Jungian Archetypes in Modern Family

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Jungian Archetypes in Modern Family

Post  TessFurlong on Thu Jan 27, 2011 12:14 pm

Modern Family is a show that follows 3 different families, all related to each other, in the style of a documentary. The show mainly focuses on three characters, Jay Pritchett, his daughter Claire Dunphy, and Mitchell Pritchett. Jay is married to a younger Columbian woman named Gloria, and he also helps Gloria raise her tween son Manny. The next family is Claire and her husband, Phil Dunphy’s family. Claire and Phil have three children, Hailey, Alex and Luke. The last family that the show follows are Mitchell, his partner Cam and their adopted baby daughter Lily.

There are three different kinds of Jungian archetypes, and all three can be applied to Modern Family. A couple ways that one can apply situational archetypes to Modern Family is by almost applying them to certain characters or the relationships the characters have to the other characters. Another way to apply a situational archetype to the show is to apply it to the overall situation in a certain episode.

The main situational archetype that I saw was applied to an episode that the general idea was strung out over two episodes. In the episodes Airport 2010 and Hawaii, the entire cast travels to Hawaii for Jay’s birthday. I believe that the best situational archetype that applies to these two episodes is The Journey. The reason that I believe that this archetype fits with these two episodes is because the entire family goes on the vacation together and throughout the plane ride to Hawaii and being in Hawaii, the entire cast finds things out either about themselves or about other people in the family. An example of this is that throughout the vacation in Hawaii, Mitchell keeps dragging Cam to a lot of sightseeing tours, thinking that Cam is having the same amount of fun that Mitchell is having. It is revealed later on in the episode that Cam actually hates all the sightseeing but just went along with it because it made Mitchell happy. I think that this is the perfect example of this because throughout the episode Mitchell figures out that because of who he is, Cam pretended to be something that he wasn’t so that Mitchell would be happy.

There are a couple of character archetypes that I applied to Modern Family. The first one that I applied is the archetype of the outcast, and I applied it to Mitchell. Mitchell is in some ways the outcast because he is not accepted by his dad or in some ways society for being gay. This is exhibited throughout the entire series because his dad keeps making jokes about Mitchell being gay. An example of this is in the episode “Not in my House”, when Mitchell goes over to his dad’s house to pick up Manny for a puppet show. Mitchell starts to talk about a problem that Mitchell is having with Cam, and his dad asks the question “What, is there trouble in gay paradise?” and Mitchell asks him if he always needs to put the word gay in where it doesn’t belong. This shows that Jay constantly makes subtle little jabs about the fact that Mitchell is gay and that he is still not 100% fine with it. Another example of this is in the pilot when Mitchell says that Jay still knocks every time he walks into a room to make sure that Cam and Mitchell aren’t kissing or anything for him to walk into.

Another character archetype that is only portrayed in one episode is the temptress. She is portrayed by a new single mom, named Desiree who has a son that goes to school with Luke. We meet her in the episode “Bike Thief” when Phil, Claire and Luke are out for a bike ride. The point of this plot line in this episode is that Phil decides to teach Luke a lesson with leaving the bike unattended and also to prove Claire wrong, because she stated that she didn’t think Luke couldn’t keep a new bike. At one point in the episode Phil runs into Desiree who has locked herself out of her house. Phil goes into help her break into her house through her bedroom window, leaving the bike on the sidewalk. When he comes back outside, the bike is gone. At that point, Desiree comes down the driveway with the bike that Phil had when he ran into her. Phil said that it wasn’t his bike, and Desiree said that one of her neighbours had put it in her garage while Phil was in her bedroom. This example makes Desiree the temptress because she is very attractive and at the end the episode, causes Phil’s downfall in front of Claire by admitting that Phil had been in her bedroom but not explaining what the situation was.

The main symbolic archetype that applies to Modern Family is the idea of functionality versus dysfunctionality. In the series of the show there is constantly a pull within the different families. In the family of Claire and Phil, Claire is always the one to try and get things very organized and gets everything to follow a schedule or a plan. The polar opposite of that is her husband Phil who just does things that he believes would be entertaining or hilarious, and he does them whenever he wants. This archetype also shows in the relationship between Mitchell and Cam. Mitchell is a lawyer so he constantly wants everything to be precise, much like Claire, whereas Cam is a drama queen and wants all the attention to be on him. Mitchell and Claire are constantly trying to restore order in their house but it gets disrupted by their partners and/ or their families. Sometimes in the episodes Claire and Mitchell learn to just cope with the fact that not everything can be planned and sometimes life changes things, and one needs to just learn to go with the flow.

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Post  SarahCrawley on Fri Jan 28, 2011 10:22 pm

I hadn’t actually thought of Mitchell as the outcast right away; it was interesting to notice that archetype. The symbolic archetype discussed was also interesting, because I can imagine that sitcoms are hard to find such archetypes for, as they don’t use many symbolic visual cues, like extreme light and dark or heaven and hell.
Another character archetype that I found in Modern Family was the star-crossed lovers. Specifically shown in the episode “The Incident”, Haley and Dylan are engaged in a love affair that does not end well, due to Haley’s family’s disapproval. Throughout the episode, Haley tries to prove that Dylan is worthy of the family’s trust, so that she can go with him to a concert. She is critical of her parents, especially her mother, and feels as though her relationship is being misunderstood. There is a consistent struggle between Haley and her parents over the issue. Claire attempts to give the star-crossed lovers a chance, by inviting Dylan over for dinner so that she can get to know him. One predicts though, correctly, that he will not gain her approval. For there are obstacle blocking this relationship on both sides; to some extent it is the judgmental nature of Haley’s parents, yet it is also due to the element of truth in their presumptions about Dylan. The couple’s love does not end tragically, but it is certainly met with distrust and restriction, and in the end, Haley is not allowed to attend the concert.

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Re: Jungian Archetypes in Modern Family

Post  sashaoriordan on Sun Jan 30, 2011 10:51 am

Great Analysis of Modern Family! I never thought of Mitchell as the outcast, but it really works. I would just like to add that Claire Dunphy could be fit into the archetype of a mentor. She is always trying to advise her kids to do the right thing, as she was a wild child in her younger years. She also acts as a mentor for Cam and Mitchell as they have a new born baby, Lily. Claire gives them advice on child rearing.

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Re: Jungian Archetypes in Modern Family

Post  ElyciaSFA on Sun Jan 30, 2011 5:09 pm


Another situational archetype that fits into the "Bike Theif" episode is The Initiation. Claire doesn't think that Luke is responsible enough for a new bike and that he doesn't deserve a new one. Phil on the other hadnt, disagrees with her, and buys Luke a new bike, believing that he is old enough, and mature enough for one. Then there is a whole complicated sequence in which Phil finds a bike just like Luke's outside a store, unattended and he takes it, wanting to teach Luke a lesson when in the end, Luke has the bike at home in the garage the whole time. Luke has completed the Initiation.

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Re: Jungian Archetypes in Modern Family

Post  JamesNaunton on Wed Feb 02, 2011 5:30 pm

I really like this analysis, I never would have considered doing Modern Family for this type of project, but each point you make is solid and fits in with the archetypes. Another character I would have put in the Outcast archetype is Cam. Cam is both gay and is not blood related to Jay. This means that as well as being outcasted at times from society in general, Jay would feel uncomfortable around Cam as well.

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Post  Mr. C on Sun Feb 06, 2011 11:28 am

Tess - nice work here. I particularly liked the symbolic analysis. The archetypes that I covered in class are only an introduction to Jung. The trick is to extend one's concept of the theory. TV family sitcoms would usually centre around the symbolic polarity of functional vs dysfunctional. For the situational analysis of the journey, you made some good connections, however, make sure to point out or quote a section from the notes and apply it to the episodes.

For everyone else - great additions. I think another character archetype might be Manny (Gloria's son) as the Hopeless Romantic. Again, this was not in the notes, but clearly this seems to be a character archetype in literature - probably his predecessor is none other than Don Quixote.
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