New York Times columnist Frank Bruni is celebrating “ABC’s Gay Wednesdays,” especially how the sitcom “Modern Family” has brought “an Ozzie-and-Ozzie reverie for the age of marriage equality.”
Gay-left advocates routinely cite popular culture as the proof society is “evolving,” making the Disney network an evolutionary force. Bruni reported, “Almost a decade and a half since that show debuted, gay themes and characters factored into 24 percent of broadcast prime-time shows last season, as Frank Rich noted in a recent piece in New York magazine.”
Bruni was primed and ready to defend “Modern Family” against activists who don’t like how swishy and overdrawn the characters might seem for comedic effect:
“Modern Family” is one of those shows, and in a certain sense it might seem a step backward from “Will Grace.” Its two gay characters, Cameron and Mitchell, are even more stereotypically effeminate in aggregate than Will and Jack, who skewed that way as well—especially Jack.
But “Modern Family” is really a step forward: while Will and Jack fretted over their waistlines and their wardrobes and worshipped in the Church of Cher, Cameron and Mitchell mull the proper rearing of the daughter they’ve adopted and wonder whether to expand their brood with yet another child. They’re making a fundamentally conventional home, and no one around them suggests they’re not every bit as entitled to it as anyone else. It’s an Ozzie-and-Ozzie reverie for the age of marriage equality.
Bruni sees progress in the comparative lack of gay-activist outrage over the “Modern Family” characters, that the gay community can embrace the roles as one of many caricatures in the cast, like Gloria, the Hispanic hottie who speaks fractured English:
Gays have witnessed enough evidence of enough acceptance that they can take the sillier, broader, more hackneyed elements of the Cameron character and “Modern Family” in the right spirit, and in stride. On account of a significantly changed cultural context, they don’t interpret—or experience—any offense.
What complaint there has been has focused on how sexless the relationship between the two men is. In fact troubled fans launched a Facebook campaign to pressure the show’s writers into letting Cameron and Mitchell kiss. Fair enough. But I’d rather chasteness be the problem than the kind of hypersexual, shallowly hedonistic image of gay men presented in so many television shows and movies past. Those shows and movies pegged us as exotic—even threatening—outliers. “Modern Family” endows us with a sort of comic banality. It’s an odd kind of progress. But it’s progress nonetheless.
Bruni is also happy with ABC’s “Happy Endings,” which airs in the 9:30 Eastern time slot. Its gay character is the opposite of the stereotype: he’s overweight, messy, eats like a pig, and dresses like a bum: “Max is where gay clichés go to die. I can’t think of another gay character on television so entirely purged of them.” Bruni concluded:
To some viewers that apparently comes across as a doth-protest-too-much thing, a gesture of sympathy that instead feels like a bit of an insult, implying that gay people are OK only because they’re indistinguishable from straight people. I don’t take Max that way at all. I take him as a progressive decision by the show’s creators not to milk a gay character for easy punch lines.
And the truth is that some gay people are indeed pretty much indistinguishable from straight people, at least on the outside. “Happy Endings” suggests that there’s finally enough room for gay characters on television to reflect that as well.