In Modern Family, middle child Alex is the smartest of the Dunphy clan and the voice of reason. Whenever the family’s patriarch Jay Pritchett passes on, Alex would realistically become the inevitable matriarch of the family due to her organized nature and logical mindset. She always had her eye on the prize as a young student and went on to become a prominent researcher with a degree from Caltech.
Over 11 seasons, Alex had plenty of ups and downs in both her career and personal life. Some of her high and low arcs in her life made her the woman she was by the series finale, while others almost ruined her character.
Updated on June 22nd, 2022, by Lynn Gibbs: Alex Dunphy got a lot of criticism throughout Modern Family for her treatment of those around her. Although she loved her family and spent her free time with them, she wasn’t always the kindest or most helpful. Being the smartest character in the series, Alex often felt alone on her personal path to success, which led to certain struggles. Over time, however, Alex grew and had a more positive and thoughtful journey
Alex’s Best Character Arcs
Alex’s Amazing Journey As An Adult
By season 11, Alex had reached her highest potential. She had a successful career and had the opportunity to study in Antarctica and Switzerland. Alex’s amazing transformation was seemingly complete.
Alex had always been passionate about science and was now a woman to look up to in the field. It was nice to see one of the Dunphy kids finally reach their goals after years of hard work and preparation. Both Luke and Haley had different passions over the years, but they never stuck. Alex, on the other hand, always knew the direction she was heading in.
Alex Discovered Her Sexuality And Had Zero Apologies
Haley Dunphy was always a more advanced person than Alex was. It wasn’t until Alex was in college that she dove head first into exploring her own sexuality.
When she dated her boyfriend Bill, she asked Gloria to help her use her sexuality in a similar way Gloria did. She also wanted her mom to accept the fact that she was a young adult and no longer a little girl. Wearing more mature clothing and talking about sex didn’t need to be taboo for Alex because she was now a woman. It was beautiful and modern to see Alex take control of her sexuality and demand respect from those around her.
Her Dedication To Science
Alex was a naturally competitive person, which meant she got that trait from Claire and Jay. Jay taught his kids to be winners and the Pritchett side of the family always wanted to win or be known as the best. Claire took this notion very seriously while Mitchell didn’t care to join their competitive nature. Alex, however, fit right in with Claire and Jay.
Being one of the smartest characters and a strong-headed woman helped her stay on track with school and get into one of the most prestigious tech universities in the country. Alex’s dedication to science and school was an inspiring arc of hers.
Alex’s Honesty In Therapy Was A Breakthrough
One of the most honest moments of Alex’s time on Modern Family was when she signed up for therapy. She was burnt out from school and had a meltdown on her birthday. The only thing Alex could do to feel normal again was to talk to a professional about it.
At first, Alex was pretty judgmental of her therapist and viewed him as a joke. But after a while, she began to open up and found the root of the problem: Alex felt alone in her family. She didn’t think anyone understood her or even cared about the problems in her life. She was at a loss. This was one of Alex’s bravest moments, along with a time fans felt bad for Alex.
Her Evolving Relationship With Haley
As kids, Alex and Haley never got along and were not friends. At school, Haley was the popular girl and Alex was the so-called nerd. They were complete opposites and were embarrassed by each other’s behavior. Things between these two got worse before they got better but they finally got closer when Haley became pregnant. Alex wanted to protect Haley because she saw how scared she was.
From then on, the two bonded. Haley needed Alex’s help with her pregnancy, the birth, and her wedding to Dylan, and Alex was more than happy to be the one Haley needed. It was a great final path for viewers to watch on Modern Family.
Starting A Relationship With Arvin Was The Start Of A New Beginning
Some found it weird that Alex dated Arvin after Haley did, but Alex was always interested in Arvin and, theoretically, should have been with him from the start. What Arvin was missing from the relationship he had with Haley was a true partner; someone who understood him. And that partner was Alex.
By the final season, Alex finally had a love interest worth her time in Arvin. After telling him how she felt, the feeling was mutual and they focused on a life that was full of both love and science. It was exciting for fans to see Alex enjoy a relationship where she could be herself.
Alex’s Worst Character Arcs
Her Condescension As A College Student Was Not A Good Look
Alex was always been snarky and judgemental, but these personality traits took over by the time she was a student at Caltech. It was as if the smarter Alex became, the more she demeaned those around her — including her family. This better-than-thou personality was one of Alex’s more annoying traits.
Claire and Phil sometimes forgot about Alex because she was so self-sufficient but that didn’t allow her to treat those around her with a short fuse, which is what she did often. Alex’s condescension caused a rift in the family and separated her from everyone during her college years.
Her Time Off From School
The biggest plothole in Alex’s storyline was when she took small breaks from school to gain some work/life experience. She contracted mono, which forced her to do schoolwork at home, but she then took even more time off to explore other options outside of school. Alex even looked into a few courses at the community college while enrolled at Caltech.
There was nothing wrong with Alex needing a break from Caltech but her personality spiraled at this time. She couldn’t stand being home around her lackluster siblings and she frequently had meltdowns when she didn’t understand why her family members acted the way they did. The character arc where Alex sought for herself was one of her worst because of her attitude.
She Didn’t Allow Herself To Let Loose In College
Before Alex went to Caltech, both Haley and Phil warned her not to study too hard in school. College was an important time in Alex’s educational life but it was also a chance for her to grow as a woman. It was a time to make more friends, experiment, date around, and have a personal life. Sadly, that didn’t happen until late in her school days.
Before Alex graduated from Caltech, she told her dad that she didn’t do the whole “college thing” right. She spent so much time trying to graduate that she didn’t take the time to be a kid. She ignored the only advice Haley ever gave her and it made her one of the least liked characters.
The Embarrassment She Had For Her Parents
To be fair to Alex, Claire and Phil were so busy chasing around Haley and Luke and trying to get them on the right track that they kind of forgot about Alex. Alex was—as Phil called her— “a self-cleaning oven.” She was brilliant and self-sufficient; she didn’t need much help.
But that didn’t mean she didn’t need love and affection. Due to Claire and Phil’s differing personalities, Alex was embarrassed by her “cool” parents. She hated it when her dad showed up on campus to check on her and how hard her mom tried. This resulted in her not telling them things about her life and resenting them, which didn’t go well for Alex. The bad things Claire and Phil did toward Alex were never intentional or with malice.
How She Treated Those Who Weren’t As Smart
One of Alex’s shortcomings was how she treated those she viewed as less intelligent than her. The only boyfriend (before Arvin) that Alex truly respected and treated with grace was Sanjay. After he cheated on her, Alex must have been scarred by the experience because she treated her subsequent boyfriends, Ben and Bill, like garbage.
They weren’t as brilliant as Alex was and she judged them for it. Her treatment of them while dating was some of the sadder scenes on Modern Family. She did the same thing with her friends and family. It’s one of those things that Alex never grew out of until the final season.
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