Sunday, December 5, 2010

Modern Family: Not So Modern

I have all of Modern Family Season 1 on my I-Tunes. I believe it to be a hilarious television event, much in the tradition of the comedy juggernaut, Arrested Development. Of course it’s not as funny, but nothing really could be; the former really set the bar too high for the rest of television, and yet Modern Family is still very entertaining and original. As a show that has such quality, I think it is even more imperative to discuss the big gay elephant in the room. For all of its good parts, one thing seems to eclipse the rest; the sexual part of homosexual. If this was Will & Grace, I couldn’t care less. It’s a lackluster show that relies on dated and almost offensive jokes with a laugh track. But as Modern Family is a show of quality, I feel the need to address this issue. 
The show follows three families that are all connected. There is the ‘conventional’ family of a husband, wife, and three kids. Then, there is the patriarch of the unit who’s family includes his very young and almost comically voluptuous wife and her ten year old son. The third fraction is a gay couple consisting of some of the finest comedic actors of today; Eric Stonestreet and Jesse Tyler Ferguson playing Cameron and Mitchel respectively. In the pilot they are bringing their Vietnamese adopted daughter home for the first time. 
I understand that within a comedic context, there is very little room for verite, but it still bothers me how they do address the whole sex thing. With the other two families, they talk about sex and address it pretty much all the time. And yet, with the two gay characters of the show, they always seem to sidestep the issue. The smell of hypocrisy is just a little to heavy. Why does everyone else get to get laid but not those two? They transpire as having the world’s most plutonic relationship. Both are completely de-sexualized and it’s just not fair. 
And after a while, it’s a bit difficult to believe. They have been together for over five years, adopted a baby together. They obviously have a long-term serious thing going, and yet, they never do it. There is an episode dedicated to Valentine’s Day, in which the conventional husband and wife decide to do role playing at a hotel and spend the majority of the episode talking in innuendo. What do Cameron and Mitchell do? They take out their nephew to his favorite restaurant so that he can hit on a girl he likes (and keep in mind, he’s 10). There is another episode in Season 2, called 'The Kiss', which was marketed as 'get to see the kiss we've all been waiting for', but is it finally a kiss between Cam and Mitchell, no it's Mitchell's father finally owning up to the fact that he's distant and kisses his son on the forehead. 
Maybe I’ve been spoiled on Queer as Folk, but lets face it, it seems like American audiences are ok with gay people on television as long as they fit certain gay stereotypes, and never have sex. It’s the same old hypocrisy that dictates that we’re ok with people being gay, as long as we don’t have to ‘see it’. It seems to harken back to the 1930’s in Hollywood where there used to be an actual stock character called ‘The Sissy’. It would always be a very effeminate man, flailing his arms about and being just a bit too proper. It frustrates me that even in a great show like this, with just about the best talent you can get these days, there seems to be no problem with just how hypocritical it is. It is masked by the humor, so it’s difficult to notice, I suppose. We’ve already dismantled this taboo in film, why does it still exist in television? 

Here is a link to a facebook group that exists regarding this topic: 


Dom said...

They do kiss in "The Kiss", but it's a background kiss. I'm not sure how much of an issue this is. I believe Mitchell has boundary issues and can't get into PDA. But hey, you don't see Jay and Gloria kiss either... Just sayin'...

Ryzhik said...

I think, this show is not about gay couple, besides, it's a primetime TV slot, and "children a watching". Judging from outcome of prop 8 vote, the statistical public is not ready to accept that gay people have sexual life.
It seems that show creators decided to take all statistical and socio-economic clichés and play on it.
The average statistical family has 2.5 children, the middle aged men have mid live crises and go for younger women, the average gay couple adapts ethnic child.
And they managed to make statistical analysis funny.

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