I was recently watching “Parenthood” on Comcast’s On Demand due to the lack of good TV shows on. It made me think about how TV shows have been updating the American family. There are so many shows depicting various versions of America’s “modern family” even if the family is not the main focus. While I do think there have been significant updates to the 1950s nuclear family, these current portrayals are still a bit antiquated. Specifically, I think that Parenthood and Modern Family make great attempts at representing diverse sets of family but fail in another aspect.
Parenthood is a comedy-drama about three generations of the Braverman family. The mom and dad, Camille and Zeek, have four children: Adam, the reliable eldest sibling; Sarah, the fun lovin’ sister who seems a bit immature; Crosby, the slacker; and Julia, the workaholic, play-by-the-rules type. At first, I was quite excited about the diversity of each character and her/his family. Although Adam’s family is a bit more “traditional” with his wife, the stay-at-home mom, and two kids, his siblings are much less the case. Sarah is a single mom with two kids, Julia is the breadwinner while her husband is a stay-at-home dad, and Crosby has recently discovered that he has a five-year-old son.
Did you catch it? What irks me? No? Well let’s proceed to the next TV family and see if you catch any similarities.
Modern Family is a half-hour comedy series about three generations of the Pritchett family. Jay, the dad, is divorced with two biological children from his previous marriage, Claire and Mitchell. Jay is also recently married to Gloria, a hot Hispanic woman who is much younger, and stepfather to Manny. Claire is the eldest sister who is an overprotective mother of three children and homemaker. Mitchell is a mild-mannered gay man and has a baby with his partner Cameron, who is the homemaker. Again, initially, quite diverse families.
Did you catch it this time? Stay-at-home parents! Homemakers! OMG, one parent must raise the children otherwise they’ll turn into heinous individuals. I know, I know. You’re thinking, “but Sarah is a single mom”. Yes, but she has no choice but to leave her children on their own in order to support them. The others choose to have a spouse who stays home to care for the kiddies. This is not usually the case with most American families. Thanks to after school programs and day care centers, most parents can choose to return to work and know that their children will be cared for. By not representing these parents, TV shows are discrediting them and creating an illusion that children without a stay-at-home parent are unusual.
So, my point is this: it’s time for TV shows to better represent the variety of American families.
That said, I do love Modern Family. It’s funny and well-written. AND, the season premiere is tonight on ABC.