Friday, February 05, 2021

Believe Care Invest: Modern Family

Okay, I’m addicted. I’m doing six a day now! I’ve gone insane.

We meet three branches of the Pritchett family, not realizing that it’s one big family. Phil and Claire are raising Haley, Alex and Luke. Haley has a boy named Dylan coming over, and Luke just shot Alex with a BB gun. Claire orders Phil to shoot Luke. He tries to back out, but ends up accidentally shooting Luke, Dylan and himself. Meanwhile, patriarch Jay has a passionate new wife named Gloria, and they’re raising a boy named Manny together, and have to deal his desire to submit a love poem to an older girl. Finally, Mitchell and his husband Cameron have adopted a baby girl from Vietnam, and Mitchell refuses to tell his family. Cameron invites the family over and they all advice Mitchell against adopting before they realize he already has, but then they’re all very loving to the baby.

Why Claire might be hard to identify with: When her son shoots her daughter with a BB gun, she says that her husband now has to shoot her son. She writes “Shoot Luke” on the calendar.

  • She’s got a compelling ironic backstory: She’s a strict mom because she used to be a bad girl. “I have, uh, seen this little show before: Lying on the bed with a tall senior. One minute you’re just friends, watching ‘Falcon Crest’, and the next you’re lying underneath the air hockey table with your bra in your pocket.”
  • She’s the only one taking charge of the kids. She tells the interviewer “If Haley never wakes up on a beach in Florida, half-naked, I’ve done my job.” Phil says “Our job”. She says, “Right. I’ve done our job.”
  • She’s perceptive about what her daughter’s up to.
  • She has to shoulder twice the responsibility because of her irresponsible husband.
Strength / Flaw: Responsible / Stick in the mud

Why Phil might be hard to identify with: He weakly goes along with the plan to shoot his son. A little racist: he says of his new Vietnamese niece: “Lily, isn’t that going to be hard for her to say?” Won’t let his much-smaller son score in basketball.

  • He’s bursting with personality like a big kid.
  • Not as cool as he thinks he is. “I’m the cool dad, that’s my thang. I’m hip. I surf the web.”
  • Tone deaf: Can’t help smiling even when he’s shooting his son.
  • His self-identity as the the cool dad is threatened: He is expected to shoot his son. “I thought you were my friend!”
  • His daughter is bringing over an older boy, and he tries to climb up the steps to intimidate him, but he slips and throws his back out. The boy must pick him up and set him down on the couch.
  • He accidentally shoots two people and himself.
  • Not really. We love him, but strictly as a lovable buffoon, not as someone whom we would invest any hopes that he would do anything right.
Strength / Flaw: Friendly / Irresponsible

Why Jay might be hard to identify with: Has no patience for his sensitive stepson, and he’s homophobic to his own son: “If Cam comes out here with boobs, I’m leaving.” A little racist: About his Asian granddaughter: “Let me see the little pot sticker.”

  • Believable situation we don’t see much of on screen: Wealthy man with inappropriately young wife.
  • Has to watch another man hit on his wife, then has a hard time getting up to confront him.
  • Has to listen to his wife talk about how much handsomer her previous husband was
  • Mistaken for a mall walker.
  • Loving in his own way towards his stepson. “The only reason I’m hard on Manny is just because I don’t wanna see him make a fool of himself.”
Strength / Flaw: Plainspoken / Homophobic and racist

Why Gloria might be hard to identify with: We’re used to being judgmental to women who seemingly partially married for money.

  • Her broken English is endearing: Stop being a gloomy goose.
  • She’s got a strong personality: She’s passionate.
  • She’s tone-deaf, going on about how much sex she had with her previous husband.
  • She loves her dreamy son unconditionally, but she’s frustrated that he isn’t as committed to soccer as she is.
  • She has to put up with being hit on and people not respecting her husband.
  • She’s a wise and loving mom.
Strength / Flaw: Passionate / inconsiderate of her husband’s feelings

Why Cameron might be hard to identify with: He’s prejudiced: He says they considered a lesbian surrogate, but “then we figured they’re already mean enough, can you imagine one of them pregnant? No thank you. Ick.”

  • Strong personality: When he plays music while announcing his baby, Mitchell says, “Just turn it off”. He says, “I can’t turn it off, it’s who I am.”
  • Husband is judgmental of his weight.
  • His father-in-law insults him. Assuming Mitchell and Cameron have broken up, he tells Mitchell, “He was a bit of a drama queen.”
  • Brave. Only he has the bravery to face Mitchell’s family.
  • His insistence on a sport-guy chest bump is shows that he’s manly in his own way.
Strength / Flaw: Emotional openness and bravery / Drama Queen

Why Mitchell might be hard to identify with: It can be a little off-putting when a character is oversensitive to non-existent slights.

  • Strong personality: Uptight
  • Gives a speech accusing people of prejudice that they weren’t guilty of, then feels awful.
  • Mortified by the mural of him that Cameron has had painted on the wall.
  • Before he can finish announcing that he has a daughter, his family tries to dissuade him: “You’re a little uptight, kids bring chaos, and you don’t handle it well.”
  • Social acuity: He’s figured out that his father always announces before he comes into a room to make sure he never sees Mitchell and Cameron kiss.
  • Concerned for his daughter.
Strength / Flaw: Witty / Judgmental


Shko said...

I don't know if I've commented before or not, but I just want to say THANK YOU. Your blog absolutely rocks and has inspired me to start my own (www.nicwrites.net)

Truly, thank you for all of the information. I use your checklists before starting any writing project.

Question, what tv shows are you enjoying this year? Do you see anything worth specing?

Thanks again for all you do, Matt!!

Matt Bird said...

Glad you're finding it helpful, Shko. All the TV shows I'm watching right now (The Americans, Schitt's Creek, etc.) are already off the air. The big new hits (Bridgerton, Queen's Gambit) are based on books, so they'd be hard to spec, but it's doable.

Neil said...

I've been following your blog for years, and it's the best writing craft resource. Period. Can't wait to purchase the book!