Modern Family, not so modern ideasby Survey of Interactive Media
A look at how Modern Family addresses the use of technology.
Whats old is new again on Modern Family. Modern Family finds modern ways of addressing not so modern ideas.
In the first clip Phil is trying to explain to Claire how to use their home theater system's remote control. It is explained that Claire is unable to use technology in any form and is completely dependent on Phil. Modern Family persistently challenges gender roles in the household, but reaffirms Phil's dominance through the use of technology. Claire later destroys the remote in frustration of Phil's power over her. Technology is established as something men are good at as both Phil and Luke are able to use the home theater system. Despite the fact that throughout the series the daughters in the home are always seen using technology, the clip states that the women have to be taught by the men to use it and it is not an innate talent as it is with Phil and Luke. This is a classic trope that reaffirms male dominance in the outside world. Women are good at domestic tasks, while men are good at tasks that invite them into the world of commerce.
In the second clip Claire reaffirms that women and technology have a problematic relationship as she states that women cannot be trusted on the internet. Additionally, it is the ex-girlfriend's outreach on facebook that threatens the family unit. Facebook introduces an outsider to the family that could potentially destroy the family unit. There is anxiety around Phil having a presence on a cyber community. This clip echoes mainstream fears around the internet and its potential to create instability in the home.
The third clip has the most optimistic view of new media as it is a tool used to bring a family together. This clip establishes that new media does not create new needs within the consumer, but finds new ways of meeting old needs. Whether it be through photo albums, framed photos, or home videos family have found ways of archiving and displaying their memories for generations.
The fourth clip addresses anxiety around the computer in the home. Lynn Spigel discusses a similar anxiety around television sets being introduced to the home in the 1950s. There was a fear that the televisions would act as a surveillance tool and capture what goes on inside the home. This fear is echoed as the mom loses control over the household and because of the computer it is streamed outside of the home and to the in-laws' home for them to see the disfunction.
Similar to clips before, the fifth clip depicts the anxiety that the computer can disrupt the family as well as the development of the children. Modern Family falls back on classic anxieties surrounding media in that they will harm the children because of the exposure to sex and violence.
The sixth and final clip addresses the consumer culture aspect of technology use. The computers, cell phones, iPads, iPods, and Kindles the characters use defines the characters and gives the audience insight to how the character navigates through their fictionalized world. Modernity is represented as much through the updated family structure as it is through the characters constant connection to computers. Whether it is Mitch is absent mindedly typing on his computer as he speaks to Cam or Manny sitting in front of a large computer monitor in his bed room Modern Family succeeds at pointing out the ubiquity of the computer in the modern household. This ubiquity also symbolizes the families' dependence on consumer items. This episode is similar to 1950s sitcoms where the episode surrounds the housewife's attempt to bring a new household appliance into the home to make her life easier and to solidify the family's social position in the neighborhood.