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Michelle Fiordaliso

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Violence on Modern Family?

Posted: 03/ 6/2012 6:05 pm

I love you, Modern Family. I've always been a serial monogamist when it comes to TV shows. In chronologically descending order, my partners have been Six Feet Under, Beverly Hills 90210, Laverne & Shirley and 321 Contact. Modern Family is my current main squeeze -- the only show I watch regularly. I might even venture to say that I've finally found my soulmate -- the perfect balance of smart and funny.

I had my first date with Modern Family in October 2009 on a flight from JFK to LAX. I had such an instant love affair with the show that when I landed I had already decided to introduce it to my then-nine-year-old son. As a single mother, that was a big deal. Prior to seeing the pilot episode I had been reading up on attachment theory and had decided that I needed to find something that my son and I both liked -- something that we could do together. The books said doing that would remedy some of our struggles. Watching Modern Family became that thing. And it worked. We fought less. We laughed more. We had inside jokes. He'd put his hands, claw-like, on an invisible piano and I'd say, "Casablanca."

Alas, as with all relationships, we occasionally get disappointed. That's okay. Relationships, like we see episode after episode on the show, are a series of ruptures and repairs. But then, after we've been with someone for a while (almost three seasons in this case), sometimes we see unacceptable patterns emerging and we have to speak up before we're left with only one option: a breakup.

Modern Family, I must tell you that the violence from women towards men that's become customary in Season 3 isn't funny. I get that we grew up on this. I get that it's been the sitcom way. Women nag. Criticize. Belittle. And, yes, sometimes beat our men on TV. But you've evolved beyond that, haven't you? What makes you brilliant and innovative is the fact that you resuscitated and reinvented one of America's favorite forms of entertainment: the primetime network sitcom. As a writer I appreciate this (after Modern Family many more scripted shows got picked up). And as a mother, I really appreciate this. You got families off their individual viewing devices and brought them back into the living room where they laughed. And cried. Together. And when you get people laughing, they learn. From you, we've learned about family and humanity, acceptance, imperfection, growing up and growing closer. You've sent so many important messages. Please don't send this archaic one, one that says it's acceptable, funny even, for women to be violent towards men.

In this past week's episode, Gloria slugged the captain of the boat Mitch hired out. His crime? Calling Jay "Grandpa." Earlier in the season, when Cam and Mitchell were given the wrong Prius at a valet, they decided that they'd deliver it to the home of its rightful owner. When they arrived they were greeted not by the owner but by his scorned wife, who began to beat the car with a baseball bat. When Mitch and Cam drove away they encountered the husband who said, "I see you've met my wife." Cue canned laughter. And Claire and Gloria have both hit their husbands in response to what they considered unacceptable behavior. Consider if these acts of aggression were perpetrated against the women or children on the show or even against Stella, the Pritchett's dog. Would we accept it, laugh at it? Probably not. But men are supposed to be able to take it. Hitting, shoving, or punching men isn't acceptable. Just like it isn't acceptable for them to treat us that way. Period.

Are women angry at men? At times, yes. And for some good reasons. We earn less than them. We're often left with the responsibility of children with too little or no child support at all. We're objectified by men, causing us to enter into patterns of self-destruction. Just look at Angelina Jolie at the Oscars. A headline in The Onion might've read "Angelina's Lip Officially Weighs More Than Her Leg." Everyone on Facebook was guessing what her leg was trying to say. How about, "Gosh, I've fed all these hungry kids, doesn't anyone see that I'm starving?" So, are we angry? Without a doubt. But violence isn't the answer.

And can women's behavior be confusing at times? Absolutely. But we're amazingly complex creatures. We're the only gender that grows an organ after we're born: the placenta. A miraculous, complex system that allows us to have a different blood type than the children we carry. It takes the food we eat, transforms it into something a fetus can digest, and delivers it through a feeding tube called the umbilical cord. We make milk. We multitask. And if you liked The Davinci Code, you might even believe that women, when respected and cherished, can be a portal to the divine.

So yes, women's behavior can be confusing and it deserves to be poked fun at. Modern Family, you did this perfectly in this past week's episode in the way you depicted a house full of menstruating females. But as you see in the scene by the dock, we just want to be understood. And we're so grateful when we are understood by men. If you truly understand women then you know that confusing is one thing but that when intensity becomes violence it's not characteristic of being female; it's no longer passionate, it's actually pathological.

I beg you, Modern Family, please stop the hitting. I bet any man who's getting hit at home doesn't find it funny. And yet, if they speak up about it, they're told to shut up and man up. I also think it sends the wrong message to women about appropriate ways to express our anger and frustration, even when that anger is justified. I want my son to grow up in a world where he 'gets' women's complexities but doesn't come to believe that crazy, abusive behavior is a normal part of being female. So normal that he must tolerate and even accept it. Millions are tuning in. And with power comes responsibility. I love you Modern Family but I need you to stop with the violence. My son is watching. The violence isn't funny. And quite frankly, other sitcoms needed that kind of humor to get by but you're better than that.