Modern Family: Comedic or Controversial?

March Issue: Social Justice

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Everybody knows or has at least heard of ABC’s hit sitcom, Modern Family. This sitcom is about a large family and the often comical events they face in their everyday lives. The central characters are Phil and Claire Dunphy, the “typical” middle-aged parents, and their kids: Haley,  Alex, and Luke . There is also Claire’s dad, Jay, his second wife, Gloria, and their lovable sons, Manny and Joe.  Although these characters are all relatable and extremely important to the show, one could say that Modern Family would not be as hysterical without Claire’s brother, Mitchell, and his partner, Cam. Played by Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Eric Stonestreet, Mitch and Cam never fail to amuse fans of the sitcom. The happy couple is constantly facing new tasks and problems everyday, such as those concerning their adopted daughter, Lily. Mitch is the hard working lawyer while Cam, highschool teacher and fun-loving football coach, is the less serious of the two. Despite typical everyday arguments and the obvious contrast of their personalities, these two make a great pair. There is, however, budding controversy pertaining to the stereotypes associated with this couple.

Some might argue that the writers and directors of Modern Family create social justice by making these characters socially acceptable to the public, as they are by their family and community. Joey Mullen ’19 comments, “I don’t think that there are any bad stereotypes about gay people in Modern Family. Mitch and Cam are shown as very happy, and I don’t think that they are meant to be shown as offensive to the gay community.” It’s true that this couple has a strong grounding and have been shown to have a very long relationship, as the show has been airing now for about seven years. In the Season 5 finale, Mitch and Cam actually get married, which demonstrates a very prominent step in the gay rights movement. Jack Coons ’18 shares his thoughts: “I’ve been watching Modern Family for awhile now and I am a fan of the show. While there may be some stereotypes, I don’t think that they are shown in any harmful or disrespectful ways.” Many students at Wilmington Friends School  agree that these stereotypes are not demeaning to the gay community.

On the other hand, others argue that Cam and Mitch are complete stereotypes and misrepresent the gay community. Many viewers have also noticed the lack of physical affection between Mitch and Cam compared to other couples on the show, such as Phil and Claire. There is also controversy surrounding Cam’s blatantly effeminate mannerisms. On the subject of gay stereotypes in Modern Family, openly gay actor, Tuc Watkins, comments, “I think Modern Family is clever, hilarious, even terrifically subtle at times,” he posts. “But, for the most part, I have a hard time laughing at the gay guys. In fact, I kinda cringe. It feels a little bit like the gay equivalent of ‘blackface.’ It doesn’t feel ‘modern’ at all… Sure, people come in all shapes, sizes, etc. So why are we fed such ’80s stereotypes every week?” In reply to Watkins’s comment, Jesse Tyler Ferguson responds with dignity, “We can’t be expected to represent every gay person. We can only represent these two people. Also, Mitch is basically a version of me… so I never know how to take it when people say that he is stereotypical. And in defense of Cam, I still can’t figure out how a clown and football coach who also happens to be gay is a stereotype.

When all is said and done it is a family sitcom. I feel our writers do a fantastic job of servicing 11 characters each week in just 22 minutes. ” There are clearly many opinions about the show’s portrayal of gay couples but Ferguson is proud of his character.

The gay community is definitely represented more often in television than ever before. But the issue of misrepresentation is still being discussed. Since 2009, Modern Family has been a popular show. Modern Family remains a popular show in America today, despite the controversy surrounding some of its characters. The show depicts the “modern family,” and although gay stereotypes remain a concern to many, many consider this couple a step in the right direction towards equal representation.

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