'Modern Family' Deals With Natural Disasters

The Dunphys' middle child stresses about birds falling from the sky and cows dropping dead



This week's episode of Modern Family was all about trying new things. Claire and Phil learn to accept their curmudgeonly neighbor, Jay learns to hang with the gays—including Pepper (played by Nathan Lane, channeling his Birdcage roots)—and Manny learns to eat scrambled eggs. Per usual, after 22 minutes of chaos, the clan resolves its issues. Except one member of the Dunphy crew: brainy middle child, Alex.

Alex doesn't really factor into this week's plot at all. But, the few times she does appear, she's worrying about the odd natural occurrences she has seen on the news. Birds are falling out of the sky; cows are dying. It's not natural. It's freaking her out, and rightfully so—the world is falling apart, after all.

This, of course, is a reference to the series of weird mass animal deaths that happened earlier this year—remember when 5,000 blackbirds fell from the sky one day and 100,000 fish dropped dead the next? It was disconcerting, and Alex is just expressing a normal fear of nature's unexpected wrath.

As we witnessed from the tsunami and earthquake that hit Japan, nature can be scary. And, it just seems to be getting freakier. Alex has a realization that many of us have at one point or another: Forces beyond our control can cause death and destruction.

Alex starts stressing, figuring her worrying will do something. Her parents try to quell what they deem her unnecessary fears: Her mom tells her to ignore the news; her dad tells her there is nothing to worry about. It doesn't help.

With an onslaught of unavoidable natural disasters affecting the world, it's easy to fret: the storm is coming and you can't do anything to stop it. But, all the worrying won't help. While Phil and Claire provide viable alternative's to Alex's tizzy, neither piece of advice soothes their daughter. Perhaps a better tactic, rather than spend her whole life worrying about things she can't control, would be to take a step back, and understand her place in life. As a wise editor once told me: "We're all just a bunch of flotsam floating down the stream of life." Some things are worth the stressing over, but life is short, Alex, enjoy it.

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Rebecca Greenfield is a former staff writer at The Wire.

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