaker and inferior to men, they do not contribute to the family in terms of income, and the men have power over the household. Claire’s identity consists of such characteristics including motherhood, family orientation and domesticity. We see instances of the gender stereotype actually flipped. For example, in the episode “Phil’s New Car,” Phil’s duty for the day is to go out and purchase a new vehicle for the family as Claire instructs him to do. Already this episode from the beginning challenges the stereotype that men have the power in the relationship because Phil, a man, is given an order by Claire, a woman. Phil comes back with a black sports car, clearly not a family vehicle. Claire is clearly upset at him for not purchasing a vehicle that is suitable for a family. This episode offers a resistance to the image society has portrayed about women in the household though television.

            The Prichett family consists of Jay and Gloria Prichett and their son Manny Delgado-Princhett. The Princhett family is different from the other two because it depicts an interracial marriage. This deviates from the norm in society today by pointing out Gloria’s Latin American upbringing and visibly showing the age difference that exists between the two adults. Much like the Duphys, the dominant ideology enforced about men having more power is seen in the Prichett family. Jay, the husband and father, is the family’s income provider, while Gloria, the wife and mother, is the stay-at-home mom who cooks, cleans and serves the family.  Not only does Modern Family enforce the hegemony society has adopted about women in the Prichett household, it also further enforces racial stereotypes against Hispanics. Gloria has a ditzy persona, often misusing phrases, mispronouncing words and saying whatever is on her mind even though it might hurt another character’s feeling or come off wrong. In the episode “Planes, Trains and Cars” Gloria and Jay are engaged in conversation, Gloria does not want to fly in a helicopter. But, in explaining it to Jay she has trouble searching for the right word, “helicopter.” Gloria then asks, “How do you say it in English the takatakatka?” Jay responds saying, “Helicopter.” The helicopter example stereotypes members of the Hispanic community as not knowledgeable of the English language. Do not get me wrong, I love this show and everything about it. It is hilarious. But the show’s creative staff believes that by perpetuating these stereotypes against Latinos it is only poking fun at how society portrays this certain group. However, is really does nothing to improve the views of Latinos in the mainstream American ideology. If anything it further embellishes Latinos.

            The Prichett-Tuckers are the same sex couple consisting of Cameron Tucker Mitchell Prichett and their adopted baby girl Lily Prichett-Tucker. The Prichett-Tuckers have stereotypical masculine and feminine traits because they are a gay couple. However, they take those stereotypical traits and serve them up in various ways that do not allow for either to become a label. For example, Cameron fits the feminine roles better then Mitchell since he is more outgoing and colorful. He is more likely to stand up for what he believes in, and he is also the more athletic of the two and is a better handy man. Mitchell looks and fits the characteristics of the breadwinner in a family. Yet he is very non-athletic, worries about everything and is very dependent on Cam, characteristics that one would associate with a feminine character. Mitchell has a clear goal of being the masculine figure in his daughter’s life, but his character contradicts the traditional characteristics that have been formed through stereotypes of what it means to be a man in society today. It would have been easy to make each character stereotypically homosexual with no depth in their portrayal. Instead Modern Family did a great job in mixing and matching masculine and feminine traits within the couple.

                  Overall ABC’s Modern Family enforces many stereotypes towards women and Latinos. But the show also does a great job in depicting situations and actions that pull away from those stereotypes which are ingrained in the minds of people of our society today. Modern Family helps us look into certain situations that our society may not be used to because of what television has depicted through its existence over the years.  It is a great show and I would recommend it to anyone. Each couples different dynamics depicts a situation that is everything but modern.


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