“Modern Family” Incorporates Guns, Sex Talk in Latest Episode

The opening screen depicts the three families ...

"Modern Family"

One of the best qualities of the ABC sitcom “Modern Family” is its willingness to overstep boundaries. It may be a family program, but as many of us know, family dynamics of today hardly reflect Cleaver life. Since hitting the airwaves in 2009, “Modern Family” has tackled several issues that could have easily been deemed inappropriate for cable a few years ago: Kids catching their parents in the act, parents engaging in roleplay sexcapades at hotels, children dropping the “F” bomb, gay dads, and parents trying to make sure their oldest daughter is not sleeping with her musician boyfriend.

I love “Modern Family” for its depiction of the contemporary American home, especially coming from a modern, blended family myself, but was a little chafed by the latest episode, which explores guns and teen sex. I welcome the latter subject, as pretty much all of my friends started doing the deed in high school, but I’m not entirely sure how I feel about the inclusion of weapons.

Gloria and Claire outside the yoga studio

DISCLAIMER: This article contains spoilers, but nothing that would ruin the sitcom experience.

At the beginning of the February 22 episode, Gloria asks to accompany Claire to yoga. Claire says she’d love for them to do a raincheck on that, and when Gloria surprises her at the yoga studio, Claire complains of a headache and returns home. We’re made to think Claire simply doesn’t want to spend time with stepmother Gloria, as these two have never exactly been buddy-buddy, but we learn towards the end that Claire has been keeping a big secret for a long time. While everyone believes she is doing the downward facing dog and child’s pose in yoga, Claire is actually at an indoor firing range blowing off some steam. She and Gloria take turns firing pistols, and Gloria promises not to tell the others about her private activity of choice.

Meanwhile, 13-year-old Manny tries to impress a classmate by driving past her house in a hot red car. All is well until he reaches a dead end and awkwardly moves the vehicle in reverse. Phil is also upset to hear that his 17-year-old daughter Haley is no longer a virgin, but even more dismayed that all the women in the house have known this fact for months. This happens in many families, and I feel “Modern Family” handled it well.

The gun plotline, however, left me a little lost. I’m all for the right to bear arms, but Claire chalks her hobby up to being a mother of three, and this simply didn’t sit well with me. It’s one thing to say family life can be stressful, but another to cite one’s children as the reason for needing a release at the gun range. “Modern Family” does a nice job showing that no family is perfect and that everyone has their bad days, but I didn’t find it particularly funny that Claire needs to shoot stuff to remain sane. I have dated an arms enthusiast before and appreciate that he taught me how to use handguns and rifles in the event of an emergency, but I could never understand how it’d be a source of pleasure or fun. The fact is that many people enjoy shooting for sport, they just don’t admit their kids influenced this area of interest.

“Modern Family” fans, tell me: Did you actually find humor in Claire’s dirty little secret, or did you think is was an unnecessary addition to the otherwise brilliant comedy show?

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8 thoughts on ““Modern Family” Incorporates Guns, Sex Talk in Latest Episode

  1. Laura, while I can definitely see your point here (I myself am pretty much anti-gun across the board) I think what the episode was trying to do was, as usual, break stereotypes. The high-strung mom with killer arms who goes to yoga to unwind is such a tired cliche, and would have been really disappointing coming from a character as nuanced as Claire. I liked the revelation that her blowing-off-steam hobby was a bit edgier and more off the beaten path than yoga. I think it would have been similar if she had been taking boxing lessons or something else really physical and simulating violence. Would that have been a better development for you? Maybe something like martial arts?

    As for the teen sex subplot, I loved how the relationship between fathers and daughters was teased out in so many touching ways in that episode. The two Dumphy girls are really coming into their own as characters and as actresses.

    • Hi Claire,

      You’re dead on about the violence aspect. I get that it’s supposed to be shocking that Claire isn’t really into yoga, but kickboxing might have been a better choice. I support the right to bear arms, I just can’t really see how it’s funny in this scenario. Claire is an excellent character though, and it’s nice to see her channel her anxiousness somehow! I have a feeling I’m going to be a lot like Claire someday.

      Yes, the Dunphy girls really are coming into their own. I was exactly like Alex growing up: Nerdy and a little jealous of my cool older siblings, but strong nonetheless. I’m actually interested in seeing what happens when Haley graduates high school. Will she go to college? If so, where?

      • Actually, one of the things I found most problematic about the shooting range subplot was the fairly overt racism and cultural assumptions with Gloria’s character. Of COURSE a woman from Colombia would have good aim; she’d have to in such a violent, drug-laden, backward nation- THAT’S the message that I find more upsetting than the ones about Claire. I actually wish there were fewer “Colombia is a bad place” jokes on Modern Family.

      • I agree! There are lots of stereotypes on the show. Did you ever see the episode in which an Asian woman says, “I didn’t follow in my mother’s footsteps because I didn’t want to be a stereotype” only to drive into a garbage bin a second later? I think the Colombian thing is overdone as well. It frames Gloria as one-dimensional when she’s actually quite complex.

  2. I haven’t seen the episode, but from what it sounds like, Claire is demonstrating responsible gun use and ownership. The fact that she feels like she has to hide it is sort of problematic, but practicing the skill of marksmanship as a way to relieve stress is, in my opinion, probably good for a safe consideration of guns and their proper use. She’s a rational adult who uses guns in a safe, responsible setting because it’s a hobby she enjoys. Guns, as Claire uses them, are not violence.

    If they had less cultural allure, the rhetoric surrounding guns might shift from being something forbidden and sexy to being something that, when used in the right context, are a hobby for those old enough and responsible enough to enjoy it safely. Driving really, really fast might be a decent comparison: Dangerous and illegal on the road, but fine on a race track with the proper training.

  3. Pingback: TV in Review: Modern Family, “Virgin Territory” « polentical

  4. I see this, like most things, as a marketing ploy. They probably have alienated some of their right-leaning viewers with some of the controversial (usually liberal) topics discussed on the show. Although I never think they’ll get the far right to watch Modern Family, they were probably trying to get the middle right-leaning, partly male audience back on board. By showing all different dynamics of family, they try to have everyone be able to relate to, or like, at least one character to get them hooked.

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