Interview- The Simpsons and Modern Family

For assessment 2, my group and I are looking to see if there has been a change in the representation of families in comedic television. We are looking at The Simpsons (pre 2000) and Modern Family. We figured that comparing similar comedic family based televisions shows from different decades would allow us to find out whether our hypothesis is true. Initially, we struggled to really define what our research topic was. We found just investigating family roles and their representations was too broad of a question to look into. Still in the process of constructing our survey, I interviewed my brother as a trial run to test out our questions.

The majority of our questions are close-ended questions as we feel as though open-ended questions are best suited for our focus group.

  1. Are you familiar with The Simpsons (pre 2000) and Modern Family?

Yes to both.

  1. In a few words describe the role each of the family members play in each show.

Homer: Idiot

Marge: Housewife

Bart: Rebel

Lisa: Nerd

Maggie: Fill in

Phil: Supporting role, father figure (anchor role)

Claire: Ties all of the family in

Hayley: Popular

Alex: Nerd/goody two shoes

Luke: Innocence

  1. Do you see any similarities between any of the characters in The Simpsons and Modern Family?

There are similarities but not the same extent. Homer and Phil are both the funny/dumb dads who provide you with laughs but because The Simpsons is a cartoon it’s easier for Homer to do more dangerous and dumb things. The children play the same roles though. Bart and Hayley are similar as they are both rebellious and don’t care too much for school, Lisa and Hayley and both good kids who are very focused on grades and Maggie and Luke both provide and extra little part to the story but play no big roles.

  1. Do you think Modern Family portrays social norms in today’s society?

I think it does. It shows a wider variety of family scenarios that I believe are more accepted today that they were pre 2000 in The Simpsons. For example, Modern Family has a gay couple that has an adopted Asian baby. This is definitely more accepted in this day and age. Also there are no large stereotypes such as gays being immaculately groomed and extremely fit or that gays are overly flamboyant which is something The Simpsons does show. Also, the family structure of Jay, Gloria and Manny is something quite new and acceptable nowadays. Jay is much older than Gloria and Gloria is a beautiful Latino who is divorced with one child. Mixed-race families are something that I never saw in The Simpsons.

These questions are really just a basis of our survey. We do have other questions as well but are too long to fit into this short post. This purpose of this test was to figure out whether any of my questions should be worded differently as other people may interpret them other ways or find it difficult to answer question 2 for example in just one word.

Critique of a Text- Does Facebook Makes Us Unhappy?


After searching far and wide on the Internet for a text to critique, I came across something quite fitting to not only my generation but also the course for BCM210. The article I found details differing views on whether Facebook makes us unhappy.

Maria Konnikova from The New Yorker writes the piece How Facebook Makes us Unhappy. Originally, I was quite reluctant on the validity of this article considering it was published by a large news corporation in the US therefore questioned its integrity but was quite surprised by the use of academics throughout the piece. At the bottom of the article it notes that Konnikova has written a bestselling book and also has a Ph.D in Psychology from Columbia. This makes the reader trust what the writer has to say. Konnikova gets her information from psychologist Ethan Kross at the University of Michigan, which from the starts makes her work become instantly credible. She even states how the research process took place.

“Over two weeks, Kross and his colleagues sent text messages to eighty-two Ann Arbor residents five times per day. The researchers wanted to know a few things: how their subjects felt overall, how worried and lonely they were, how much they had used Facebook, and how often they had had direct interaction with others since the previous text message.

By adding such information to the article, Konnikova is creating a research project of her own. She first has come up with a research question and has gathered data. Using the studies she has looked at, she has taken out the hard work of conducting her own primary methodologies. In Kross’ studies, he has asked many qualitative questions to his participants, rather than qualitative. Not only has Konnikova used Kross’ studies to backup her article but has also used many other academics to back up Kross’ conclusion, that Facebook makes people feel unhappy. Again, this enhances the validity of the article.

The view of the article then changes to the opposite viewpoint, which is that Facebook makes us happier. Like the opposing view, Konnikova uses multiple academic works to support this side of the argument, which again creates a stronger argument. In this argument, she doesn’t specifically show the questions the academics were looking at but instead details one of the experiments and its findings.

“As study participants interacted with the site, four electrodes attached to the areas just above their eyebrows and just below their eyes recorded their facial expressions in a procedure known as facial electromyography. When the subjects were actively engaged with Facebook, their physiological response measured a significant uptick in happiness. When they were passively browsing, however, the positive effect disappeared”.

 Personally, I think that this article shows great knowledge in media research. It has many valid academics to make the article a credible piece.

Why Is Ethics in Research Important?

I can use this photo without copyright because it's legal. From
I can use this photo without copyright because it’s legal. From

When I think of ethics, I think of morals, what is right and wrong. We are brought up to think that way since birth. There are differences though when talking about ethics in research. I would be pretty upset and violated knowing that someone may have stolen my data, information or images without my permission. There have been cases where this had happened via social media websites for example Facebook’s incident in 2012 where they used over 600,000 users information to conduct an experiment on emotional contagion, without the users knowledge (Romana, 2014).

Niranjala Weerakkody (2008), Media and Communications Academic, describes in her book the reasons for ethics in research studies and the importance of ethics clearances. Weerakkody states:

“Ethics clearance guarantees that a formal committee has reviewed your research design and data collection methods have made sure the proposed research project falls within current legal and administrative requirements and guidelines. It tries to eliminate any potential harm that may be caused to your research subjects during or after their participation in the project and addresses issues such as of informed consent, privacy, confidentiality, no harm to subjects and anonymity. Ethics guidelines also reduce the chances of individual researches or their employers facing future legal action related to the treatment of research participants or the conduct of the project and helps protect the organisations reputation”.

Without ethics in place in research, there would be many issues with not only the participants but also the conductors of the project. As Weerakkody stated, confidentiality and consent are main issues that need to be looked at when conducting research. If these guidelines aren’t followed, it can result in major legal issues.

An example of something I find totally unethical is Instagram. Have you ever read the terms and conditions of Instagram? Basically, Instagram or any other third-party can use your own photographs, which you have posted on your account, without consent. This means your image could be posted in a magazine, on TV or on a website and you have no control over it, let alone get paid for it. Imagine what this would mean for celebrities in particular. Although they are already famous, I find it so wrong that gossip magazines can take images off Instagram accounts and plaster them all over the front page. Usually they would be paid thousands of dollars for their image to be put in a magazine but publishers get it for free. If you wanted to take the issue further, you have to pay your own legal fees, as Instagram has nothing to do with it. It does make me wonder though, why don’t celebrities just delete Instagram if it’s such an issue. Either way, it is completely wrong!

Having ethics in place as a legal obligation for many researchers is great. It protects all parties involved and there is always an outline to look back at if there are any disputes. It protects peoples moral rights and obligations which makes those participants feel secure.


Weerakkody, Niranjala Damayanthi 2008, ‘Research ethics in media and communication’, in Research methods for media and communications, Oxford University Press Australia and New Zealand, South Melbourne, Vic., pp. 73-91

Romana, Julia Jasmine Madrazo-Sta 2014, the legal and ethical issues behind Facebook’s massive psychological experiment, GMA News Online, viewed on 29th March 2015,

Mythbusters Analysis

Research projects can be fun, which is kind of crazy to believe. They can come in the form of reality television e.g. Heston’s Feasts. There is something quite exciting about science research projects especially when they involve crazy experiments.

Mythbusters is another experimental research show. Each episode of the show is based on experiments about old myths hence the name. They try to test the myth and see if it’s true or false. The format of the show follows a quite basic research process each and every episode. Initially they start with a hypothesis, conduct some research and/or experiments and finally come to a conclusion. The episode I looked at was called “Penny Drop”. In this episode the Mythbusters tried to bust the age-old question of “if a penny drops from the top of the Empire State will it kill someone?” This is a hypothesis and theory that will be researched and tested. Preceding this hypothesis, an experiment takes place trying to prove the theory. This is a part of their methodology. Once the results are synthesised and carefully the evaluated, the boys can come to a final conclusion and their conclusion turned out to be that the “penny drop” statement is false and will not cause harm.

Next, I will go through the tutorial questions from our study of Heston’s Feast and put them into the context of Mythbusters. Firstly, as previously stated it is a research project and the elements to define this is the shows use of a research project process including a hypothesis, experiment and conclusion. The shows hosts, Adam and Jamie, are both special effects experts. They have worked on major Hollywood movies such as Star Wars and The Matrix. Whilst the hosts are experts in the special effects field, they are not qualified scientists. This makes me question the validity of the experiments and the credibility of the data. But next is where this can be justified. Edward and Melissa Burkley, psychologist academics at Oklahoma State University, conducted a research project (2009) into Mythbusters as a tool for teaching research methods in psychology. They showed 4 episodes of Mythbusters to young students. They found that in viewing the show, the students learnt more and were more enthused about the class and research.

“They found the clips to be an effective teaching aid that helped them understand the course material better. Students also indicated that the Mythbusters clips helped them apply course concepts to actual research studies. Furthermore, students found the clips to be enjoyable and highly recommended their use in our future research methods courses” (Burkley 2009)

This shows that possibly the intention of the show is for educational purposes and not to be critiqued by scientists. The show provides educational fun although may not be scientifically accurate. I must admit I find it is a better show for younger children to watch rather than watching something like Home and Away. This approach gives the show more commercial reach in its viewers, as it is not too difficult to understand.

Mythbusters is a perfect example of a media research show and can be easily dissected to show its individual research processes.


Berkley, E & M 2009, ‘Mythbusters: A Tool for Teaching Research Methods in Psychology’, Teaching of Psychology, vol. 36, no. 3, pp. 179-184.

Mythbusters “Penny Drop” October 17th 2003, YouTube, Beyond Productions PTY LTD for the Discovery Channel, San Fransisco CA, executive producer Peter Rees

What is Media Research?


Initially I found the question “what is media research?” to be quite straightforward. Originally I thought it was just that, researching media. I also found the question to not be just vague but quite ambiguous in a sense that it could be interpreted in many different ways. After searching through readings and online articles I found it to be more than just that.

Berger (2014) exclaims that we are ALWAYS researching even if we don’t realise it. Ever wanted to buy a new car? I bet you did some research on what was the best. Ever needed to buy a new phone? I’m sure you searched to find out what suited your needs. This is all research but we may not recognise it. There is though the difference between every day research and scholarly research. Berger (2014) describes scholarly research as being “more systematic, more objective, more careful and more concerned about correctness and truthfulness”. There is an extensive process to scholarly research and the process goes as follows (McCutcheon, 2015):

  1. Observation
  2. Data gathering
  3. Theory
  4. Hypothesis
  5. Further data gathering
  6. Data analysis
  7. Deduction

When talking in terms of media research, this category encompasses numerous subjects, as the field is extraordinarily wide and multidisciplinary (McCutcheon, 2015). These subjects range from hip-hop to art film to reality TV to comics. Media research is usually looked at in terms of qualitative and quantitative data. Qualitative data is data that can’t be measured. It looks at aspects of texts including its properties, degree of excellence and distinguishing characteristics (Berger, 2014). Quantitative on the other hand looks at numbers and measurements although this type of research can be narrow, as many literary texts cannot be counted.

The media topic I am most interested in is music. Music is something I am passionate about and therefore find interesting to research. I think this could be a great media outlet to talk about and research as there are many websites dedicated to music knowledge, reviews and news. Music articles are great to look at in terms of researching qualitative and quantitative data e.g. one may count the success of an album to be in its album sales (quantitative) or one may count the albums success to be through its lyrics and sound (qualitative). Another topic that I would be interested in looking at is documentaries such as those from Louis Theroux. These short documentaries show clear evidence of primary research and generally have the layout of how the research process takes place, starting with a hypothesis and coming to a conclusion. Other TV shows such as Myth busters would be a great to look at. It shows a great deal of research throughout and there is also the clear presence of the research process, alike to Theroux’s documentaries.

Who knows, I may change my mind on what I find interesting to research. But for now, wish me luck.


Berger, A 2014, ‘What is research?’, Media and communication research methods : an introduction to qualitative and quantitative approaches, 3rd ed., SAGE, Los Angeles, pp. 13-32.

McCutcheon, M 2015, ‘Lecture 2: What is media research?’ PowerPoint slides, BCM210, University of Wollongong, 11th March 2015