Today, of course, we need only look at the popular sitcom Modern Family for an indication of just how much the idea of family has changed. That one family, which includes divorcées, immigrants, adopted children, gay couples, and strong women leading their households manages to encapsulate all the ways in which the definition of family has shifted and yet, remarkably, their arrangement is not unbelievable, nor does it stray too far from “traditional” family values. But what Modern Family doesn’t have is anybody who looks anything like a mainstream Republican: it’s difficult to imagine a character resembling Todd Akin, Rick Santorum, or even Mitt Romney appearing as anything other than a bumbling curiosity from an earlier age.
By showing what works for other—albeit, fictional—families, and by not heavy-handedly forcing values onto viewers, these shows both reflect the shift in Americans’ morals, while simultaneously pushing toward greater openness and acceptance of alternative family arrangements. Rather than downplay the role of family as its definition evolves, popular culture has shown us that family is as important as ever—so important, in fact, that people for whom the status of “family” has been denied will do anything to be included within it.