How Modern Family Changed the Way I Think

Modern Family
Image retrieved from Slashfilm

I love a lot of TV shows. Parks and RecreationGame of ThronesLost, and of course Modern Family are among my favorites. These shows have affected me deeply, brought me to new worlds, stimulated thinking, and given me lots of laughs. But one stands out among the rest – Modern Family.

Since early high school, I’ve loved this show. It was one of the very first “adult” programs I watched regularly, in that it wasn’t produced by Disney Channel, Nickelodeon, or Cartoon Network. This was a big deal for me because watching it regularly made me feel like I was finally starting to grow up and mature.

Modern Family probably wasn’t subversive or out of the norm to general audiences, but it was to me. Viewing a show with a gay couple as lead characters, regularly-used innuendos, and some off color language made it feel like forbidden fruit. 

The best part about it, though, was being able to watch with my parents in the room. They would sit on the couch and laugh along with me at the foibles of the Pritchetts, Tuckers, and Dunphys. This alone made me feel validated in enjoying my new favorite show.

Around the same time as this, I was getting into The Big Bang Theory. At the time, and for a few subsequent years, I would have said TBBT was my favorite show. The show made references to things I liked and was funny enough to get me to watch multiple episodes almost every night. 

TBBT also made me feel guilty for enjoying it – having grown up in a conservative Christian school, anything with gay leads, or any mention of the Big Bang were enough to get you judging looks, or possibly a talking-to. There was even a specific instance where our principal told the whole high school to be careful about shows like Modern Family, which normalized “sins” such as same-sex attraction.

Now, eight or so years later, the show which has stuck with me and which I still love with my whole heart is Modern Family. This is probably because it had a lot to do with my eyes opening to different ways of life and thinking, all without my realizing it.

When I first started watching Modern Family, my worldview aligned more closely to that of my principal. I was fairly conservative morally and even kind of sheltered, so I was inclined to at least consider his statement about the show. Something about it just didn’t sit right with me, though. 

Modern Family is full of incredible characters. Top to bottom, the main cast is excellent and they allowed me to see just how great people could be. Phil was eternally positive and uplifting, Gloria just wanted everyone to put aside any of their differences and come together as a family, Cam and Mitchell were normal people with big hearts, and on the list goes. Yes, the show is fiction, but it’s true to life. These characters made mistakes and learned from them for their own betterment

At my school, I was being told to judge and feel morally superior to these kinds of people. They engaged in and supported something I was supposed to hate.

But all these years later, I’ve come to realize how watching Modern Family played a significant part in my gradual move away from this way of thinking. I no longer feel ill will towards people who live differently than I do. In fact, I’m more open to it than I have ever been. Understanding where other people come from, how they act, and how they think is an important part of how I think about others. My opinions aren’t formed by superficial and meaningless assumptions before we’ve even had a conversation.

Of course, there were other factors playing into my shift in thinking. I met more diverse people and opened myself up to more diverse voices and ways of thinking. It was a gradual, but necessary shift to open-mindedness.

These days, I think a lot about how important it is to understand various points of view on any subject, and not just the one with which I agree. Closed-mindedness is actually a pet peeve of mine at this point. 99.99% of the time, there is someone smarter or better informed than me who could give me an insight into something I wouldn’t have otherwise seen. I just want to understand all angles and cover all my bases.

I’m not trying to claim my worldview was completely changed because I started watching Modern Family in high school. But it did act as a significant catalyst. It opened my mind and stimulated thought.

This is why we need diverse voices and storytellers. If a movie or show can get just one person thinking, then it has done its job, at least to a certain extent. I like who I am today, and I wouldn’t be at this place if it weren’t for Modern Family.

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