My Grandma commented while watching an episode of Modern Family that she was quite taken aback at how the show presented some issues (such as the gay community) as very “normalised.” However in the 21st century, these issues are actually more relevant and more accepted than ever. And that may just be because of shows such as Modern Family, which comically focus on the issues of today and contribute to debate in the mediated public sphere.
The public sphere is a metaphor, which refers to a place where members of society meet to converse about relevant concerns and topics. The mediated public sphere refers to the medias role in this public sphere and provides a place where these common issues can be presented and debated.
This mediated public sphere is evident in Modern Family, as it deals with contemporary issues and situations by utilising comedy to create debate on what it means to be a family, and inevitably, what the definition of a family is today.
Some issues focused on include divorce, second marriages, a large age gap, step parents, gay couples, and adoption. Lily’s adoption (from Vietnam) by gay parents Mitch and Cam, shows an integration and diversity of races, similarly with Gloria and Manny’s Spanish heritage.
Not all possible family structures are presented, however many are mentioned in episodes, such as single parent family units, surrogacy, and teenage parent family units.
Ty Burrell (who plays Phil), comments that shows such as Modern Family have the “power to help bring about social change, and have done so already”
This is especially relevant in regards to Mitchell and Cameron’s gay relationship – the couple’s lack of affectionate displays in season one actually led to a debate, and involved a Facebook campaign from fans urging to see the couple be more affectionate.
Issues such as these contribute to the mediated public sphere by conveying to audiences “day in and day out, gay people living the same lives as everybody else,” which presents that people in these categories and groups are a real part of the world today in the 21st century, and should be accepted.
Through presenting these issues using humour, it creates a more lighthearted and comfortable way to approach issues which may be controversial to some people. For example, when Cam and Mitch’s friend Sal is planning to get married and asks them if they are alright with her getting married – when they can’t legally marry, Cam comically replies, “What kind of people would we be if we denied you or anyone the right to marry,” Mitch adding, “hash-tag politics”.
Therefore, the show presents more than just a ‘Modern Family’, and deals with many issues of today, as well as contributing issues to debate in the mediated public sphere.
Thanks for reading!