Misner 1Jillian MisnerCommunication 401Dr. Bill KirkpatrickOctober 19, 2013Questioning the Modernity of Modern FamilyINTRODUCTION11-year-old Manny stands perfectly still on the soccer field, his eyes gracefully following the path of a blonde girl on her bicycle, when the other team glides right past him to score the winning goal. Chaos ensues from all sides as his teammates, coach, and yelling parents snap him out of his daydream. Gloria, his mother, lets her presence be known by yelling profanities in Spanish. In the pilot episode of Modern Family (2009), the audience catches their first glimpse of these two characters’ personalities, and more importantly, that they are Latino. The southern California sun shines brightly over the scene, and when it is over, Gloria drives her large BMW right into the opening credits.Fourteen years ago, there was Ellen. Debra Merskin notes that “television [is] a powerful site of cultural (re)production where dominant beliefs about race, ethnicity, sex, and gender (among other ‘isms’) are reinforced and recirculated.1As of September 29, creators Steven Levitan and Christopher Lloyd officially added to a list of specific representations that draw upon cultural signifiers to redraw the features and boundaries of Latinidad,or Latin-ness. Although they might have set out to show the comedic side of a “progressive” family- Gloria is from Colombia and her older husband Jay has a gay son 1 Debra Merskin, “Three Faces of Eva: Perpetuation of the Hot-Latina Stereotype in Desperate Housewives,” The Howard Journal of Communications 18(2007): 134.
Misner 2who recently adopted a little girl with his loving partner- Levitan and Lloyd have also made a media text has introduced a complex web of cross-gendered, cross-generational, and cross-ethnic power relations. Furthermore, the notion of a truly modern family becomes challenged by new articulations of patriarchy and heteronormativity that come to fruition on the silver screen every week. By opening up the conversation to the intersectionality of identities on television, Modern Family serves as a site of contestation between what it means to be Latin, and how ethnicity is mapped onto gendered bodies in the context of a stable family structure. By opening up this conversation in the fall of 2009 on ABC2, whose parent corporation is ABC Television Group, owned by Disney, Modern Family requires even more analysis to fully understand how these representations function in the larger context. As a product of The Walt Disney Company, the show comes with it a whole host of established ideologies and values that function to maintain power, even on primetime television where programs have the most exposure. Based on trends at the time of the show’s premiere, USA Today remarks that networks should “stick with what works” while trying to negotiate new boundaries to push.3The key time slot of 9:00 PM in the middle of the week made Modern Family an easily watchable sitcom, putting it after younger kids’ bed times but in time to a reach a substantial teen and adult audience.
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Gloria, Desperate Housewives, Modern Family, Jillian Misner, Manny Delgado