"Unplugged." Modern Family. American Broadcasting Company. ABC, Minneapolis. 27 Oct. 2010. Television.
Modern Family is a comedy television series that airs weekly on ABC. The show centers around three interrelated families stemming from Jay Pritchett and his kids Claire Dunphy and Mitchell Pritchett. Jay has recently married a much younger Latina woman named Gloria and helps parent her son Manny. Jay's daughter Claire is married to Phil Dunphy and they live with their three children Haley, Alex, and Luke. Lastly, Jay's son Mitchell lives with his partner Cameron and their adopted Vietnamese daughter Lily (click here for family tree).
Overview and Summary
Modern Family is considered a mockumentary, in which the cast routinely sit for interviews facing the camera, similar to The Office. Each episode contains three intermediate family subplots, as well as a larger plot that connects all three families at once. The show focuses on several contemporary family topics such as race, sexuality, adoption, sibling rivalries, technology, teen parenting, and romance in a light and humorous fashion.
The episode Unplugged (episode clip), which originally aired on ABC on October 27, 2010, deals directly with cyber-technology. The episode opens on Claire Dunphy fixing breakfast for her kids and husband. When she brings food to the table, she sees all three kids and her husband fixating on their electronic devices: a smart phone, a laptop, a video game and an iPad. She quickly becomes annoyed with the lack of family communication and their obsession with being plugged in. After seeing her youngest, Luke, eat cereal with two hands still latched onto his video game, she plans for a technology intervention.
A one week ban on technology is put in place, and Phil turns this ban into a contest in which he promises Haley a new car, Alex a new computer, and Luke a chicken pot pie. Claire is not amused but agrees to the contest. Luke fails first when he goes to a friend's house to watch YouTube. Next, Alex quits because the Internet ban prevents her from getting an A on her science paper. Claire grows frustrated with her inability to book reservations over the land line phone and gets caught sneaking onto the Internet. To win the contest, Haley outplays her parents and carves a fake phone out of a bar of soap. She intentionally gets “caught in the act” of using her phone and anxiously waits for her dad to go onto the Internet. Once he is online, she announces her trick and victory! The episode ends when Claire and Phil sit Haley down to tell her they won’t buy her a car as promised.
Constantly, the episode references how much technology and the Internet are intertwined with our daily life. During the family meeting, all three kids voice their concerns about their life without technology: Haley’s popularity in school depends on constant texting, Alex’s high priority on her school work is jeopardized without Internet access, and Luke relies on his video games for entertainment.
When Claire suggests the kids use the house phone to arrange activities with their friends, they insist that no one uses house phones anymore, and that neither they nor their friends know the number! Further in the episode, Claire encounters frustration when she can’t arrange family vacation plans without the Internet. When she attempts to do it the old fashioned way and call long distance, she gets nowhere with countless commands to the phone operator. It is a reality check that technology has drastically changed the way we operate, and those who don’t keep up are at a heavy disadvantage.
These concepts found in the episode "Unplugged" are related to the class discussion on our virtual reality inventories , and how much we would demand financially in return for giving up technology. The episode points out that technology has vastly improved our ability to efficiently communicate with others, arrange events, do academic work, and entertain ourselves.
Without this technology, we are placed on a lower playing field than the rest of society. Furthermore, this episode raises important questions about our ability, or lack thereof, to communicate with each other in RL settings like the kitchen table, especially if technology is readily accessible. This is also related to Gurak's chapter titled Think Globally, Eat Locally in which she insists that we take a break from cyberspace every once in a while and enjoy life in the physical world. Furthermore, it is related to Haraway's piece on Cyborg Manifesto , in which she insists that we must recognize our identities as cyborgs in order to understand the unintended consequences of our reliance on technology, such as lack of physical communication and weakening of the family bond.