What I find even more telling is the reaction of gay people and their supporters to Modern Family. A decade ago, they would have balked—and balked loudly—at how frequently Cameron (right) in particular tips into limp-wristed, high-voiced caricature. And while there have been some expressions of concern along those lines, they’ve been minor and muted.
At this advanced stage of the game, most gay people trust that the television audience knows we’re a diverse tribe, not easily pigeonholed. And most gays see Cameron and Mitchell as harmless confections painted in transparently exaggerated strokes, just as the character of Gloria, a Latina trophy wife whose bosom and accent are both overripe, is.
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.
New York Times columnist Frank Bruni, himself a gay man, delves into ABC’s very gay Wednesday night programming