ABC's <i>Modern Family</i>: How "Modern" Is Its Gay Couple?

The show completely neuters and desexualizes its gay couple. Sure, they never kiss, but they also never even make innuendo or refer to any kind of sexual relationship between the two of them.
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It seems the internet has been buzzing with a debate that has been going on for some time in our house after a recent episode of ABC's newest hit Modern Family:

Just how "modern" is the gay couple on Modern Family?

The recent episode featured a scene that showed, in stark contrast, just how differently the gay couple on the show is treated form the heterosexual counterparts, as Jeremy Hooper at Good As You points out:

Phil (at left) and Mitchell (at right) have been on a bit of adventure, rushing back to Mitchell's house to retrieve the latter's forgotten wallet. This takes longer than expected, causing Claire and Cameron to fear that their respective spouses or going to miss the plane. So when Claire and Cameron see their respective spouses, they are understandably elated. Without thinking, Claire greets with a kiss. Mitchell and Cameron -- hug.

The thing I realized when seeing this: I don't believe Mitchell and Cameron have ever kissed on the show. If ever there was a time to do so, it was during this scene last night.It's just what one would do in such a situation.

To me, this is just the latest example of how the show treats their gay couple vastly different from their heterosexual ones.

I have to say before we delve into the show's treatment of their gay couple, that I am truly a fan. While my husband and I rarely watch sitcoms because they drive us insane, Modern Family has captured our hearts. So this isn't a call to arms or a demand for a viewer boycott. It's simply a look at a glaring example of how even a modern, progressive show that puts an LGBT family front and center still manages to miss the mark.

ABC is known for showing heart-warming depictions of LGBT people. The network has given us Brothers & Sisters, with an amazing gay couple at the heart of the Walker family who kiss, sleep together, cuddle, and even married on the show. They've also given us Ugly Betty, with fully-formed, strong gay and transgender characters, from the highly sexualized Mark St. James to the male-to-female transition of Alexis Meade to young Justin Suarez, perhaps the best depiction of coming out on television that featured moving scenes of the high schooler kissing his new boyfriend for the first time.

So ABC isn't the issue. Something is holding back Modern Family from fully developing its smart and sassy gay couple's relationship.

Here is the problem that I have. The couple has adopted a daughter on the show. They are obviously committed and in a long-term relationship. Yet they have never kissed on screen. Ever. Every other couple constantly kisses, cuddles, and makes out, yet the gay couple is relegated to a chaste hug.

Even more glaring is how the couple refers to one another. They call each other "boyfriends." Not "husbands" or even "partners," but boyfriends. They have a family, own a home, and share their lives together, yet use a diminutive term for their relationship like "boyfriends"? The family obviously views them as more than boyfriends as well, calling them both "uncles" and not differentiating the relationship from others in the family, yet the couple themselves still can't talk about each other more than if they are casually dating?

Not very "Modern."

These are all symptoms of a larger issue. The show completely neuters and desexualizes its gay couple. Sure, they never kiss, but they also never even make innuendo or refer to any kind of sexual relationship between the two of them. The other couples do what every sitcom does, with a nod and a wink refer to their sex lives and their physical relationship as a married couple. That doesn't happen with the gay couple.

Modern Family is a great show. I'm happy to have it on the air and will continue to watch it. What I hope, however, is that the show's producers continue to make a fun, heart-warming show about the make-up of modern families in today's society and strive to make a bit more realistic and reflective of where LGBT families are today.

That would be truly modern.


Looks like ABC heard the online grumbles. They issued a statement about Cam and Mitchell on Modern Family:

Cameron and Mitchell are a loving, grounded, committed, and demonstrably affectionate couple and have been from the beginning of the series. It happens that we have an episode in the works that addresses Mitchell's slight discomfort with public displays of affection. It will air in the fall and until then, as Phil Dunphy would say, everyone please chillax.

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