Modern Family teaches how to be a gold digger
Modern Family is a great show for girls on spring break. It might be a stereotype that we have come to accept in society, that of the older affluent gentleman and his considerably hotter, younger bride. On the surface we buy into it because we are taught to and by now it’s become ingrained in popular culture, but then again, why do we buy into it and shouldn’t we be bothered by what this mandates for male-female relationships?
Take ABC’s “Modern Family,” a popular show which lampoons nontraditional families living together in traditional settings.
The show consists of two gay men with an adopted daughter, an interracial couple whose members are both on their second marriages among other family members. It’s a notion we can agree mirrors what often happens in modern-daily life, but there’s also the third, less talked about dynamic to the unorthodox nature of “Modern Family”‘s characters that tells volumes about the way we understand relationships between males and females.
The relationship is that of Jay and Gloria, he the older, white, affluent husband and she the feisty, much younger and hotter Colombian. What’s implied but rarely mentioned in the script that is helping shape expectations and appreciation of modern love is that an older man can always leverage money or power or fame to satisfy his lust with a young, hot, opportunistic bride.
The Atlantic Wire observed in a recent write-up examining the way the show actually represents nontraditional family settings, albeit in traditional molds:
“So Modern Family’s depiction of Jay and Gloria’s relationship as loving and mutually affectionate feels new. Their demographic profile is familiar, but the no-big-deal sympathy with which it is treated isn’t. And yet, there’s something that has started to bother critics about Modern Family over the years: a sneaking sense that the show isn’t so “modern” after all, that it takes a diverse set of non-traditional couples and puts them in traditional molds. That’s revolutionary in its way, but also limiting: Emphasizing that their marriage is “normal” can err toward overlooking what might make their marriage challenging. Only occasionally does the show probe Jay and Gloria’s age gap. Gloria learns that Jay’s daughter Claire once called her a gold-digger, for instance. But these conflicts resolve themselves by episode’s end.”
But unfortunately, the conflicts of such age gaps are ongoing in the real world.
Take noted feminist (some would say) Hugo Schwyzer’s recent essay for the Atlantic Wire, in which he examines what would happen if men stopped chasing younger women:
“If there’s one tangible thing that men can do to help end sexism—and create a healthier culture in which young people come of age—it’s to stop chasing after women young enough to be their biological daughters. As hyperbolic as it may sound, there are few more powerful actions that men can take to transform the culture than to date, mate, and stay with their approximate chronological peers. If aging guys would commit to doing this, everyone would benefit: older men and younger men, older women and younger women.”
But why then don’t we as men date women our own age as we get older, instead of seeking younger women and by extension reinforcing sexism and female inertia, which leads to many females dreading life past the age of 35 and rushing for the nearest plastic surgeon? Is that to say women are only valuable as long as they are young and beautiful? And conversely, does that imply women only see men as valuable and accommodating as long as they have power and status?
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So whilst men are forever presented the opportunity to date only younger women, women on the other hand are told once they get past a certain age that’s it. Life is coming to a close. As an older women she is relegated to the sidelines, made into a matriarchal figure and robbed of any chance of displaying sensuality and sexuality on screen, save for the occasional Hollywood starlet such as Demi Moore who never seems to age. Of course she too is playing into the dogma by making sure she stays as hot as possible at all costs so she too can get hers.
In exploring whether evolutionary science mirrors older men co-habitating with significantly younger women, Schwyzer goes on to point out the following:
“Research on age disparate relationships does find a biological case for older men choosing slightly younger women; a 2007 study of 11,000 Swedes found that the most fecund men were those with partners six years younger than themselves. The strategic reproductive benefit of choosing a younger woman diminished as the age gap widened. According to the science, Depp was better matched with Paradis (nine years his junior) than with the new girlfriend.”
In other words, if evolutionary science is a guide, the optimal age difference between men and women ought to be six to nine years, but so often it is beyond this. But why? And why does popular culture mandate it?
Schwyzer also reflects:
“It’s hard not to conclude that much of the appeal is about the hope of finding someone less demanding. A man in his 40s who wants to date women in their 20s is making the same calculation as the man who pursues a “mail-order bride” from a country with less egalitarian values. It’s about the mistaken assumption that younger women will be more malleable. Men who chase younger women aren’t eroticizing firmer flesh as much as they are a pre-feminist fantasy of a partner who is endlessly starry-eyed and appreciative. The dead giveaway comes when you ask middle-aged men why they prefer to date younger; almost invariably, you’ll hear complaints that their female peers are too entitled, too embittered, too feminist.”
Are you shocked, saddened, surprised, or did you suspect as much?
Whatever happened to choosing a partner who can complement us men rather than choosing women who we show off out on the town like ponies? Is a younger woman really able to share and understand an older man’s tribulations and comfort him? She might look the part, but why are so many older men discarding women their age who could better help them grow? Why are they instead choosing younger women who by design and by life experience are not set up to properly deal with a more mature man’s nuances, demands, needs, and need to be seen for who they really are?