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LGBT+ Media

LGBTQ+ Representation in Modern Family

Joshua Buxton, an apprentice on the User Voice and Participation Team, talks about how the TV show Modern Family portrayed the LGBTQ+ community

What is Modern Family About?

Jay, Stella (Dog) Gloria, Joe and Manny Pritchett / Phil, Haley, Luke, Alex and Claire Dunphy / Mitchell, Cameron and Lily Tucker Pritchett - Pictured Above from Left to Right

Modern Family is an American family sitcom / mockumentary which revolves around three different types of families (The Dunphys, The Pritchetts and the Tucker-Pritchetts) who are all interconnected to each other through Jay Pritchett, the patriarch (Grandfather/Father) of the family. The show was incredibly popular, and it ran for 11 seasons from 2009 until 2020.

Throughout the series, the show tackled a lot of themes either relating to the family or to real life issues in the world around them such as love, bullying, age differences, family values. However, in this blog, we will be focusing on the theme of LGBTQ+ due to two of the main characters, Mitch and Cam, being a gay couple in the series.

How Mitch and Cam are presented in the show.

Mitch, Cam and Lily (Pictured in Season 1-2)

Mitch and Cam are main characters in Modern Family as well as being an LGBTQ couple, they appeared in nearly every episode throughout the show’s run as well as being a part of major storylines that either involved their family, the LGBTQ community, or a mixture of both worlds due to them getting married in Season 5 with their loving and supportive family by their side.

When we were first introduced to them in the first episode, they adopted a Vietnamese girl called Lily who they raised and deeply loved and the family fell in love with her when they introduced her in the first episode. In Season 3, they attempted to adopt another baby but sadly didn’t succeed, however by Season 11, they decided to adopt a baby boy after their adoption profile was reactivated.

Mitch and Cam getting married in the season 5 finale (Phil pictured above due to him being an officiant to the wedding)

A major storyline around Mitch and Cam started in the first episode of season 5 after it was revealed that California has legalised gay marriage, Mitch and Cam proposed to each other by the end of the first episode even though a few members of the family were helping both out with their own separate proposals.

Throughout Season 5, a few of the episodes built up the hype for Mitch and Cam’s wedding such as one episode introducing a new LGBTQ character to help with designing the wedding, those episodes all finally led up to the finale where Mitch and Cam finally get married in front of their friends and family even though there were many mishaps along the way.

How Jay’s views of the LGBTQ community change over the series

Jay pictured above in Season 11 smiling and wearing glasses

Jay was presented as a traditional old white American when the series began, and it was mentioned that Mitch had to come out to him three times due to him not understanding why his son is gay which led to their relationship becoming strained. Even though he becomes closer to them, there were moments that his old ideals got the better of him.

An example of this was in an episode of season one where Jay introduced Cam as his son’s friend which made Mitch mad at him and pointed out that Jay’s friend might be gay. This prompted Jay to become supportive and comforts his friend, even though this was revealed to be a way of Mitch getting back at his dad, it shows how he deeply supports Mitch.

Jay giving Mitch away at his wedding with Cam

Another moment where Jay’s old ideals backfired heavily on him was when he couldn’t get his head around Mitch and Cam’s wedding and claims that he didn’t want it to be a massive spectacle in the episode before the season 5 finale which caused a massive rift between him and Mitch.

However, in the finale, Jay realised the errors of his ways and redeemed himself to show his love and appreciation for the wedding as well as Mitch and Cam by not only providing his golf club as a venue to the wedding, but he also walked Mitch down the aisle.

Even though he never said it, it is shown how he loves them deeply at certain points in the show by helping with the renovation of their burned down kitchen, bonding with Cam over football, and interacting with their LGBTQ friends. But in the finale of Modern Family, he announces that he loves Cam like another son to him as well as Mitch. The show explored this personal growth from homophobia to acceptance and understanding.

What themes around LGBTQ were shown in Modern Family?

The whole family in the final episode of the show

Modern Family never shied away from tackling stereotypical topics in a few of the episodes as well as addressing real life issues that’s been happening in some of the episodes in the series or throughout the things that they say or mention.

Mitch never acted like a stereotypical gay person and his actor, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, is also gay and could therefore bring his lived experiences into the role. Cam did sometimes act flamboyantly in the earlier seasons, however both characters have their own individual aspirations such as Mitch being a lawyer and Cam having various careers before settling in as a openly gay football coach.

There were a few instances where there were some homophobic phrases or references to homophobia in the show, some examples comes from the first ever episode of the show when Mitch presumed someone called them “Cream Puffs” while the person was actually were commenting on the cream puffs that they were eating. Another example came from an episode where Hayley suggested that Alex was a lesbian though this wasn’t true. This was a powerful way for the show to address real life issues of discrimination in the LGBTQ+ community through comedy.

Did Modern Family impact the media / the world with their LGBTQ Representation?

Mitch, Cam, Lily and baby Rexford in the last episode of Modern Family

Throughout its 11 year run, Modern Family inspired other TV shows to either bring in more LGBTQ characters due to Modern Family having a few number of LGBTQ supporting characters as well as having Mitch and Cam as their main characters.

The show also made other TV channels make sure that they had a better and positive portrayal to their own LGBTQ couples or main /supporting supporting characters without causing any offense to them.

Conclusion

In summary, Modern Family did represent the LGBTQ+ community to a high standard throughout the show’s run and made Mitch and Cam one of the most iconic couples in the media due to their stories and relationship throughout Modern Family. They also employed a gay actor to play a gay man which is important not only for representation but in ensuring the characters and stories are realistic.

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