NYT Columnist: Modern Family‘s “Comic Banality” Is An “Odd Kind Of Progress”


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

Get Queerty Daily

Subscribe to Queerty for a daily dose of #abc #frankbruni #modernfamily stories and more


  • camembert

    “A decade ago, they would have balked—and balked loudly—at how frequently Cameron (right) in particular tips into limp-wristed, high-voiced caricature.”

    We were balking during Will & Grace? No; I think we were pleasantly accepting any positive, if somewhat stereotypical, representation on network television.

  • hoho

    I find Cam and Mitchell insufferable. Not because they portray any gay stereotypes, but because they are boring and one note. All they do is bicker.

    MF was very funny its first series and now seem to be coasting on their initial success.

  • lotusmoon

    If Frank would only watch Happy Endings after MF, he would see a realistic portrayl of a
    gay man. Max is a slovenly bearish man. He’s had a new story arc with a new gay bf and they seem to have no trouble having the two kiss.

  • Robert in NYC

    I can’t stand the show and the traditioanl stereotypical camp character of one of the two gay men. Why not depict both of them without that boring characteristic? It would be naive to think that some of the viewers don’t think we’re all like that. I thought we’d moved on since Will & Grace, but we haven’t. As for that Sofia Vergara, another turn-off. That voice of hers and accent are insufferable.

  • QJ201


    Clair is a controlling bitch
    Phil is a doofus
    Jay is an ass
    Haley is a slut
    Alex is a nerd
    Luke is stupid
    Manny is precocious

    ALL stereotypes and the writers actually play against them.

    Cam is super nelly, but the boy from the farm can do anything a straight guy can do, much to everyone’s surprise.

  • Huh ...

    Meh. It would’ve been nice if the straight actor playing Cam could’ve seen beyond his character’s gayness. Whenever he’s on screen, I can see the wheels on his head turning: Sitcom + Gay = Neurotic nelly mess! Weird thing is, though, I’m also Latino and Sofía Vergara doesn’t annoy me as much. Maybe because she *is* Latina (if she were just some brunette lady doing her idea of a funny Latina, I’d probably see things differently).

  • John McLaren

    As Harvey Fierstein said in “Celluloid Closet” referring to campy gay characters in the early movies, “I liked the sissies” It’s better than being invisible or just to horrible to allow into America’s living rooms. Any visibility is great.

  • Cam

    Cam has gotten worse and worse on the show. At the beginning they had him be a former fotball player who would occaisionally surprise the father by being non-stereotypical.

    Since that time he has degenerated into a screaming, hand flapping, sad imitation of Nathan Lane’s character in “The Birdcage”.

    Each scene should be called, “What will CAM have an inappropriate hissy fit about today?”.

    Hopefully they will put them through a gay divorce “Hilarity ensues” and find Mitchel somebody a bit less eye rolling.

  • Huh ...

    @lotusmoon: As much as I like Max, and as much as I complain about stereotypical gay characters on TV, I think the stereotypical gay guy from season 1, Derrick, was absolutely hilarious. Wish they made him at least a semi-regular.

  • Dave

    Harvey Fierstein is highly biphobic, practices bisexual erasure, and he’s wrong about sissies or queens. They’re highly offense stereotypes of gay men and give all GLBT people a bad name especially when they’re in movies or on TV like Cam in Modern family or Jack on Will and Grace.

  • adam

    wow. grow up. they’re the least dysfunctional of the three branches of the family, and frequently the funniest for it. mitchell and his dad are totally believable as a father-son pair, and everyone on the show is more deeply sympathetic than other characters are on nine out of ten sit coms on the air. not a week goes by i don’t laugh at mitchell and cam, out of recognition, and hilarity.


  • wc1


    Highly offensive? Tell that to the friends of mine who act very similar to Cam and Jack. We all know guys like them, there is nothing wrong with being effeminate.

    It’s not like the actors who play Cam and Jack are in the gay equivalent of blackface.

  • The Real Mike in Asheville

    @wc1: +100

  • nipper

    People who stereo type see the stereo types, those who don’t can relate those on TV to people around them, nough said.

  • tookietookie

    @Dave: LOL

  • Jess b

    I’m really thankful for modern family. My mom loves the show, and it has played a major factor in my mom becoming less homophobic. She still has a way to go, but she’s so much more loving and tolerant. She even stuck up for gay people to her husband recently! It gives me hope that I will be able to tell her I’m a lesbian someday (soon, I hope).

  • Drew

    Actually yes guys who play queens on TV or in movies are the gay equivalent of black face or very bad black stereotypes like the step and fetch it butler, the mammie, welfare queen, etc.

  • jason

    I have to agree with the columnnist. I think Gay Inc has become more accepting of effeminate gay stereotypes in the media. I think it’s got something to do with not wanting to offend the liberal straights who make shows like Modern Family.

    The gay male couple in Modern Family is like an amusing side-show designed to make heterosexuals feel superior. They’re a non-threatening version of Mammy and her husband.

  • David

    Jason usually I don’t agree with some of what you write but I do agree with you now. Characters like Cam on Modern family and Jack on Will and Grace are just there to make heterosexuals feel superior to GLBT people. It can even be argued that the walking stereotypical queens from Queer Eye including Carson do the same. I have met Carson in person and he’s actually not a total flaming queen in person and in reality, but does this as an act on TV. Then again in Sitcoms and in movies whenever there’s a gay male character even if he’s at first shown as being masculine he’s eventually shown as the stereotypical queen who is every fag hag’s best friend, and who’s excellent at design, fabulous, and one of the girls. Bisexual male characters are largely ignored but it wouldn’t surprise me if they pulled the old biphobic and bisexual erasure stereotype about bisexual men that some gay men who are hypocritical bigots have when in reality the man never was bisexual at all and was a closeted gay man who was too afraid to come out.

  • Paul

    Progress? Queenie stereotype characters like Cam are 1,000 steps backward!

  • JAW

    SOOOOOOO True…

    Who are our non stereotypical Rple Models??

    There are none…

    The Trans community does not put up with this… why should we???

  • Cam

    @adam: said…

    “wow. grow up. they’re the least dysfunctional of the three branches of the family,”

    Is this a joke? The other couples actually have interactions where they get along or are kind to each other.

    Mitchell and Cam have the same variation on the same story. Something happens, and Cam becomes inappropriately upset, has a hissy and Mitchel has to deal with it. There is never any indication that they even like each other.

    If you think that is the least dysfunctional I would say that you may need to reevaluate your views on relationships.

  • ousslander

    You listening effeminate men. You’re girlish antics are an embarrassment to the gay community. You should be very sorry for you’re very existence.

  • adam


    no, it’s not a joke, and i don’t think you’re watching the show very carefully. cam and mitchell make up and make concessions to one another every week, as a loving couple could and should. mitchell is a successful lawyer, and is in fact the most successful professional on the show, and he hasn’t hidden his gayness from his employers in the process. cam is quite capable of doing what he needs to do and standing up for himself, and again, he does do without squelching the flamboyance that is in his nature. together, they’re a loving pair that handles crises well and show less dysfunction, i’ll say again, than either his father and stepmother, or his sister and brother in law. ~peace

  • Huh ...

    @adam: No. I think Cam has it right. Cam and Mitchell’s home life looks like a living hell. Every week Cam pulls the same drama queen antics, blowing something entirely out of proportion and torturing Mitchell with his unchecked neuroses. It’s hard to see why Mitchell puts up with what is essentially a tantrum-prone, guilt-tripping man-child. Maybe the sex is great? (Not that we’d know if they even *have* sex, as they show each other the physical affection one would expect from polite acquaintances).

  • jean

    They don’t have much sex because they are married with a toddler, same as with straight couples.

Comments are closed.