TV: Modern Family is Anything But.

modern family mud portrait

After a recent spat with my housemate about the apparent modernity of Modern Family, in which he defended the show for its gay couple with an adopted Vietnamese baby and a strong Latino presence while I cried stereotyping, I decided I should actually watch an episode or two of it before I denounce Modern Family as an archetype perpetuating farce.

Now, with three and a half seasons and some informed opinions under my belt, I can wholeheartedly say I abhor the sexist tropes of the fiery Latina, Gloria, and the shrill, controlling housewife, Claire, and Modern Family’s blatant racism, homophobia and slut-shaming. Let me count the ways…

Right off the bat in the sixth episode of season one, “Run for Your Wife”, there were some troubling stereotypes about stay-at-home mums. When the Dunphy kids head off to their first day of school for the year, mum Claire looks forward to some downtime to get started on a new book. Phil, who’s supposed to be the breadwinner of the family, is also home and wants to hang out with his wife. After blowing off some open-houses he’s supposed to be putting on as part of, you know, his job as a real estate agent, Phil gets embroiled in a mid-afternoon jogging race with Claire.

As a child who grew up with a stay-at-home mum, I can tell you that I never once saw her sitting down to read a book in the middle of the day or challenge my dad to a childish competition. There was too much cooking, cleaning, washing, shopping and picking up to do. In fact, my dad was barely home and often working more than one job in order to put food on the table and keep us in a home one fifth of the size of the Dunphy’s, which is more than we can say for Phil who is rarely shown at work.

While the acting of Ty Burrell (Phil) and Julie Bowen (Claire) is something to write home (or at least the awards shows) about, their characters leave a lot to be desired. Phil is always dropping the ball (or getting it thrown into his face, as in “Door to Door” in season three) on being a functioning human being, let alone a good husband and father, and Claire often refers to him as her fourth child (she technically only has three: Haley, Alex and Luke). The trope of wife-as-replacement-mother is a tired one, but that doesn’t stop Modern Family for milking it for all it’s worth.

This brings us to Gloria, who is anything but. She’s young, sexy and, most notably, a loud, sassy Latin woman who’s always getting arked up about something. In season one’s “Up All Night”, Gloria’s son Manny’s dad comes to visit. While Gloria is now remarried to the older and dependable Jay, ex-husband Javier is a fellow fiery Latino who tries to make up for his absence by showering Manny with extravagant gifts. In the episode, Javier takes Jay and Manny to a baseball field in the middle of the night, and the next day comes bearing motorbikes. Gloria becomes audibly incensed that Jay’s falling for Javier’s tricks, like she used to, and storms off, yelling in Spanish. Every portrayal of a Hispanic woman in pop culture doesn’t have to be that of the “hot blooded” Latin mama; just look at the gay, Latina orthopedic surgeon Dr. Callie Torres in Grey’s Anatomy, a show that is far more modern than one with that word in its title, for example.

Speaking of the gays, what portrayal of contemporary American life would be complete without the requisite homosexual couple with an adopted Asian baby? Certainly not Modern Family, which turns the gay dial up to eleven with stay-at-home dad, former farm-dweller and part-time clown Cam, the uptight, dogmatic (unsurprisingly the brother of Claire) lawyer Mitchell and their über inappropriate ways. For example, in “Run for Your Wife”, Mitchell accidentally bumps baby Lily’s head against a door frame, and they take her to the doctor. The doctor happens to be Asian-American, so Cam embarks on a sermon about how he and Mitchell intend to raise Lily with influences from her Asian roots, completely disregarding the fact that the doctor was born and raised somewhere in middle America and identifies first and foremost as an American.

Later on, in season two’s “Unplugged”, Cam and Mitchell try to get Lily into a preschool. When they realise Lily’s going up against an adopted African-American boy with disabled-lesbian parents for the last spot at a prestigious private school, Cam flubs the interview by emphasising his 1/16th Cherokee heritage and speaking in pidgin English. As someone who is also 1/16th Cherokee, I’m sure you can imagine my offence at this.

Cam, as I’m sure you can imagine if you don’t already watch Modern Family, is the flamboyant half of the couple, and enjoys dressing Lily up as famous gay icons and encouraging her creative side. In the episode “Chirp”, in season two, Cam goes against Mitchell’s wishes and has Lily film a commercial for a furniture store. The ad is completely racist, using emphasised Asian accent voiceovers and Godzilla, and when Mitchell points this out, Cam uses the defence of hipsters the world over: “It’s ironic.” I suppose because they have an Asian kid, they’re allowed to be racist…?

While there are some redeeming qualities throughout the show’s run, such as the “Mother’s Day” (season two), “After the Fire” (season three), and “Schooled” (recently aired as part of season four) episodes which seek to unpack gay parenting and stereotypes of femininity, masculinity and homosexuality, it’s also rife with slut-shaming (Jägermeister is a magic potion that puts girls to sleep but instead of waking up “in a castle, you wake up in a frat house with a bad reputation” in “Moon Landing”, whilst Phil marvels in “Travels with Scout” that with his “emotionally distant father” it’s a miracle he didn’t end up as a stripper), homo- and transphobia (dad Jay insinuates that Mitchell is a cross-dresser because he’s also gay in “Starry Night”), and jokes about domestic violence (when Mitchell asks his dad to teach him how to fight in “Game Changer”, Jay asks if he’s having problems with Cam).

As I’m sure Glee can attest, an after school special-esque episode here and there doesn’t make up for Modern Family’s utter lack of modernity the majority of the time.

Elsewhere: [Chica & the City] Casting Call for “Hot Blooded” Latina Moms Makes My Blood Boil.

Related: The Underlying Message in Glee‘s “On My Way” Episode.

Image via BuddyTV.

TV: “Seattle Grace Mercy Death”—Grey’s Anatomy “Song Beneath the Song” Review.

It’s kind of hard to take the potential death of Callie and her unborn baby seriously when everyone’s singing, and in most cases, not well.

I wasn’t sure if I was delighted or perturbed by the announcement of a musical episode of Grey’s, and wondered how it would all go down.

(Un)luckily I didn’t have to wonder too long, as my friend Sallie spoiled it for me when we were discussing the show a couple of weeks ago. I was still catching up from re-watching all the seasons, and she asked me where I was up to in the latest season: “Callie’s accident?” No, but thanks! And when I accidentally looked up from my book in the final moments of last week’s episode before Desperate Housewives came on to find Callie and Arizona driving and talking, I put three and three together and figured there would be a car accident which would result in Callie’s supernatural musical experience, and voilà, you’ve got “Song Beneath the Song”. It’s like Glee meets Supernatural meets E.R. And not in a good way.

Some of the renditions, especially at the beginning of the episode, are cringeworthy, but Callie—played by Tony Award-winning actress, Sara Ramirez—and Owen (Kevin McKidd) put in performances that push the episode into watchable territory.

Grey’s Anatomy is known for its heartrending storylines and strong acting, and apart from the horrendous soundtrack, this episode is a good one: it’s touch and go with Callie’s survival and the life of her unborn baby, which Addison flies in to tend to when Lucy tanks it. (That doesn’t lessen her appeal to Alex, though!) Mark’s a mess, and tells Arizona she’s “nothing” in the parentage equation, and later apologises. Lexie comforts Mark, but still chooses Jackson. And Meredith breaks down over her desire to have a baby, when it happened so easily for Callie. And Owen’s singing ability just makes him hotter!

The one effective aspect I think the singing brought to the table was it acting as a metaphor for the mile-a-minute emotions everyone tending to Callie’s case was feeling. Sometimes the singing became very overwhelming, what with everything else going on in the scenes. But in the end, I think it worked to the shows advantage.

Now, let’s just sweep it under the rug and pretend it never happened.

 

 

 

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Top 10 Grey’s Anatomy Moments.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] The Underlying Message in Grey’s Anatomy’s “Superfreak” Episode.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Gun Shot Wound to the Head: Grey’s Anatomy Season Final.

Images via MegaVideo.

TV: Top 10 Grey’s Anatomy Moments.

I’ve recently re-watched every season of Grey’s Anatomy (but that wasn’t enough for me: I’ve gone back and started from season 4 again, so that the later seasons are on par with the first three, which I’ve watched copious amounts of!). So, to celebrate the greatness of Grey’s, here are my top ten moments of the show. Feel free to add your own in the comments.

1. OMGSW.

I’ve blogged about this ep a couple of times, but I cannot reiterate how shocking/sad/good it is. If you haven’t seen this, you can’t call yourself a Grey’s fan.

2. “It’s George!”

Equally as shocking. We all knew by the time the season five final aired that T.R. Knight was leaving the show, but I had no idea he was the John Doe who got hit by a bus.

3. Denny.

Ahh, Denny. He’s one of those characters that stay with you. Luckily, the Grey’s writers picked up on this, and he has literally stayed with us (albeit as a ghost) since his debut and tragic death in season two.

4. “Holy Mother Of…”

Meredith drowns. Christina gets engaged. Izzie drills burr holes with hardware. Alex discovers Jane Doe/Ava/Rebecca.

5. “I’m Here for You.”

Cancer and Denny hallucinations. I supposed that’s what you get when you complain about your storylines, Katherine Heigl. It was amazing how long it took for Izzie to realise that seeing her dead fiancé wasn’t normal. And how long it took Alex and George to realise something was wrong with her. For all Alex’s preaching about how he dealt with his crazy mum and crazy girlfriends, he didn’t think that Izzie talking to herself was out of the ordinary?

6. Code Black.

Also known as “Pink Mist”, this was the first episode of Grey’s I saw. I was so intrigued by the “Code Black” commercial that I had to see what it was all about: I’ve never looked back.

7. “I’m Addison Shepherd… And You Must Be the Woman Who’s Been Sleeping With My Husband.”

As the above entry would imply, I already knew about Addison before she showed up at the end of season one as McDreamy’s husband. That didn’t make it any less shocking when she accosted Meredith and her seemingly perfect neurosurgeon boyfriend, claiming to be his wife. OMG!

8. McSteamy.

No. Explanation. Necessary.

9. “Today I’m Accountable to Someone Other Than Myself.”

Alex finally makes good and marries Izzie. We all know that didn’t work out so well for him, but it was a beautiful gesture on the part of Derek and Meredith, who ended up getting married on a Post-It instead.

10. Jumping the Shark with Gizzie.

Again: this is what you get when you complain about your storylines, or lack thereof. George and Izzie getting together was a bit of an experiment, I think, as a means to an end for George’s marriage to Callie and Heigl’s plot discontent.

Related: Gunshot Wound to the Head: Grey’s Anatomy Season Final.

Top 10 TV Moments of the Year.

The Underlying Meaning in Grey’s Anatomy’s “Superfreak” Episode.

Images via YouTube, TV Rage.