Modern Family with Modern Stereotypes

There are few shows out there that can make me laugh as hard as the hit sensation “Modern Family,” and the show has been applauded for its examination and representation of modern-day families with differing ethnicities, ages, sexual orientations, and so much more. However, I doubt anyone would disagree that the show is chalk full of stereotypes. It’s got the dramatic and theatrical gay man, the spicy foreign firecracker, the rich grandfather with a gorgeous trophy wife, the troublemaking teenage girl, the nagging mother, the brilliant adopted Asian child, and almost anything else you can think of. However,  all of the characters are so lovable that it can be hard to see the problem with all of this. But it’s important to remember that stereotypes, even positive ones, can still have plenty of negative consequences for the groups being represented and subsequent other groups.

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Now, if I were to attempt to address all of the consequences of every stereotype in this show, this blog post would quickly turn into a novel. The character who’s cultural representation I find most interesting is Gloria, played by Sophia Vergera. Gloria is a beautiful Columbian woman who married the grandfather, Jay, and joined the family with her son, Manny. Many of the stereotypes associated with this character have to do with her Latin background.

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Some of the stereotypes are negative. For example, Gloria’s character is very quick to anger and can be incredibly unreasonable and stubborn. She is also very loud and hard to understand. Whenever she discusses her life before Jay, she talks about how poor and violent her village in Columbia was and how wild and crazy her family and friends are.

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However, while there are several negative stereotypes about Gloria, there are also very positive ones. She is portrayed as incredibly beautiful and desired by men. She always looks fabulous, dressed to the nines with her hair and make-up perfect and strutting around in high heels. She is also incredibly strong. She was able to raise Manny on her own when his wild, free spirited father was off on his adventures. She is proud, compassionate, loving, and all around fabulous.

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There is so much to love about Gloria. But it is important to examine what kind of ideas these stereotypes, both positive and negative, are forcing onto Latin and Hispanic women in this country. Is it setting ridiculous standards of beauty and appearance? Is the expectation for them to be strong not allowing them the full range of expected emotion other than anger? While this show is absolutely hilarious, these are important questions to ask ourselves as we consume media and consider its implications on our culture and society.

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4 thoughts on “Modern Family with Modern Stereotypes

  1. I have never seen Modern Family, but your analysis of the character Gloria is very interesting. It makes me wonders if the biggest reason for the success of the show is the stereotypical portrayals of characters. If they are making the audience laugh and at the same time make them question the portrayal, then it could be an excellent subversion of social stereotypes. However, if the audience’s negative and simplistic view of a certain group is reinforced through many shows like this, then it is a problematic phenomenon that we need to address.

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    • This is an interesting take and addresses the concept of satire as a whole. The point of it is to draw attention to the views and practices we have in societal interactions. However, as you said, depending on both the context and the audience it can actually give even more reinforcement and momentum to those ideas.

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  2. I have definitely noticed this about Modern Family as well. One other stereotype that I have seen played out in this show is that of the feminine gay man that is married to his stronger, more masculine partner. While Cam and Mitchell are an adorable couple, I think the show’s portrayals of different groups acts as a kind of a cop out to what it really may be like. The show seems like they are trying to be more inclusive of different ethnic groups, family structures, sexual orientations, etc. but instead just ended up reinforcing the negative stereotypes that already surround these groups. That being said, I still adore the show.

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    • I completely agree. I’m not sure how religiously you watch the show, but there’s actually an episode on this very concept where Cam and Mitch’s fathers are arguing about which do their sons is the more feminine role in the relationship because is easier for them to wrap their heads around the idea of a gay relationship if they can think of one of them as the wife. I think this really speaks to how society views gay relationships, and it’s a stereotype that is unfortunately constantly reinforced in this show.

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