After re-reading and having impromptu discussions about my previous post, “Is TV Doing Enough,” I seem to have misrepresented my overall opinion of television. Let me just restate, for the record: TV WILL INEVITABLY SAVE US ALL! My criticisms of television only arise and flail about when I feel like it is letting everyone down, not living up to its potential, or neglecting to do its chores (which include loading the dishwasher, among others). In fact, to extend that metaphor, TV is like my fourth kid and when it makes me proud I am full of nothing but praise and bragging to my friends about its grades and athletic achievements… urging them to watch. When it disappoints me I criticize and verbally abuse it until it locks itself in its room, refusing to come out until I “understand its feelings” when it knows full well its being punished until it learns its lesson. Sex and the City and Will & Grace (among others) just let Daddy down and needed to be scolded, but along came Modern Family and made Papa proud again.
Modern Family is currently the best show on television, as my title claims, and it is awesome for all the reasons SATC and W&G are not, specifically (for this post) concerning notions of homosexuality. What is any marginalized group ultimately working toward? No, not better pancakes! Equality, plain and simple, or even more simply, to not be referred to as “marginalized” anymore. While a lot of television doesn’t do too much to remedy this situation, preferring to perpetuate the marginalization behind a veneer of pseudo-progressive ideals, Modern Family offers an implicit equality across the board. The show represents a spectrum of homosexuality that isn’t limited to extremes and embraces it, not as monolithic stereotypes, but as something more fluid and diverse. The homosexual relationship between Cameron and Mitchell plays out with the same ups and downs, and ins and outs (gulp!) as any “traditional” family. In fact, within the show they are often the most “normal,” centered, and realistic family. Their gayness isn’t paraded about for our amusement (which is not to say we don’t laugh at them) the way Jack and Will’s is, it’s just another characteristic of their personalities, no more controversial than their height or hair color. This represents the equality to which I’m referring. I think if you asked gay couples what they want most in the midst of all the gay marriage controversy in this culture, a large portion would answer, “just to be recognized as a family.” Cameron and Mitchell’s marriage is as idyllic as any on television. That’s not to mention how they each exhibit qualities that go against our preconceived notions of homosexuals made popular and normalized by W&G.
Just look at the titles of each show: Will & Grace suggests that it is a show about a heterosexual couple which ultimately puts the show in the closet, denying what it is truly about for the sake of appearance. I don’t know how you can watch the show and not consider its title an affront to the gay community. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think it should have been called “The Big Gay Sitcom,” but I hope you see where I’m going with this. Modern Family doesn’t place its homosexual identity at the forefront either, but it doesn’t intentionally mislead the viewer the way W&G does, in my opinion. It makes a statement of equality… that homosexual couples are just a cog in the wheel of our culture, and not some weird, creepy wheel people don’t want to admit exists. They are a part of the fabric of our society, no different than the Cleavers or the Seavers or the Bluths.
I don’t want you to think I hate W&G. I love that show, and I understand that it, in a large way, opened the door for more tolerant and developed gay characters across the televisual landscape. I just feel like, as my kids, W&G just went through the motions and did a shitty job, and now I’m about to put Modern Family‘s homework on the fucking fridge.