Modern Family: the only show to live by.
Jürgen Habermas first defined the ‘public sphere’ (Habermas, 1964) as an arena in which citizens could debate about common concerns, expressing their views and opinions. Some say the development of the Internet and new media has degraded this notion of the public sphere, however in my eyes it has opened up new possibilities and issues, allowing public debate on a number of platforms. We are no longer restricted in our freedom of voice and opinion; we have many stages and many to hear what we have to say.
One such example of new media that promotes discussion and debate is the TV show ‘Modern Family’. If you have been unable to catch an episode of this hilarious comedy, then please, do yourself a favour and go watch one! This takeoff of a ‘modern’ family not only raises issues that are completely relatable to anyone and everyone; such as sibling rivalry, (not so)’hip’ Dads, teenage rebellion and kooky members of a close-knit extended family, but also highlight topics of major debate within our public sphere.
Modern Family deals with the conventional family (conveyed by the Dunphys), while also introducing a homosexual couple (Mitchell Pritchett and Cameron Tucker), and a mixed marriage (the Pritchetts). The blend of the traditional and the new is commonly seen within families these days, allowing the show to introduce new relevant discussion.
The shows presentation of a gay marriage has raised many issues revolving around equality and acceptance. Through the character of Jay (Mitchell’s father), the producer portrays society’s’ struggle with the concept as his acceptance of his sons’ homosexual relationship develops throughout the show. ‘Stabs’ at the issue are regularly integrated within the sitcom, provoking thought from the audience, such as in the episode “Best Men”(2013), where Cameron comments, “What kind of people would we be if we denied you, or anyone, the right to marry?”
More recent debate has surround the use of inappropriate language in the episode, “Little Bo Bleep”(2013). In this installment, Lily (Cam and Mitch’s adopted child) copies the ‘F-bomb’ from her fathers, dropping it in inappropriate situations (something that I’m sure many Mum’s and Dad’s have experienced). The use of the ‘F bomb’ in ‘family friendly’ TV has spiked debate around the globe. Some parents groups, like the ‘No Cussing Club’ and the ‘Parents Television Council’, said the joke “was in poor taste“(Mom Huston, 2013), even going as far to say that it encouraged children to curse. (I’d like to point out that the subplot was actually hilarious and in no way glamorised cursing.)
The show also enlightens the audience on theissue of divorce, conveyed within the relationship of Jay (a grandpa past his prime) and Gloria (a gorgeous, young, Columbian woman); both of whom have had failed previous marriages. Their relationship also puts a spotlight on modern marriages with major age gaps. Yet, with couples like Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore, Gloria and Jay’s marriage is more easily accepted by the audience.
With the development of society, it is inevitable that the realm of the public sphere will evolve, and so too will the issues and opinions with in. In shows such as Modern Family there has already been an evident shift in values (such as the audiences acceptance of Jay and Gloria’s marriage). Whether you believe the public sphere is being degraded or evolved by our evolving society, change within this domain is inevitable; it’s happening as we speak.
Habermas, J 1964, ‘The Public Sphere: An Encyclopedia Article (1964)’, in Lennox, S & Lennox, F (eds.), New German Critique, Duke University Press, Durham, England, pp. 49-55
Best Men, Modern Family, 2013, television program, 20th Century Fox Television, America, February 27.
Little Bo Bleep, Modern Family, 2013, television program, 20th Century Fox Television, America, January 18.
Mom Huston, 2013, Modern Family proves a cussing baby is very funny, as long as it’s not your baby, Mom Huston, blog, 19 January, viewed 9 April 2013, <http://blog.chron.com/momhouston/2012/01/modern-family-proves-a-cussing-baby-is-very-funny-as-long-as-it’s-not-your-baby/>.
2012, WWPDD (What Would Phil Dunphy Do?), image, Uproxx, viewed 9 April 2012, < http://www.uproxx.com/webculture/2011/10/the-best-of-phil-dunphy/attachment/phil-dunphy-wwpdd/>.