Thursday, November 22, 2012

Dear Modern Family

Dear "Modern Family,"

Hi, here I am again.  I've written to you before, although not from this blog.  I watch your show fairly regularly, and while I enjoy many aspects of it, there are parts of it which give me pause, and other parts of it which bother me so much that I have to speak up once in a while.

Recently, you aired an episode with Matthew Broderick as a gay man who sort of dates Phil for an evening. Matthew Broderick is wonderfully charismatic, so I was pleased to see him.

However, I have two issues I'd like to discuss.

First, the "straight person cast as gay person" situation.  Overall, more gay characters onscreen is a good thing.  However, I'd like to see more gay actors cast.  This doesn't mean that I demand gay actors as gay characters and straight actors as straight characters and bi actors as bi characters.  What it means, really, is that I don't see enough out gay actors onscreen.  If I saw out gay actors all over the place, I wouldn't bother to keep track of who gets which role.  But when I don't see enough gay actors as it is, and then the role of a gay character pops up and another straight guy gets it, I wonder when Hollywood will get around to being inclusive.

(I'll take this moment to give a quick nod to Jesse Tyler Ferguson.  I loved you in "The Class!"  Congratulations on your engagement!)

Let's move on to the second problem.

What was up with that kiss?

I was disgusted by the Tom Hanks/Antonio Banderas kiss back in Philadelphia, and that was 19 years ago.  To clarify, I wasn't disgusted by the idea of the kiss.  I was disgusted that we couldn't see the kiss.  This back-of-the-head nonsense, where we assume that the characters are kissing but for all we know the actors are just checking each other's breath, is childish and ridiculous.  I'm baffled and disgusted that we're still pulling these moves in 2012.

I don't know if you played coy for the sake of the actors, for the sake of your audience, or for some other reason entirely, but if you were trying to avoid offending people, oops!  I'm peeved, irked, and riled up.  "Modern Family" is a popular, award-winning, prime-time major network show.  A lot of people watch it.  A lot of people pay attention to it.  You just had a big guest star in an attention-getting role, which means even more viewers and interest than usual.  And you dropped the ball.

Back in 1993, Philadelphia tried to convey positive, important, political and personal messages about gay people, their lives, their rights, homophobia, and AIDS.  And in that landmark movie, they dodged the kiss.  It communicated to me that even in a supposedly progressive, risk-taking movie, Tom Hanks and Antonio Banderas actually kissing onscreen would have been going too far.  After all, we can try to portray gay people, we can try to humanize gay people, but the sight of lips on lips: impossible.

Nineteen years later, showing the kiss is still going too far.

You disappoint me.  And you insult me.

We're moving into 2013 in a few weeks.  I hope that next year, I'll be able to write a happier letter.

With love,
Frank Lee

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