“The New Normal” Indicates a New Trend in On-Screen Families


Normal has a subjective definition. It can be created, erased, forgotten or refurbished into something that was once foreign. According to Ryan Murphy’s new NBC comedy series “The New Normal,” the definition of what is normal targets a childless homosexual couple in quest of their only missing component, and it’s only one of many shows to be following that trend.

The realities of contemporary life are redefining the concept of family, and for Bryan Collins and David Murray, a happy and successful Los Angeles couple, the choice to take part in this birthed concept has landed them into a desired situation: parenthood.

The pilot begins with Bryan filming a video to his future child, telling him that its purpose is to inform the infant “how desperately you were wanted.”

Aside from briefly referenced obstacles for a homosexual couple, Bryan’s video is what any parent would want to say to their soon-to-be offspring— regardless of how and by whom the child was conceived.

However, Murphy isn’t ignorant to the concerns and questions raised by those who doubt the stability of raising a child in a non-traditional environment. A friend of the couple asks the inevitable, “Do you really think it’s a good idea to bring a kid into the world in such a nontraditional family?”

Displayed in a carefully crafted playground sequence, Murphy utilizes a variety of different types of families to instill the idea that the nuclear family has been climatically expanded.

Here, the answer to the question is stated through up close and personal stories of the different men and women at the playground, each describing their individual circumstances of relationships, marriages and how their children came to be. After meeting a seemingly unstable heterosexual couple and an elderly divorced grandmother, these sequences can be reduced to find Bryan’s answer to whether or not a child for him and David is a good idea: “Abnormal is the new normal.”

As both men search for a mother for their child via surrogate, they find Goldie Clemmons, a single mother and waitress who moves to LA in search of a better life (and an escape from her overbearing anti-gay “Nana”) with her eight-year-old daughter Shania. She wins the couple over with one simple declaration: “A family is family, and love is love.”

Moreover, while the series does foreshadow an emerging norm, Bryan and David remain a symbol of traditionalism as two typical and loving parents. The compatible relationship between both characters allows the show to combine the modern union of homosexual couples and the customary installment of parental partnership as a “twosome.” The couple’s combination possesses such a puritanical nature that Murphy’s balance of what is new and what is old almost seems more old-fashioned in style. Playing upon the idea that opposites attract, Bryan is a nurturing and carefree shopaholic while David, the rationalist, would rather be watching football. But their relationship encompasses everything that a couple would want their partnership to have: stability, dependence, comfort and above all, love in its most genuine form.

In fact, Murphy’s new series is actually just an addition to a building line of new-generation television. Following the lead of Christopher Lloyd and Stephen Levitan’s “mockumentary,” “The New Normal” feeds off of the glorified dysfunction of “Modern Family” and its many households: the Pritchett’s, the Tucker’s, the Delgado’s, and the Dunphy’s.

Through raw, comedic and seemingly unedited one-on-one camera confessionals, the intertwined personal lives of the families unfold to address more hard-hitting questions than viewers may assume, with an honesty that real modern families most likely envy. The show includes marriage to an immigrant, unplanned pregnancies and the homosexual relationship between Mitchell and Cameron (alongside their adopted Vietnamese daughter Lily) to highlight the successful combination of complete, incomplete and confusing relationships into one big happy family–at times making “Arrested Development’s” widowed single father Michael Bluth seem as though he has it all under control.

To an unidentified cameraperson, “Modern Family” makes a point to affirm that what really constitutes as a family is changing through moments of honesty that would otherwise go unseen off camera, making the audience ask questions like “What constitutes as being daddy-like?” and “How much of a ‘mom’ is she?” and most importantly “Who plays which parental ‘role?’” to which the answer seems obvious: It doesn’t matter.

Alongside their heavy socio-political message, this new generation of television relays the notion that what we view as being “ideal” may not apply to everyone else. What can be possible, however, is a pair of loving parents, or possibly, even a single loving parent. The “ideal” family is an individual belief— and it is one that we all have the power to make a reality.