Modern Family

ABC Wednesday Prime-Time

I have never reviewed an entire television series before. Don’t get me wrong, I watch a lot of TV and I judge a lot of TV. But I usually only do this at home with my wife. Typically, we think our judgments are pretty good. Then again, we are also pretty arrogant! Nonetheless, perhaps it is time to share my judgmentalism with the world! And where better to cast judgment than towards the Emmy winning comedy, Modern Family.

As you might surmise from the title, Modern Family is a comedy presumably depicting how our culture is currently defining a family. The story is based around the Pritchett family. (Please forgive the next paragraph, I will do my best to lay out the family situations…) Jay Pritchett is the father who has divorced his wife and remarried a much younger, attractive Columbian woman named Gloria. They are raising her mature-beyond-his-years son Manny. Jay has two other adult children Claire and Mitchell. Claire is a high-strung stay-at-home mom who is married to former college cheerleader, Phil Dunphy. They have three children-Hayley, Alex, and Luke. Mitchell, a gay lawyer, with his partner Cameron Tucker have adopted a Vietnamese baby named Lily. Whew! I think I got it…

Modern Family may be the funniest show on television. It has won multiple Emmy’s in three seasons for a reason. The show follows each family through their various idiosyncrasies and quirks. As you watch the show and the various plot lines are introduced, you find yourself sympathizing with every character, even if the plot line is pitting one against the other. The writing is incredible and the characters are all very endearing. The basic “meta-narrative” (that is, the main story behind each episode that ties them all together) of the show is that no matter how strained family life gets, no matter how unorthodox a family might look, the one thing that binds a family together (perhaps even makes a family) is love. Excellent stories, great characters, and brilliant writing make for an incredibly entertaining show. That is why it may be one of the most dangerous shows out there.

Let me explain. Television, whether we want to admit it or not, has a tremendous impact on the way we view the world. Television uses images to tell stories and often these stories are designed to sell you a product or convince you of an ideal. For example, let’s consider a McDonald’s commercial. McDonald’s is trying to sell you their product by telling you a 20 second story about the people who eat there. When you watch a McDonald’s commercial, what do the people look like? Are they happy or sad? Are they healthy or are they struggling with weight issues? Now, when you actually go to a McDonald’s, what do you see? Are the people serving you as happy as the people on the commercial? Are the people eating there as healthy looking as the people in the commercial? Now ask yourself, why doesn’t McDonald’s just record a typical day at a local McDonald’s and show you what you can actually plan to experience there? The answer is obvious, right? The story in the commercial sells, it gives you an ideal that doesn’t exist. But, you aren’t buying their product if you see the reality. So they use images that tell you a story that is different from reality. And, I am willing to bet, that when you think of McDonald’s what comes to mind are the images you saw in the commercials and not the restaurant down the street.

My point here is simply this: the images used to tell stories on television make an impact on how we view the world. So, we come toModern Family. Though not setting out to sell anything, they are certainly setting out to convince you of an ideal, namely, the old ways of defining family are not the only ways to define family. The show will demonstrate, in the case of Phil Dunphy, that it is okay for a father to be an overgrown adolescent. After all, men are just that way. If it makes us laugh, it must be okay.

This becomes a major issue with the depiction of the gay couple that has adopted a little girl. I cannot imagine it is an accident that a television show depicts a gay couple lovingly raising an adopted daughter at a time when many people are pushing for gay marriage. Mitchell and Cameron love Lilly and each other, after all. Sure they bicker, but hey, don’t all couples? And, what is more, they are so funny and cute. This is most certainly an effort by the producers and writers of the show to normalize gay couples and gay adoption for their viewers. When one thinks of gay couples adopting, they may just think of Mitchell and Cameron. Since Mitchell and Cameron are such great dads on the show we can assume this is what gay adoption looks like.

There is certainly an agenda behind Modern Family to demonstrate that homosexuality is just as normal as heterosexuality. The images used to tell the story of homosexual relationships attempt to demonstrate that gay couples are just like every other couple, with a quirky, gay twist. The problem is, you don’t actually see what is happening at McDonald’s, so to speak. There is no story about the issues and struggles a little girl may face when she has no mother. There is not serious time spent discussing the high rate of infidelity among homosexual couples. No time is spent showing what really happens to families with overbearing fathers who find out their son is gay (they are not typically as accepting as Jay). The images are not depicting the reality.

To be fair, this is likely on purpose. After all, the writers of Modern Family probably want to depict how things really could be if we would just change the way we think. Perhaps they are right. Perhaps there could be a world where modern families are the norm and they get along marvelously, bound together by nothing but love. Let’s just say, for the sake of argument, that this picture became reality. Would it make any difference in the discussion of gay marriage or adoption? Not from a Biblical perspective. Why? Because such a picture still counters God’s design for families! You see, families are not something we are free to redefine or restructure. God designed families to have a mother and a father, and when He wills it, children. God did not design marriage or sexuality to take place with someone physically similar to us. The design of our body’s sexual members is enough to demonstrate the truth of this point. We are made to procreate with a spouse of the opposite sex whose sexual make-up compliments our own. By order of the creation, God made it so children are to have a mom and a dad. This is not merely necessary in a physical/biological sense, it is an emotional and spiritual necessity as well. It is not okay to deprive children of a mother and a father. They need both. After all, that is how God made it.

Humor and entertainment are a tremendous blessing that God has worked into His creation. There are times when they can be used in a sanctified way to help us think more deeply and view the world differently. However, such created blessings can be used to effectively convey sinful messages. Modern Family is among the funniest and smartest shows on television. It is well written and incredibly funny. Unfortunately, and perhaps ironically, the people involved with the show have employed God’s created gifts of humor and entertainment to undercut God’s will for His creation! To work against God’s design is to begin to work against God’s intentions. No matter how funny and attractive it may be on television, sin always, always, has devastating effects, no matter what story the images tell us.