Posts Tagged ‘Roseanne’

Modern Family may be the best family comedy since Arrested Development, but last week’s episode, entitled “Good Cop Bad Dog,” reinforced some family roles that were anything but modern.  The episode centered on each of the six adult leads trying to break out of their normal roles to varying degrees.  At the heart of these adults were Phil and Claire, who were shown at the beginning of the episode taking on their normal roles.  Claire, the stay-at-home mom, was disciplining the children while Phil was attempting to keep things light.  Phil, it seems, gets to do all of the fun things with the kids while Claire is forced to be the serious parent who keeps their household running smoothly.  Understandably, Claire was not satisfied with this arrangement.

As a result of Claire’s dissatisfaction, Phil and Claire spent the majority of the episode outside of their normal roles.  Claire took their son and nephew on the go karting outing that Phil had planned and Phil stayed home with the daughters to ensure that their chores were done appropriately.  Both found it difficult to succeed outside of their normal roles.  On this point it is interesting to compare the behavior of these parents to the behavior that television parents would likely expect from their children.  Countless hours of TV have been devoted to parents encouraging their children not to give up on things that they are not immediately good at.  When Claire and Phil were not immediately good at stepping outside of their normal roles, however, they concluded that they should stick to what they know, allowing Phil to return to being the “fun dad” while Claire returned to being the “nagging mom.”

Obviously, television comedies are not necessarily going to be realistic (there was certainly nothing realistic about Arrested Development‘s Bluth family), but for a show entitled Modern Family that includes a same-sex couple with an adopted daughter, I don’t think that a little realism would be too much to ask.  The disconnect between the show’s title and its gender roles are particularly evident in light of a recent New York Magazine article written by Roseanne Barr, creator and star of Roseanne, a show that expertly blended realism with humor for most of its run.  Barr’s article focuses on the difficulty she had finding others to help her maintain that blend.  As a result of these efforts, she states:

I honestly think Roseanne is even more ahead of its time today, when Americans are, to use a technical term from classical economics, screwed. We had our fun; it was a sitcom. But it also wasn’t The Brady Bunch; the kids were wiseasses, and so were the parents. I and the mostly great writers in charge of crafting the show ­every week never forgot that we needed to make people laugh, but the struggle to survive, and to break taboos, was equally important. And that was my goal from the beginning.

It is clear from the article that the battles Barr fought to break those taboos took their toll.  This might be easier to accept if those taboos remained broken over 20 years later.

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