A Martyr for Modern Tolerance

Posted by on May 20th, 2010 at 7:00 AM

There’s this show, Modern Family, and it’s about a gay couple, a straight couple, and another straight couple, this last one being made up of Ed O’Neill (seen here in his Al Bundy days) and a hot-looking actress from Colombia. The gay couple never kiss, which is no surprise. The show’s on network tv, and most straight people don’t like to see men kiss. Really, really don’t like to see it.

I hadn’t noticed the non-kissing until Andrew Sullivan did a post about it and the Facebook campaign to have the fellows interlock. What gets me is that I remember very well a scene where one of the gays turned to the camera and confided that his father (the Ed O’Neill character) would always bellow hello from the front door before coming into the house, that being the father’s way of making sure the coast was clear and he wouldn’t be traumatized by the sight of his son and the son’s guy kissing each other. It was an affectionate, eye-rolling moment between the son and us. And sure enough, the father did bellow in from the front door, etc.

Of course, it turns out the audience is really just like the father. Sullivan says a representative shot from the show (straight couple kisses, gay couple hugs) is “a perfect distillation of where the culture now is on gays: fine but not equal.” Well, kind of perfect. You have to include the show’s little dodge involving dad. It shows how bad the revulsion is among straights: even the people in the audience who disapprove of the revulsion still feel it. Or, okay, enough of them feel it for the bloc to have veto power over what gets shown.

This state is not necessarily permanent. Look where we’ve gone on miscegenation: from Uhura and Kirk rubbing cheeks to a black president with a white mom. But, man, the current situation is embarrassing.

As so often, the immediate response to embarrassment is lying. So we get this from the producers:

It happens that we have an episode in the works that addresses Mitchell’s slight discomfort with public displays of affection.

Oh — “it happens.” This explanation appears to be just fine by Sullivan and whoever wrote the New York Magazine item that quoted the producers’ statement. But obviously it ain’t true. Marshall’s complex backstory explains nothing here. We, the audience’s straight majority, are the explanation. But that’s a fact that all sides — the producers, the revulsed and the revulsed-at — would rather leave alone.

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3 Responses to “A Martyr for Modern Tolerance”

  1. Yeah, I noticed that, too. Undoubtedly, there are many people who’d be uncomfortable with men kissing (lesbian kissing is more acceptable), but I’d put the blame on the producers’ audience model here. The actual people watching the show probably mostly accept homosexuality and would hardly blink an eye at seeing two men peck the way the straight couples do. What keeps so much Hollywood output watered down is the condescension, the lack of trust, that it holds for its audience. The show isn’t aimed at some paleo-conservative family sitting down to dinner, but at people who don’t have a problem with different familial arrangements. Yet, the producers still assume that such people aren’t ready for something so insignificant.

  2. Oh, and there’s consideration of cowardly advertisers. If they won’t support a show, it doesn’t matter how enlightened producers and the creators are.

  3. Tom Crippen says:

    In this case I think the audience is at the root of the problem. There’s a big difference between being bien pensant and being comfortable with men lip-locking, or so I believe.

    But there’s no real evidence either way about the ModFam incident, so screw it.