When Lice Happens in the Modern Family

I’m always up for a bit of comic relief when it comes to head lice, a welcome addition to the “calm-ick relief” which I practice here at Lice Happens.  Anyone who can make people laugh about lice is ok by me.  (I also like jokes about unmentionable bodily functions, but that can be our little secret.)

This is why I am so delighted that a recent episode of “Modern Family” (#515, in case you are interested) featured head lice, and the ways in which each character reacts to the news, tries to avoid contracting them, and in one scene, ultimately uses them as a weapon of revenge.  Predictably, the laughs are generated by behavior that is based on misconceptions, because it wouldn’t be funny if they calmly went about the business of taking care of the lice without first freaking out completely.

[Program Notes: If you haven’t seen “Modern Family,” Cameron and Mitchell are the gay fathers of little Lily.  Claire is Lily’s aunt and Mitchell’s sister.  Phil is Lily’s uncle and Claire’s husband.  Gil is Phil’s nemesis. Got that?  Good.]

Here’s the story line:

  • Lily’s school calls Mitchell to report head lice in her class.  Cameron immediately blames another child, whom he refers to as “filthy.”

Misinformation = 1, No Shame. No Blame. = 0.
Clean children are just as likely to have head lice as filthy ones.  Lice don’t care if we wash behind our ears. 

  • Cam confirms the news by saying that Lily’s head “sounds like Pop Rocks.”

Misinformation = 2, No Shame. No Blame. = 0.
I have never heard lice make a sound, although it would be great if they did, sort of like the popping sound that precedes the flames in the Fire Swamp from The Princess Bride.  Who couldn’t use a little warning?

  • Cam’s response is to make up games like “scary robot,” during which Lily is forced to wear a large cardboard box over her head, even though she and her “head pets” can’t breathe, and “who wants to pretend they’re a dog, and go for a ride in the car?”—a game in which the only rule is that Lily must ride with her head sticking out the window.

Misinformation = 3, No Shame. No Blame. = 0.
I won’t insult you with reasons why this is So. Wrong.

  • Aunt Claire picks Lily up at school and shoots a selfie of the two of them: “Here we are!  Having fun!”  We all know where that’s headed (no pun intended), after the recent spate of articles claiming that selfies spread head lice.

Misinformation = 4, No Shame. No Blame. = 0.
It’s possible, but unlikely, that brief head-to-head contact results in a new infestation.  On the other hand, multiple takes to get the perfect selfie for worldwide internet exposure may increase exposure of an unwelcome kind.

  • In the next scene, Claire’s client insists on ending a business meeting with a long hug.

Misinformation = 5, No Shame. No Blame. = 0.
Head lice aren’t equipped with a radar system alerting them that two heads are about to come into close contact with each other.  Even a long hug is over and done before head lice have the opportunity to hug back.

  • Finally, Phil attempts to exact revenge on his rival by insisting that he give Lily a piggy-back ride.

“Lily LOVES piggy-back rides,” says Phil.

“No, I don’t,” Lily protests, as Phil swings her onto Gil’s back and begins alternately ruffling her hair, then Gil’s, and laughing like a maniac while Lily rests her head against Gil’s.

Still no score for the Lice Happens team.

What remains a mystery is whether this involuntary head-to-head contact results in Phil getting his sweet revenge, or if Phil’s inadvertent contact with Lily earlier in the week will come back to bite him!