How a very old-fashioned family broke my heart

Like a fine wine, with each coming year I become a bit more feminist.  Having spent my life surrounded by men and conforming to patriarchy and playing their sexist and misogynistic games, at some point I became reluctant to join in and eventually I became sickened and outraged and principled.  There were tipping points along the way, but now I care more about being a good feminist than I care about being seen to be one of the guys, game for a laugh and not a militant with no sense of humour.

On the last day of 2012 I was gorging myself on series three of Modern Family, so nuanced, so funny, such a great study of character and yes, far too American schmaltzy.  I love Mitchell and Cam.  I love them and how they complete each other and I want to be them (I still think I’m Cam, but I’d be honoured to be Mitchell), I love them as parents and they are the best thing.  All present tense, I do love them now and probably always will.

But I hate Modern Family.  It’s now 2013 and in the gap between the years I realised this is a horrible, evil, terrible, patriarchal, ideological, anti-feminist, American show.  Like when I noticed the manifesto behind My Name is Earl, Cougar Town and so many shows before, I’ve finally realised what Modern Family is saying about women and I hate it.

But this is just my opinion.

I was a very keen academic some years ago and I miss it and I wish I still was an academic.  However I have no basis for what I’m saying except my own out of practice opinion.  There are no positive female role models in Modern Family and I’m less angry with the show than I am with myself for taking so long to notice it.  I’m such a Dunphy.

And you know who brought this to my attention, whose behaviour was so reprehensible as to turn me off my favourite American comedy of the moment?  Phil Dunphy himself.  What?  Yes, lovely Phil.  He’s an ass-hat.  Well his writers are.  It’s such an hilarious joke, that his beautiful and intelligent wife Claire Dunphy looks like a pig without makeup.  Such a funny joke that they make it time and again, how she doesn’t put in the effort and it shows.  Whereas the woman Phil does lust after, his father-in-law’s wife Gloria, puts a lot of effort into her appearance.  Gloria is proud of being a trophy wife.  Gloria doesn’t work either.  She’s also quite open about the fact that she is financially secure because she married an older man who is into her for her looks.  Nothing so modern about this.

My beloved Mitchell and Cameron are both men, in a committed relationship who have an adopted daughter.  How very modern.  Mitch is a lawyer and Cam is a house-husband who is now teaching music part-time.  Again, the breadwinner provides for his emotional and melodramatic partner.  As if there is no other model of family life.  No such thing as single parents or women who work.

And before one of you tries to herald the young Dunphy girls as feminist icons, Haley (the pretty one) and Alex (the clever one, also pretty because this is America after all) don’t bother.  I’m more sick of the schtick about the incompatibility of brains and beauty than I am about the representation of marriage.  No I’m not, I’m equally as sick.  I feel nauseous.

I’m really cross because I will miss Mitch and Cam.  I’ll miss seeing Lily grow, into a no doubt beautiful young lady.  I will miss all of the young Dunphy women being married into lives of servitude to working husbands.  Except of course Alex, who is destined never to marry (I have learned, mainly from her parents) because she’s so clever.

Modern Family, on reflection, I won’t miss you.

(Mitch, Cam spin-off, I’m so there!)


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