Apr 2, 2013

10 Things I Dislike about "Modern Family"


Modern Family is a multiple-Emmy-winning sitcom about an extended family in modern Los Angeles: Jay Pritchett, a gruff, macho, affluent closet manufacturer (yes, people have closets built), his adult children Claire and Mitchell, and their various partners and children.  Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson, left) is gay, and lives with his partner Cam (Eric Stonestreet, right).  They have an adopted daughter, a Vietnamese orphan named Lily.

It's an ensemble program, usually with three plotlines per episode (one for each family), usually with the same theme (something on the lines of "families stick together").  I don't hate it as much as Will and Grace, but I have some problems with the portrayal of the gay characters:

1. Mitchell is an effeminate gay stereotype.  His father first realized that he was gay because he kept singing the female parts on the cast album of South Pacific. 

2. Ok, Mitchell is a stereotype, but at least he's played by a gay actor.  Cam is most offensive, limp-wristed, mincing, sashaying, histrionic caricature of a gay man that I have seen any heterosexual actor portray since Mel Gibson in Birds on a Wire.  Cam has a few macho traits -- he's a football fan, and he loved sports in school -- but that doesn't detract from his unbelievable Stephen Fetchit.

3. Mitchell is a lawyer, and Cam is a retired entertainer. Their gay friends are all affluent, upper-middle class sophisticates with weird names who drink fancy wines and go to the opera.  Does coming out automatically make you rich?  In real life, LGBT people have substantially lower mean incomes than heterosexuals, primarily due to their exclusion from the high-income moneymaking occupations that require "family man" status.

4. Mitchell and Cam refer to each other as "boyfriends," as if they're sharing a soda at the malt shop.  They've been together for a very long time, probably about 20 years.  Why the trivialization?


5. Like the gay guys on Will and Grace, Mitchell and Cam are obsessed with heterosexual sex.  Years ago Mitchell had sex with a woman, just to prove that he was capable of it (does having heterosexual sex mean you're not as gay?).  Cam flirts with a woman, and accepts a date with her (even though he has a partner at home), just to prove that he can incite heterosexual interest.

6. They encounter not a speck of homophobia.  They are completely accepted by everyone, everywhere, without any question. In fact, they often get special privileges for being gay. I know that it's Los Angeles, and they're wealthy and all, but come on!  Is that realistic?

7. There is no gay culture in Los Angeles, no gay bars, bookstores, community centers, organizations, pride festivals, nothing.When Mitchell, Cam, and their friends get together for an evening, they go to a straight bar.

8. Cam and Mitchell are terrible parents, flighty, irresponsible, in turns overprotective and neglectful, and their child is growing up to be a self-centered, demanding, manipulative brat.

9. They had a semi-nude beefcake mural of themselves painted over Lily's bed.  Can you imagine anything creepier for a kid to see while growing up?

10. It gets even more cringe-inducing.  Lily wants to play wedding, so Cam obliges.  He marries his own daughter.  Not the best parenting decision.

11. Andy the Male Nanny, jaw-droppingly muscular, but played by an actor with a homophobic past.

Not to worry, there are also 10 Things I Like about Modern Family.