Historically in television sitcoms the family structure presented is the “traditional family”, mom, dad, and kids. This can be seen in staples like Leave it to Beaver. This structure is even portrayed in cartoons. Even the whacky Simpsons and the futuristic Jetsons portray this family structure. While these shows and others like them are ones that we love I feel like more and more they do not represent the reality of the family structures that more commonly exist today, which are diverse and varying. I am pleased to say that in recent years this has been changing, and becoming more aligned with real life families today. I think that this advancement is important because all family structures should be able to feel represented and to view a family that they feel is relatable to their own. Also, acceptance of these diverse structures in the media can help to educate others on what a family can consist of, and that it is not always what we have been taught and/or exposed to.
This is a topic that interests me because I have always loved television shows and somehow manage to get sucked into all of them that I watch, but also, because I come from a diverse family structure. I do have a mom and dad and two sisters, but my dad has a wife who is not my mom and my mom has girlfriend who she lives with and has been with for years. To me this has always been normal, but I remember watching television, as a child and wondering why none of the families were like mine. I am pleased to say that now I can see a lot progress made on this front.
The first example that comes to mind is the appropriately titled, Modern Family. In this show several different diverse, immediate family structures are represented within the context of one extended family. The traditional family is represented with Phil, Claire, and their three children. There is also Mitch, who is Claire’s brother, and Cam who are a gay couple in a committed relationship who have adopted their daughter, Lily, from China. Then there are Jay (Claire and Mitch’s father) and Gloria who represent a deviation from tradition in a few different ways. First of all, this is Jay’s second marriage and he is much older than Gloria. She has a son who lives with them, and they have a baby together. Also, Jay is Caucasian and Gloria is Columbian, and I do not feel like bi-racial couples and families are often represented on television. I think this show does an excellent job of showing diverse family structures in a realistic but still entertaining way. The only common family structure that you really do not see represented in Modern Family is a single-parent family. The first show that I thought of when I thought about this was Gilmore Girls, which is completely centered on a single mother and her relationship with her daughter.
I think that shows like these are important so that all families are represented. I am glad to see more and more of them popping up so that children today in these families do not have to wonder like I did as a child.