On Modern Family this week, the crew headed to Anaheim to spend a day at the "happiest place on earth"--Disneyland. In between the usual hilarious scenes and witty one-liners, the show focused on family patriarch Jay, who told the camera about an earlier visit to Disneyland that nearly tore his family apart:
Jay explains to the camera with a glass of scotch on his lap that when Mitchell and Claire were kids, he got into a terrible fight with [then-wife] Dede . . . and ended up taking the kids to Disneyland alone. There he had a string of Disney-related epiphanies: His marriage was beginning to resemble the Pirates of the Caribbean ride and he wanted to get off.
But then, he had an epiphany, as he explains:
So my plan was drive Claire and Mitchell home, put them to bed, pour myself a nice tumbler of scotch, and tell Dede [his ex-wife] it was over. Well on the way out we made one last stop.
The stop was in a theater at the park featuring a robot Abraham Lincoln discussing his presidential duty to keep the union together. Quoting from Lincoln's Lyceum Address and his Cooper Union Speech, the robot solemnly declares, "If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. . . And in that faith, let us to the end dare to do our duty as we understand."
The experience had a profound affect on Jay:
I don't know what happened. Maybe it's what robot Lincoln said about a man's duty or keeping the union together. Maybe I just chickened out. But I realized that staying with my kids was more important than leaving my wife. Now, that's not the right decision for everyone. But it was the right decision for me.
If you watch the show, then you know that Jay is a manly man. The epitome of masculinity, in fact. And a good, manly man, he knows, must do his duty: "So I stuck it out until they were grown," he continues--over Gloria's question, yelled from the other room, of whether he wants to join her in the jacuzzi--"and the universe rewarded me." He smiles.
Scenes like these are why I love the show. This segment reconciles an anti-family trend in contemporary America to perennial values, like duty, that today seem outdated. Divorce is a jarring and inescapable part of twenty-first-century American society--it happens too often, no doubt. And we can bemoan that fact all we like, but that probably won't change the reality--not anytime soon, at least--that half of all marriages end in a split. So if you must divorce your spouse, then you should do it after your kids are out of the house, so that the breakup of your marriage won't affect them as permanently or damagingly as it would if they were still children who need mom and dad. Call it Modern Family's modern take on divorce.