Tuesday, March 15, 2011

"Family" Secret

As a gay male couple out and about town with a baby, Stewart and I hear one constant refrain from the many strangers we run into: “Do you remember the Modern Family episode where Cameron and Mitchell . . . .” If you have no idea what I’m talking about, congratulations, you’ve somehow managed to live a fulfilling life during the past two years without watching one of the most highly rated and critically acclaimed sitcoms currently airing on network television. Modern Family is an ABC sitcom about the hilarious trials and tribulations of three related southern California couples who are each raising families. One of the couples is the aforementioned Mitchell and Cameron, who are gay partners raising a young daughter who they adopted from Vietnam.

Because gay parents raising a small child are such a novelty on mainstream television, many people we’ve met over the past ten months toting Max around have naturally assumed that we are fans of the show. For example, recently we were down in Florida visiting Stewart’s parents, who are staying the month at a resort in Palm Beach. In two separate instances during our four day visit, women came up to us at the resort to dish about Modern Family, assuming, without asking, that we are regular viewers. Obviously these women (it’s almost always women . . . or gay men) are “cool” with our family dynamic, or they wouldn’t enthusiastically approach us to discuss our life with Max as it is supposedly mirrored in this popular sitcom. Because they are so well meaning, I feel the impulse to nod along with every Modern Family plot detail that they delve into with us.

But, the time has finally come to confess that I have been living a lie. I have terribly misled all of these well-meaning people. The shameful truth is this: before last week, I had never seen an episode of the show. This prevarication is made worse by the fact that this blog has already referenced Modern Family not once, but twice, in prior posts. Worse still, Gaddy Daddy was featured on a website promoting blogs about families akin to those featured on the show.  I doubt those running the website realized that they know more about my little Gaddy Daddy website than I know about the famous sitcom they were comparing it to!

Cameron, Mitchell & daughter Lily

For people who know my television habits, this actually may not come as a big surprise. I generally don’t watch sitcoms, or for that matter many shows on network TV. This isn’t to say that my taste is too highbrow for that, though. I watch plenty of dubious television programs that hopefully Stewart will allow me to keep secret from you all. (Stewart: let’s just say that it’s not all that unusual to find episodes of Bravo’sThe Real Housewives of . . . Everywhere” playing on our TV!) My point is that I have absolutely nothing against Modern Family. Any show that beams loving same-sex led families into the living-rooms of mainstream America is all right in my book. It’s just that network sitcoms generally aren’t on my radar screen.

But I’m tired of deceiving the many well meaning strangers who apparently believe that one of the duties of being a gay dad is being a fan of this show. So last week I decided I would go online and watch an episode of Modern Family to see what all the fuss was about, and to see just how astutely the show spoke to my life as a gay dad. The episode I watched was entitled “Unplugged,” in which Mitchell and Cameron freak out about the difficulty of getting their daughter, Lily, into a prestigious preschool . . . that is, until they are told that they can play the diversity card of being an “alternative family” to guarantee them admission into the pre-school of their dreams. Naturally, given that this is a sitcom, the guys get overconfident about the admissions process after hearing this news, leading to unexpected, and very funny, complications for their chances.

Fretting over Lily's pre-school interview in "Unplugged"
I must admit that the episode not only had a lot of laughs, but rang true to life for me as well. It just so happens that even though Max is just 10 months old, Stewart and I have already discussed potential pre-schools for him. Those of you living in New York City will know why; for the rest of you, let’s just say that this city is notorious for being ridiculously cut-throat and competitive about getting your toddler into a top city pre-school. At some schools, just getting an application is competitive, and then there are the interviews! Modern Family’s “Unplugged” episode gave Stewart and me a very humorous sneak peek into what we have in store for ourselves, and I enjoyed it.

I still can’t say that I will watch Modern Family on a regular basis. Sitcoms still aren’t my cup of tea, and it’s not as if I have a ton of idle time to watch new shows. But I’m certainly glad that I can now say that I’ve seen it, and I’m sure I’ll catch other episodes when they’re on. It’s a smart and funny show, and if it encourages the many people that I run into with Max to say a kind and supportive word to us, consider me a big and grateful fan who hopes it enjoys a long run.


  1. awkward IS the new funny and they succeed well here by exploiting stereotypes to the max.
    I, too, am a fan of shows reflecting diversity ie gay couples with children and hey--they exploit stereotypes equally. I'm not sure which is worse--the Columbian wife or Mitch's freakout over a pidgeon in the house.
    in the end, I laugh in spite of some of the antics hitting a little too close to home.
    and hoping people don't think all....Columbians are like that.

    I'm glad you had the strength to come clean about your deception. haha

  2. I don't watch Modern Family either... like you I'm not a sitcom fan (not since The Golden Girls went off the air, anyway ;). I think, like Glee, seeing different types of gays and gay relationships on television is a good thing. Maybe I should watch it!

  3. Gay Groom, That's funny I've watched a lot of Golden Girls reruns myself. I have to say I've only watched one Glee episode and it's not really my thing.

  4. tdub68, Yeah Modern Family definately exploits stereotpes. At least with the gay couple it is an improvement over past shows.