'Modern Family' recap: Gays don't high-five
After the massive amount of hype over the “Modern Family” kiss, my first response to Wednesday night’s episode was, “Um, what kiss?” That’s right, this blogger, typing away as usual, didn’t catch the kiss the first time around and I had to go back -- twice -- to find it. Based on the Twitter response -- which can mostly be summed up as “That’s all?" -- then I’m not the only one.
In the run-up to Wednesday night’s episode, there was speculation that the kiss might hurt the show's ratings. This strikes me as ridiculous, as one of those stories clearly made up by editors who have space to fill (no offense, guys). Anyone who watches “Modern Family” has already seen Cameron and Mitchell raising a child, sharing a home and going to après-ski parties together. How these very same viewers might be offended by a kiss is beyond me, unless they accidentally landed on ABC after watching "19 Kids and Counting."
After watching the episode, it's clear that ABC won't be dealing with a boycott anytime soon. The kiss was but a peck, and was in the background of the scene. It was so perfunctory that the only debate is likely to be whether "Modern Family" wimped out? By any measure, the kiss was pretty chaste, and I'm guessing some will say it wasn't bold enough.
But I disagree. Sex is not a huge part of "Modern Family," and for that matter, neither is making out; It's not like we see Phil and Claire sticking their tongues down each other's throats from week to week, so I wouldn't expect the same from Cameron and Mitchell. What's more, the whole joke is that they're actually the most conservative, traditional couple on the show. I don't think they're that way because of any squeamishness about showing a "really gay" couple. If anything, I think the opposite is true: that gay TV characters used to be screaming stereotypes, but we're finally moved on to gay characters who are less one-dimensional.
The episode's set-up -- Mitchell is uncomfortable with any kind of kissing in public -- also would have made a bout of tonsil hockey seem absurdly out of character. As funny as it was, Mitchell and Cameron's kitchen conversation about public displays of affection felt authentic. Mitch will put up a fight, but being tender is hard for him. Cameron, on the other hand, finds kiss-worthy occasions everywhere he looks. “Finding jalapeno-stuffed olives, making the light on maple, every time we see a VW,” as Mitch puts it. Wise Latina Gloria nails the problem: Mitch "won't kiss his lover" because Jay is reserved with his emotions, not because he's ashamed of being gay.
As always on “Modern Family," some very clever writing almost makes you forget that the show also has a deeply earnest message. On Wednesday night, there were lots of laughs to be had -- many at Cameron's expense -- but the underlying emotions still ring true. Cameron wants more affection than Mitch is willing to share. Eric Stonestreet (Cameron) recently spoke to Entertainment Weekly about the kiss, and explained it like this: “Hopefully everybody will see that we just want to tell truthful, honest, sweet, believable stories that aren’t driven by anything political or motivated by a movement.”
On one hand, he’s right. But at the same time, portraying a gay couple as boring and normal is, these days, still a political act -- whether it's intended to be or not. The "Modern Family" writers made the right choice not to make a gimmick or a spectacle out of Cameron and Mitchell’s not-quite-make-out session and it was, as promised, sweet, honest and believable. Hopefully this will not be a one-time-only event. After all, even the most boring old couples among us kiss mindlessly a few times every day; Cameron and Mitchell should too.
Anyway, nearly everything else about this episode was more memorable than the kiss. So here’s a by-no-means-exhaustive list of highlights:
And some of its more effective: “There’s already one dead person in this room. You wanna make it two?” –- Gloria
Tupperware break-up jokes: “He blew his lid when she tried to contain him.” -– Phil (duh)
Sound advice for parents with checkered pasts: “Better they fall short of the fake you than the real you.” -- Claire
Finally, a reason to kiss at the bowling alley: “I almost got a turkey!” -– Cameron
Gloria’s abuela’s full name*: “Anna Maria Rosa Del Macolada Jiminez Morales”
Something else I can definitely agree with: “We don’t like ‘lover.’ ” -- Cameron and Mitchell
Thing that actually sounds dirty, but isn’t: “Here, slap the chicken.” -- Gloria
Advice for Teva-wearing tweens: “You better get on it or he’ll think you’re a lesbian.” -- Haley
Jingle I will have in my head for the rest of the week: “The computer and the printer must talk, talk, talk, ‘Command P’ makes the picture walk, walk, walk.”
Line that I totally knew was taken from “Notting Hill” before Alex explained it: "I’m just a girl standing in front of a boy asking him to like her."
* I think.
-- Meredith Blake
Photos: Gloria (Sofia Vergara), top, tries to get the Pritchett clan to open up. Phil Dunphy (Ty Burrell), bottom, listens closely for signs of life from Jay's printer, while Luke (Nolan Gould) looks on.