Category Archives: Family

‘New fangled mob’ takes a gander down under

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By Michael Burge  

IT’S charming and kind of awkward to be welcoming the cast of America’s ABC comedy Modern Family to our shores, for the production of the next season’s special ‘destination’ episode.

The show has consistently rated highly with Australian viewers and the locally filmed episode is set to either please or offend us.

Will they hit the mark and show us something about ourselves that’s not already apparent from any number of fantastic Australian television families, from The Sullivans to The Moodys?

What exactly is the Modern Family of Australia, the likes of which the Australian episode might include?

Well, for starters, the portrayal of three families with kids would not be representative of Modern Australia.

Modern Family’s trio of multi-generational groupings, including biological, adopted, and step-children, is not the Australian way, according to the Australian Institute of Family Studies.

Only two out of three Australian families had children in the 2011 census, in fact, couples without children made up the dominant chunk of the pie chart, at 37.8 per cent of family units.

A beloved and core element to Modern Family’s make-up is the male same-sex couple (Mitch and Cam). Despite pushing boundaries in the United States for its honest (and to many, not honest enough) portrayal of the realities of same-sex families with children, this is simply not Australia’s reality.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics reveals that Australian same-sex couples with children are overwhelmingly female (a whopping 89 per cent).

Australia is undoubtedly ready for Mitch and Cam adopting daughter Lily on our television screens, but the reality within our communities is a long way behind.

The first legal adoption by a same-sex couple in Australia took place in 2007, in Western Australia, where adoption had been legal for same-sex couples for five years prior. Currently four Australian states and territories allow same-sex couples zero adoption rights.

Racial and cultural diversity is a core principle of Modern Family’s casting. Out of a total of twelve main characters, 33 per cent of the show’s key cast could be defined as racially diverse, including Latin-American and Asian-American representation.

There is simply no mainstream equivalent of this percentage in an Australian television drama or comedy, an issue which continues to plague the industry, while a potential audience of just under one-quarter of all Australians remains barely represented on our small screen.

Modern Family’s Australian episode might not hit the mark culturally on home soil, but it stands to drag Australian television content into the 21st century, as long as a racially diverse, lesbian couple with no children is staying next door.

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