"[S]tories really can change our views. As the psychologist Raymond Mar writes, ‘Researchers have repeatedly found that reader attitudes shift to become more congruent with the ideas expressed in a [fictional] narrative.’ For example, studies reliably show that when we watch a TV show that treats gay families nonjudgmentally (say, ‘Modern Family’), our own views on homosexuality are likely to move in the same nonjudgmental direction. History, too, reveals fiction’s ability to change our values at the societal level, for better and worse. For example, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’ helped bring about the Civil War by convincing huge numbers of Americans that blacks are people, and that enslaving them is a mortal sin. On the other hand, the 1915 film ‘The Birth of a Nation’ inflamed racist sentiments and helped resurrect an all but defunct KKK.

So those who are concerned about the messages in fiction — whether they are conservative or progressive — have a point. Fiction is dangerous because it has the power to modify the principles of individuals and whole societies.”

— Jonathan Gottschall, Why fiction is good for you, The Boston Globe


MITCHELL: Can people change? I don’t know. People are who they are—give or take… fifteen percent. That’s how much people can change, if they really want to. Whether it’s for themselves or for the people they love. Yeah, at fifteen percent. But you know what? Sometimes, that’s just enough.

— Steven Levitan, “Fifteen Percent” (Season 1, Episode 13), Modern Family


CLAIRE: Sometimes I just think my job is to make sure you guys don’t fall on your faces.

PHIL: That’s a hard job in the Dunphy house. We fall a lot.

CLAIRE: I know!

PHIL: Maybe your real job is to be the person who picks us back up. Nobody does that better than you.

— Danny Zuker, “Strangers on a Treadmill” (Season 2, Episode 4), Modern Family


CAMERON: There are dreamers and there are realists in this world. You’d think the dreamers would find the dreamers and the realists would find the realists, but more often than not, the opposite is true. […] You see, the dreamers need the realists to keep them from soaring too close to the sun. And the realists? Well, without the dreamers, they might not ever get off the ground.

— Ben Karlin, “Punkin Chunkin” (Season 3, Episode 9), Modern Family


MITCHELL: People can surprise you. You get used to thinking of them one way—stuck in their roles, they are what they are—and then they do something that shows you there’s all this depth and dimension that you never knew existed.

— Steven Levitan and Jeffrey Richman, “Boys’ Night” (Season 2, Episode 18), Modern Family