MEDIA AND THEORY APPLICATION 7
Media and Theory Application of TV show "Modern Family"
Media and Theory Application of TV show "Modern Family"
Social interactions are governed by social norms that guide howmembers of a society are supposed to behave and communicate giventheir social and gender roles. Although different cultures assigndifferent to men, women and children in a family set up, there arelots of similarities in cultural restriction that some members of asociety are subjected to. Such restrictions are based on stereotypesthat have been developed over time propagated in a society. The mediaprojects the fundamental social structure, and so is the case withthe American society as portrayed in “modern Family” show. Thisbrief overview will analyze an episode, “slow down your neighbors”,in the “modern family” show with respect to social identitytheory. Most media shows provide clear pictures of culturalstructures, stereotypes and functioning of social institutions asfamily, which can be traced in theoretical frameworks.
Social Identity Theory-Summary
Social identity describes individuals’ sense of who they are withregard to their group membership. Family fall under the category of agroup that people belong to, and they are vital sources ofself-esteem and pride (Schwartz,2011). Accordingly, groups provide grant individuals asense of belonging and identity to the social world. People tend toenhance the status of their group to boost their self-esteem.Similarly, individuals can boost their esteem by holding prejudicesand discriminating against groups that they do not belong to. In anut shell, people form stereotypes about a group in the society, andthey hold such stereotypes to impose social expectations on otherindividuals. For instance, women have, stereotypically, learnt toassociate themselves with certain roles in a family. Such roles areexpected to be performed without complaining, and any woman who tendsto do and/or view things differently is reprimanded, either by fellowwomen or men (Tajfel,2010). In line with boosting self-esteem that issuggested by the theory, women tend to view their role socializationand tending to household chores as extremely very important. Anindividual who sticks in that line of duties receive praise andadmiration in a society. Conversely, men, in most societies areexpected to protect and provide for their families (Schwartz,2011). These duties should be done without fail toensure that a man boosts his self-esteem, especially in front of hispeers. The same stereotypical arrangements in a family are extendedto same sex marriages where the individual posing as a wife stayshome while the husband goes out to work. Although there are variouschanges in the contemporary family arrangements regarding, which callfor shared responsibilities both in earning income and caring for thechildren, the traditional family structures are still prevalent, andpreferred by many.
It is worth noting that, some individuals feel that they do not fitin certain stereotyped groups. Such individuals make attempts ofjoining other groups, or they can attempt doing things that areextra-ordinary to counter the stereotypes. Social theory proponent,Tajfel, argued that stereotyping can cripple social cognition,especially when negative stereotypes are directed to a group insociety (Tajfel,2010). For instance, a society can brand women as beingpoor in mathematics and sciences. Such a belief can actually hinderthe performance of women in the subjects as they conform to thestrongly held beliefs in their society. There is a possibility,however, that some members of the stereotyped group might choose towork hard and beat men in mathematics and science, boosting theirself-esteem and proving the held assumptions wrong. In so doing, thegroup members elicit mixed reactions and emotions from differentpeople (Tajfel,2010). To conservative individuals, the members areseen as deviant while those who embrace changes acknowledge theefforts of such people who outshine stereotypical and sociallimitations.
“Slow Down Your Neighbors” Episode Summary
The clip under review, “Slow Down Your Neighbors” is an episodefrom the popular TV show “Modern Family”. The plot of the episoderevolves around a family of the main character named Phil, His wifeClaire and their three children (Bowman, 2011). A couple of othercharacters are featured in the episode as Laura who likes speedingher car in the neighborhood, among others. The episode commences withClaire chasing the speeding driver in utter frustration for thebehavior of the driver of risking the lives of kids and residents inthe neighborhood.
The irony of the speeding driver is revealed when Claire learnt thatthe speeding driver was indeed her husband’s client. All the same,Claire prints a couple of posters directing the driver to slow downand be mindful of his neighbors (Bowman, 2011). However, Claire failsto attract the support of her family who instead ridicule herefforts, especially the writings on the posters. Phil advices hiswife to seek the help of a police officer to deal with the speedingdriver instead of taking matters in her hands (Bowman, 2011). Besidesconvincing Phil to put up the posters, take matters a notch high bychasing the speeding car on a bicycle. Another irony unfolds asClaire gets a ride from the very driver she despises while Laurabrands Claire as a sexually starved woman.
Most of the rest of the episode focuses on bicycle riding lessonsfrom Jay and Luke to Manny and Gloria. As Many turns out to be anexcellent rider, Gloria is too concerned about failing and theembarrassment that comes with such failure (Bowman, 2011). The finalbit of the episode takes the audience to a scene of possible romancefrom Cameron and Barry. The relationship, however, turns sore whenMitchell learnt that Barry was lying about his place of residence,and she informed her sister, Cameron, about the issue.
The cultural group that is of interest to this review is the womenand the female gender in general. Drawing from the explanations madeearlier in the paper, women are branded and stereotyped to take asubordinate position in the society, and more precisely in the family(Giddens etal, 2014). As evidenced in the episode, Claire takesthe responsibility and position of staying at home with the kids. Shetakes on the identity of a homely woman who is not supposed to takepart in any active public activities. Her attempts to protect theresidents of her street from a speeding car by erecting postersagainst the behavior, husband discourages her from doing so. She isadvised to seek help from the police who would help deal with thedriver. To make matters worse, it seems that even Claire’sdaughters are well aware of the stereotyped position of a woman,dismissing their mother’s actions as embarrassing (Bowman, 2011).
Apparently, the young girls have identified with their group, whichthey feel that is being sabotaged by their mother. The socialidentity of women is extended to the little girls when it is assumedthat they will face difficulties with learning how to ride a bicycle.A shocking as it might be, Manny was a quick learner and indeed anatural rider (Bowman, 2011). Conversely, the entire episode paintsmen as capable people, and they are given the roles of teaching,training and guiding the rest of the characters into the rightdirection. The ladies learn lots of things from men who are also theheads of their families, as well as breadwinners. Considering thatthe media is a key source of information for most societies, theevents in the episodes, as well as the moral lessons portrays what isto be expected in a society.
The audience of the material is likely to experience mixed reactions,especially towards people who dismiss the attempts made by Claire toprotect his neighborhood. It is expected that any opposition wouldcome from men only, but when this expectation is refuted byopposition from fellow ladies, the entire issue becomes interesting.The moral lessons from the interaction proves that stereotypes canpossibly hinder personal achievement. Further, people who work hardto overturn the held assumptions make great impact in the society.Further, the culture of a society is more often communicated throughthe media, which is a strong agent of socialization (Giddenset al, 2014). Similarly, cultural arrangements of asociety are not easily changed even in the wake contemporary criesfor equity.
Most media shows provide clear pictures of cultural structures,stereotypes and functioning of social institutions as family, whichcan be traced in theoretical frameworks. It is also apparent thatsocial identity theory captures the attempts of individuals to seekbelonging to a group, which facilitates boosting of self-esteem. Somestereotypes are firmly engraved in the minds of people and attemptsto shake them off are harshly reprimanded, by the members of thesociety. Further, cultural norms that were established in the pastcontinue to have effect in the lives of modern people. Mostimportantly, not all people are comfortable living in the stereotypecocoons as they make attempts to disprove some assumptions thathinder their chances in life.
Bowman, D. (2011). Modern Family: “Slow Down Your Neighbors”.Season 2, Episode 11.
Chopra, R. & Gajjala, R. (2012). GlobalMedia, Culture, and Identity: Theory, Cases, and Approaches. NewYork: Routledge.
Giddens, A.,Duneier, M., Appelbaum, R. P., Carr, D. S., London School ofEconomics and Political Science., City University of New York.,Princeton University., … Rutgers University. (2014). Introductionto sociology.
Schwartz, S.J. (2011). Handbookof identity theory and research.New York: Springer.
Tajfel, H.(2010). Socialidentity and intergroup relations.Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.