ABC’s comedy series, Modern Family, won four Emmy Awards last night: best comedy series, best director (Steve Levitan), best supporting actress (Julie Bowen), and best supporting actor (Eric Stonestreet).
The series, which features the experiences of an extended family which includes a gay couple who’ve adopted a baby girl, was honored earlier this year by the Catholics in Media Associates, which noted that the show
“. . . remains far and away the best prime-time sitcom: crisp and farcical, but very kind. This fast-paced mockumentary perfectly captures the experience of parenthood.”
In anticipation of the Emmy Awards, Sister Rose Pacatte, offered her own analysis of her favorite shows in a National Catholic Reporter blog post which included her take on Modern Family:
“Jay’s [the show's patriarch] family represents the new reality of today’s American family (Catholic or otherwise), though it is not divorce and remarriage, but the gay couple with a child is what upsets many viewers. Certainly many families may not have gay or divorced and remarried members, but the reality is, many do. They always did, but we didn’t see them in the comforting idealistic television of the ’50s, ’60s and into the ’70s. Some viewers may not approve of the gay couple or the gay couple adopting a child on a mainstream network television show. The Catechism of the Catholic Church has clear teaching about homosexuality and clear teaching on how to treat homosexual persons, that they “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity.” This is how I interpret “Modern Family.” After all, Thanksgiving dinner comes to all of us, when family members gather from far and wide, and “Modern Family” offers a way of being. When from one year to the next, you have no idea who will show up at the table, who they will bring along, if they will be the same gender as the year before — and if they are moving back to the neighborhood and may be in your life every day. Television is entertainment and not Sunday school (the film critic Roger Ebert said this about film, but the same goes for television), and you do not have to condone homosexuality to find seeds of the consistent paradox that is the Gospel in “Modern Family.” Yes, television does normalize behaviors and flattens values into a smorgasbord. But television is an opportunity for people of faith because it forms a metaphorical table around which we can gather and talk about things that matter.”
Modern Family does indeed present the gay couple, Cameron and Mitchell, with “respect, compassion, and sensitivity”–probably more so than any other gay characters have ever been presented on television. It would be hard for even the most virulent anti-gay person watching the show to be too critical of Cameron and Mitchell because they are presented in such a loving fashion. As Sister Rose states:
“I remain astonished at the writers, who are able to get so many layers of humanity into 21 minutes.”
Besides being entertaining, such authentic and human presentation of not only gay people, but the other characters in this contemporary family, can only help our society grow in understanding diversity.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry