Maybe Modern Family Isn’t So Modern After All

By Laura Greenstein | Oct. 27, 2015

ABC-TV is planning to re-air last season’s Halloween episode of Modern Family (“AwesomeLand”) this week on Oct. 28. When the episode was originally aired one year ago, we gave ABC and Modern Family the benefit of the doubt and tried to show them how the images and they used could contribute to people’s misconceptions about mental illness. When NAMI found out that ABC was planning to rerun this episode, we felt that it was in blatant disregard to the many people in the mental health community who voiced their concerns last year. Choosing to show the episode again shows that ABC doesn’t have a problem with the incorrect violent depictions of people with mental illness.

I speak for many of my colleagues when I say we are big fans of Modern Family. So it hurt us even more when we heard the decision to re-air an episode. The depictions of people with mental illness as “deranged mental patients” deters people from finding help and getting treatment. Modern Family is a highly rated and beloved show that often encourages the ideas of inclusivity and understanding. But they seriously dropped the ball on this one. By treating mental illness differently than other topics at a time when so many people are working to make mental health a topic openly discussed, Modern Family shows itself to be very unmodern.

NAMI has issued a press release to news media asking the network to drop the episode. Also, NAMI and NYAPRS, Bazelon, DBSA, APA and MHA sent this letter to ABC President Paul Lee asking them to remove this episode and to air another Halloween themed Modern Family episode in its place. 

For those who have not seen the episode, you can watch last year’s "sneek peek" or the full episode (for a small fee) on Amazon.com, iTunes or Vudu.

Time is of the essence. Here’s what you can—today.

  • Send a copy of the release to the Station Manager and/or News Director of your local ABC station. Ask them to drop the episode and to cover the impact of stigma on the nation’s mental health crisis on Wednesday’s newscasts.
  • Join the Twitter conversation at #unmodernfamily.
  • Post the NAMI press release on Facebook along with the Twitter hashtag: #unmodernfamily.
  • Pass this blog, or the alert, on to your friends and family.
  • Contact ABC and let them know that stigma is real and Modern Family is unmodern in its portrayal of mental illness. Here is a sample letter for you to use: Modern Family should rise above gaining cheap laughs at the expense of 1 in 5 people who live with mental health conditions and their families. This episode reinforces harmful stereotypes and supports the continued stigmatization of mental health around Halloween that has become an outdated and unmodern trend. In the same episode that champions feminism and the guilt felt by being stereotyped, Modern Family doesn’t treat mental illness with the same consideration. Please do not air this episode.
  • Contact your local ABC station and tell them to not air the episode

Some of you may think that we are making a big deal out of nothing, but these images don’t do anything to help people with mental health conditions. They further stereotypes, prevent people from seeking help and keep the discussion of mental health from moving forward.

Comments
Michael Willis
Every member of my family literally suffers over At least 1 disorder, irregularity, disability, whatever u want to call it. In fact most of my bloodline have extremely severe cases if said offsets, or many of lesser aptitude, lets just say it's safe to say my family's pretty crazy/ mentally ill. And for some reason none of us would find a tv show (fictional entertainment) insulting, personal, or anything of the sort. With Maybe the exception of my extremely schizophrenic uncle. But he always thinks the world's trying to puss him off or insult him. So within my realm, people should lighten up! Live life and laugh a little! Not every little thing needs to be hyper-critical. Maybe some people are ashamed of their own offsets, maybe a lot if people are ashamed or resentful of a family member (conscious or subconsciously) But I know my family found the episode quite humorous. :)
5/9/2016 4:53:09 AM

Kayly Newcomer
I've been institutionalized. Twice. I've had ECT. Twice. I've had lifelong mental illness.
And, guess what? I found the episode "funny haha."

It absolutely had no relation to those experiences in real life and probably not for anyone in modern times... I support ending stigma wholeheartedly, but this post is ridiculous...
11/3/2015 8:31:56 PM

Reality Check
Please, this argument could have been relevant about 15 years ago, when murders were just heinous subhumans. These days, one cannot hear about a murder without the mention that he/she "may be suffering from a mental illness...has a history of bipolar disorder...had been depressed for some time." Society and the reporting media always need a "logical" reason for why someone is a murdering hack. This whole phenomenon of labeling murderer with a mental illness (and not the other way around) has done the MOST disservice to those fighting the stigma, not Halloween costumes depicting a straight jacket from 100 years ago. Historically and statistically, murderers may have suffered from a PERSONALITY DISORDER, not a mood disorder. But it is only today, that people assume that all those with mood disorders are violent thanks to the reporting progressive media.
10/29/2015 11:06:49 PM

Joanne Gough
Yes, it is a comedy, however if you or someone you loved had been institutionalized it just doesn't have to be the "funny haha" moment when you're trying to enjoy a show. I certainly accept all their other social issues, and believe in them so they could have been a little more humane. That's something we all need more of...humanity.
10/29/2015 5:48:06 PM

Joanne Gough
I was shocked when I saw the episode air again last night here in Los Angeles. We have come so far as a family of an adult child who suffers each day, and tries to live well and do better. It's sad and insulting. And extremely insensitive. I am over this show now.
10/29/2015 5:43:42 PM

Marie
Unfortunately, we cannot rely on the general population for having appropriate knowledge of mental illness and therefore, in response to Ribs Dixon's comment, I do believe that this episode only furthers the misconception of mentally ill people being a population from which to steer clear. I am not referring to the exaggerated mental institution and the Halloween costumes the actors wore. I am referring specifically to the portrayal of the neighbor's reaction, personalities and intellectual depiction. I wouldn't mind one bit if that part had been edited out, or better yet, not even written.
10/29/2015 4:30:16 PM

Ribs Dixon
It's a comedy show based on fictional situations, no one in their right mind would take it as gospel for how mentally ill people act.
10/27/2015 9:27:31 PM

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