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Television and Family

” Television plays a major role in our daily lives. It not only influences our preferences, it affects our beliefs, our likes and dislikes. It can strengthen our knowledge and broaden our perspectives. Many different goals are achieved from the television” – James B. Twitchwill

Television has created an impact in our lives, especially in family. It portrays a picture of family and allows audience to relate to the shows.

Monica Kempski mentioned in an article “An ultimate display of the revised family on television can be seen in Modern Family. It represents a family of intense age difference and cultural diversity. Although each family have their own problems and making the family imperfect and chaotic, they are one big family with complicating situations. Throughout the episodes, these family encounter  comedic problems due to differences but learn to accept and love each other in the end”.

She also mentioned that “a broader definition of family more accurately represents the modern family more than the traditional family portrayal because it encompasses a broader range of people and ideals found in society who encounter problems. Because of the broad range of people considered in families,more people can relate to and enjoy the show. Modern Family pulls together and is there for each other like the traditional family”.

In an article, Signorielli mentioned that “images of family life itself may also be influenced. Heavy viewers tend to perceive being single as negative,express pro family sentiments, and believe that families in real life show support and concern for each other.  Modern Family is a sitcom that may influence many families as there are three different families in the sitcom and it is not only comical, but in every episode it does transmit a message to the public. As mentioned in the earlier post, the may not be the picture perfect family, but they are a family that lead a normal life and face their everyday problems.

Modern family is a more realistic look at contemporary life and what a family is like in the United States. Also it adheres firmly to progressive conventional thinking.  The producers in this show has given the society an outlook of what a traditional modern family is through television and sending a message to the public and the families out there that love is essential to the formation of a good family. It gives a more challenging answer about what it means to be a family in modern day, United States and it portrays moves ever further from reality than any average sitcom. Television is definitely power and has influenced many families in watching such sitcoms and reflect on their lives.

Sources:

James B. Twitchwill -Media’s Role in Society, viewed 5 December 2010, http://www.directessays.com/viewpaper/76356.html

Monica Kempski – Television and Family, viewed on 5 December 2010, http://family.jrank.org/pages/1681/Television-Family-Social-Uses-Influence-Television-on-Families.html

Signorielli 1990 – Television and Family, The social uses and influence of television on families, http://www.scribd.com/doc/38439225/Evolution-of-Families-on-Television

A question of taste

In Season 1 of Modern Family, Phil’s birthday coincided with the launch of the Apple iPad. As a self-proclaimed early adopter and technophile, Phil went out of his way to wake up early and queue for the iPad. Claire, wanting Phil to have the relaxing birthday he deserves, volunteers to queue in his place. However, she falls asleep on the couch right after and hilarity ensues as Phil tries to get over not having the iPad, and Claire tries her best to get him one.

Despite being labelled as ‘one long iPad commercial’ and described as an infection on one of the people’s favourite shows (Keller, 2010, para 11) , the iPad plot device was successful, raking in 9.34 million viewers that night. So why the critical mismatch?

Well, the episode is really a case of reel life mimicing real life. People often try to differentiate themselves as a ‘higher breed’, and these people would imitate those whom they believe to be of a higher social status than themselves (Slater, 1997, pg 156). And we see that in Phil’s desire to get the iPad. In fact, Phil even described the iPad as a ‘movie theater, library and a music store all rolled to one… awesome pad.’

As the show progresses and Phil loses his chance at an iPad, we see his desire to distinguish himself from other technophiles manifesting. When Claire told him that it was okay to not have an iPad, and that the store would get more stock next week, Phil called her words ‘the worst thing you can say to an early adopter’.

Similar to Simmel’s assessment of fashion trends, the iPad was portrayed as the symbol that would elevate Phil from the common tech-savvy majority. As a self-proclaimed, early-adopting technophile, Phil saw the need to signal his superiority over his peers by getting the iPad on launch day. He then sees his failure to do so as a failure of epic proportions, even going as far as telling Claire that he cannot feel anything anymore.

Of course, everything ends well. Luke manages to cheat an iPad out of a concerned online friend, and Phil resumes his normal euphoric self. However, this episode has clearly demonstrated the importance people place on using status symbols to elevate or reinforce their social standing (Slater, 1997, pg 153).

Sources:

TV Fanatic, Phil Dunphy Quotes, viewed 5 December 2010, http://www.tvfanatic.com/quotes/characters/phil-modern-family/page_6.html

Seldman, R., TV Ratings: Human Target up; American Idol down; “Minute” repeat is strong for NBC, viewed 5 December 2010, http://tvbythenumbers.com/2010/04/01/tv-ratings-human-target-up-american-idol-down-minute-repeat-strong-for-nbc/46960

Keller, J., ‘Modern Family’ was One Long iPad Commercial Last Night, viewed 5 December 2010, http://www.tvsquad.com/2010/04/01/modern-family-was-one-long-ipad-commercial-last-night/

Slater, D., 1997, Consumer Culture and Modernity, Polity Press, Cambridge

Simmel, G., 1957, “Fashion”, The American Journal of Sociology, Vol 62, No 6, pp 541 – 558

All of us have identities; it is what makes us unique. Identities are shaped through our experiences and choices, and can be influenced by anything that we come into contact with in daily life.

As Morley and Robins (1995) state, “identity…is imagined in terms of boundedness and containment”. These sets of qualities associated with one’s identity encircle him/her and makes him/her a unique entity amongst others.

Morley and Robins (1995) added that “its desired coherence and integrity must always be conserved and sustained against the forces of disintegration and dissolution at work in the world”. Thus there are tendencies and forces that lure us away from our identities, but the choice to remain committed and relevant to the desired identity is the driving factor.

There are many pairs of relationships in Modern Family which exhibit how strong one’s sense of belonging to their identity is, and how do they go about preserving it. One of which would be Jay’s as the head of the house. He is strong headed and is unperturbed by things. However, incidents happen, for instance learning of his son being gay, which for obvious reasons he cannot accept.

He has to constantly fend off attempts to break down his resistance towards gay relationships and at the same time remain composed during the ordeals. One can say that he is only doing this because he was trying to influence his son to turn around and become heterosexual again. But from the way I see it, it was more of his strong sense of belonging towards masculinity than anything else. Imagine what friends and family would think of him if they heard he has a son who’s gay.

Inevitably it will be down to choice. A person may have multiple identities and no one’s to say it’s inappropriate. But when identity/identities become a part of you, it will not be easy dislodging yourself from it.

Reference:

  •  Morley, D., Robins, K., 1995, Spaces of identity: global media, electronic landscapes and cultural boundaries, Routledge, Oxford, U.K.

Eugene Lai

Crossover of Ideals

Oftentimes, we are being changed by happenings around us unnoticeably.

Jay and his Latin wife Gloria are such examples from our media text, Modern Family.

Exchanging ideals

The tradition hard man Jay has to incorporate Manny, Gloria’s son from her previous relationship, into his life. Naturally, he’d want to impart his straightforward, masculine ideals to Manny. But this is not the way Gloria sees it. She begins by telling him age old Latin sayings on their way of life, often based more on considerate and emotional considerations instead of the standard ‘rule of thumb’ methods Jay usually imposes.

Gradually, out of love or respect for his Latin wife, Jay skews towards her thinking and changes.

Hybridity in their culture was the evident cause of it. From Kraidy (2005), this “involves the fusion of two hitherto relatively distinct forms, styles or identities” through “cross cultural contact, which often occurs across national borders as well as across cultural boundaries”.

Kraidy (2005) also adds that this contact involves “the movement of cultural commodities such as media programs, or the movement of people through migration”.

This does not necessarily mean that these forms, styles or identities are taken on wholesale by the accepting party. Instead, a merger between the two different styles takes place, and a new combined entity is formed.

Obviously, hybridity has been occurring ever since the beginning of time as people come into contact with one another, ideals are bound to be exchanged. What is interesting for us to note now is the rate at which such exchanges, and how subtle it can be (in forms of carefully packaged media content), can happen.

Reference:

  • Kraidy, M.M., 2005, Hybridity or the Cultural Logic of Globalization, Templeton University Press, Philadelphia, USA

Eugene Lai

Global?

With the creation of Modern Family, it has been replicated countless times in our blog just how much it reflects the typical American Family has evolved, or how the American Family is portrayed in the media for that matter. But how does this resound in other parts of the globe? Is America’s glocalization what we call globalization from an outside view?

Glocal or Global?

It is a given that most things American have an impact elsewhere in the world, positive or negative included. Here in Singapore, when we come up with local sitcoms (Under One Roof) or local television programmes, we would be indulging in glocalization. This is where we ‘think globally, act locally’.

From Chang, “americanisation will accompany globalisation” and thus, “globalisation in some sense has to be americanisation” (Chang, n.d., pg 3). Modern Family seems to be just another revamped version of a vehicle that has been used countless times over the years for this purpose. The series touches on rising instances in American Families such as interracial and homosexual marriages. But how different is this from our local sitcoms? While we tackle issues on homosexuality and interracial marriages as well, why is its scale so much smaller?

I do not believe it has to do with the size of our nation or our proximity, there are bigger, more reputable nations than ours that do not get the recognition that their glocalization accounts for globalization. Academics have argued, and rightfully so, that this is due to the scale of economies. If it is so, the term globalization would be grossly inaccurate.

Let’s just drop the term globalization, for it is just glocalization, on America’s part, on a global scale.

Reference:

Eugene Lai

Scholars describe American family sitcoms as having emerged during post-WWII, with the rise of television use, and the creation of the ‘family room’ in the house playing major roles in uniting the family to watch such programmes together.

Heller (1995) states that “(t)elevision’s mediating function has expanded rapidly over the last forty years, at times seeming to take on the dimensions of a third sphere, a separate space where fantasy and ideology overlap to problemize cultural formulations of history in relation to family, and family in relation to individuality…Today, television continues to provide public a private space, thus rehearsing “older questions in a new social environment.”

Interestingly, Heller (1995) also states that the “family romance is everywhere because the family itself is nowhere: the family exists for us no longer as a symbol of cultural unity, but as an embodied expression of cultural redescription”.

Modern Family is an example of how current questions are being presented albeit in a social environment which mirrors reality.

On the success of the series, Robert Thompson, a professor of popular culture at Syracuse University was quoted in a Reuters article as saying that “Modern Family differs because it is a show about struggling to raise kids the best you can, and one of the couples happens to be gay. But they don’t make a big stink about it.”

Indeed, the creators and producers of Modern family have changed the family sitcom landscape by making it more relevant to the current American fabric. Will this set a trend for the future of American family sitcoms? Also, how will American family sitcoms provide public with private spaces in the future if the representation of current societal issues is being portrayed accurately?

 

Heller D. A., 1995, Family plots: the de-Oedipalization of popular culture, University of Pennsylvania Press, Pennsylvania, USA

Serjeant, J, 2010, “Glee”, “Modern Family” new face of family-friendly TV, viewed 17 November 2010, http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE6675QU20100708
Shane Neubronner

We do not care for perfection anymore, and good enough is really just fine.

Back in the older days, when many Americans in the United States were still striving towards the ‘American Dream’, television offered audiences gratification through its portrayal of the perfect, ideal American suburban family.

For example, in the 1950s, the hit American television series ‘Leave it to Beaver’ attained an iconic status in the United States by portraying an idealized American suburban family. By writing from a child’s point of view, ‘Leave it to Beaver’ managed to offer its audiences a glimpse into the ‘perfect’ white American boyhood (Applebaum, 1998, pg 14).

The popularity of the show reflected that period’s cultural context, as the Americans started review their definition of the American Dream after World War II. Originally seen as a promise of freedom, the Americans started to see the real ‘American Dream’ as one of suburban homeownership, where owning a home would elevate them from the poor to the middle class (Rohe and Watson, 2007, pg 173).

By putting the ‘American Dream’ on to the television screen, ‘Leave it to Beaver’ fulfilled the audiences’ personal integrative needs by reinforcing their values and beliefs. (Katz, Blumler and Gurevitch, 1973, pg 164 – 181). Based on the gratification theory of media consumption, the audience saw ‘Leave it to Beaver’ as a means to meet their societal expectations, and therefore leading to gratification for the audiences.

Modern Family, however, is on the other end of the spectrum. While many issues often work out at the end of the episodes, none of the families in the show is what one would normally describe as ‘perfect’. So why is Modern Family so damn popular?

Well, the times are a-changing. As the world speeds up, become more connected and generally a lot busier, the kind of gratifications that audiences look for are fundamentally changing. Audiences now favour raw, realistic plots they could relate to, and value quick wit over polished humour.

Having a family and living with their difference are now more important than having the perfect family in a wonderful neighbourhood. And the producers of Modern Family have capitalised on this trend. Exit stage left, parents who debate child management approaches, and enter the father who tries to be his kids’ best friend. Farewell, frowned-upon mentions of divorce, and bring in the gay couples and stepfamilies.

And this ability to adapt to the audience’s changing gratification needs is why Modern Family is becoming the runaway success of recent years. Who said perfection was great?

Sources:

Applebaum, I., 1998, The World According to Beaver, Simon & Schuster, New York City

Rohe, W.M., Watson, H.L., 2007, Chasing the American Dream, Cornell University Press, New York

Katz, E., Haas, H., & Gurevitch, M., 1973, On the Use of the Mass Media for Important Things, American Sociological Review, 38 (2), pages 164 – 181