Why We Love Watching Modern Family
We all know about Modern Family: the show in which all cultures are embraced, societal stereotypes are eliminated, and all personalities are given respectable positions. It’s the show we watch when we want to laugh, or when we just want a few hours of fun family time (that won’t be made awkward by sex scenes or gratuitous swearing).
So it’s funny, clean, and original. But aren’t a lot of shows like that?
There was a period of time in 2016, when I was immobilized by depression and anxiety. I had to miss my final examinations because of it, and would often feel like my life was permanently ruined. And during those days, I couldn’t find the strength to do anything. Getting up to drink water was painful, answering the phone was exhausting, thinking about my future was unbearable. For hours at a time, I’d lie down on the couch watching television, or sometimes browsing the internet or watching a ridiculous number of YouTube videos.
But for a majority of the time, I’d be watching Modern Family (I have 100+ episodes stored on my recording machine). And at one point, I asked myself: why do I only feel like watching Modern Family? Why don’t I watch any movies, or any other shows that are coming (or that I have recorded)? At the time, I didn’t care about the question or the answer. But in retrospect, I believe that I’ve found it.
In Modern Family, each episode is characterized by a series of conflicts relating to different aspects of each family’s lives. Sometimes each conflict happens in parallel (i.e. a problem strikes each of the three families) or all families try to solve a common problem/reach a consensus together. One of my favorite episodes is ‘Dude Ranch’ (in which the three families vacation to Wyoming together). In this episode, pretty much each family member experiences his or her own issue, conflict, or dilemma: Mitchell is worried that he won’t be able to raise a son because he’s not ‘manly’ enough, Cameron is upset by Mitchell’s sudden decision to not adopt another baby, Haley is angered by her mother’s rude response to her boyfriend’s marriage proposal, Phil is resentful that his father-in-law (Jay) doesn’t treat him with the respect he wants… and so on. Although Modern Family is a sitcom, every episode is peppered with disagreements, squabbles, and worries.
And yet, by the end of the episode, everything is resolved. Everything is back to normal (or as normal as it can get). In twenty-two minutes, the problems of over ten family members (if not more) waft away, leaving behind forgiveness, acceptance, and love.
Life isn’t that easy or straightforward, and we all know it. But somehow, there is something incredibly comforting in knowing that our problems can be solved so fast. When I was lying down on my couch, sick of the world, Modern Family became my saving grace. And not because of the humor that’s infused throughout the episode – but because of the ‘happily ever after’ way it concludes itself.
The most revitalizing part? These people lead normal lives: the kids go to school or college, and the adults either work in an office or at home. They get humiliated, upset, or experience irrational amounts of fear and happiness. These characters are not super-humans – they are just like us. Honestly, being an overachieving perfectionist myself, I relate to Alex Dunphy in so many ways (and to her constant mockery of her sister, Haley).
One episode stuck out for me in particular: Under Pressure (Season 5, Episode 12). It’s the episode in which Alex Dunphy has a meltdown on her 16th birthday – due to the stress of college admissions and school work. She decides to see a therapist, and eventually works everything out. Of course, Alex’s story is only a subplot in an engaging and interesting episode.
That episode was fabulously comforting. Yes, it was a relief to know that pretty much everyone buckles under pressure once in awhile. But more than that, it was the comfort in knowing that Alex eventually opens up about her problems and starts recovering.
It was the beauty in knowing that regardless of the circumstances, everything would be okay.