TV show ‘Modern Family’ demonstrates power of acceptance

October 9, 2020 — by Cici Xu
Photo by Courtesy of IMDB.

Top: Season 11’s official “Modern Family” poster shows a family embracing each other while going on their last section of their journey.

“Kids, breakfast! Kids!” yelled Claire Dunphy, a stay-at-home mom played by actress Julie Bowen. 

This classic opening line of the 11-season Hollywood TV show “Modern Family” gave me my first glimpse of American society. 

I moved from China to the Bay Area at 13, but I started watching the show when I was 8. Back then, I could barely understand what the characters were saying, never mind understand the jokes or wrap my mind around the privilege of being able to freely pursue one’s passions. 

But unlike with other American TV shows, I kept watching “Modern Family” even if I could not understand 60 percent of its content. The show embraces all of its viewers no matter their race, background, identities, privilege or (in my case back then) comprehension of the English language. 

Through its characters, “Modern Family” provides a representation of the diversity of the nation and the beliefs that American people cherish. It portrays the stories of three families linked by the large Prichett family, which includes a traditional American family, a gay couple who adopted a daughter from Vietnam and a wealthy couple, where the eldest member of the Prichett family (Jay) married a Colombian woman (Gloria) 30 years younger than he. 

Through the depictions of the interactions among the characters, like Jay learning about his wife’s Columbian culture, “Modern Family” demonstrates that the American culture is not fixed, but rather changes with the additions of new cultures and people from other parts of the world. 

Still, “Modern Family” does not idealize America. It keeps the complexity of interacial and intergenerational relations, in which characters like Gloria’s Columbian son Manny faces challenges with accepting his identities as both an underprivileged student of color and an American with ambitious dreams. Gloria, with her accent and the huge age gap with her husband, also faces racial and sexual discrimination. 

Despite these challenges, these characters refuse to become submissive and stand up for themselves in front of their family and the public, just like how people of minority cultures are standing up for themselves and fighting for their rights and place in American society right now. 

“Modern Family” also taught me about different aspects of everyday life in America. For example, many people residing in the suburban area of Los Angeles, where the show was set, live in single-story houses unlike the skyscraper apartments where I lived in China. The characters went to parties and celebrated birthdays and were free to at least try to pursue their own paths, no matter how bizarre. 

What makes this show more human is the way it avoids stereotyping their characters and scraping off the flaws in their personalities. Hailey Dunphy, played by actress Sarah Hyland, is the oldest child among her other two siblings. Although she ultimately becomes a successful fashion designer, she struggles in high school, almost does not go to college and is later expelled because of drinking at a party. 

I found the imperfections in these characters relatable, especially as an elementary schooler, because my teachers expected me to do everything perfectly. 

When I saw the characters in “Modern Family” learn to accept their differences and thrive despite their chaotic lives, I was assured that being my true self is more important than achieving perfection. This mindset of learning to make mistakes made adapting to life in America less daunting to me. 

Self-acceptance becomes more crucial than ever in a world disturbed by an unexpected pandemic and numerous other social conflicts. 

I started rewatching “Modern Family” in quarantine with my parents. Watching the characters socialize with their friends and families oddly satisfies my need for socialization. And since I am able to understand the jokes now, this show brings me so much laughter, which eases my anxiety from school work. 

I will forever appreciate this legendary TV show that has accompanied me through my childhood and difficult  times. 

 

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