It’s a widely held belief that popular culture, especially television, has played a large part in the perhaps surprisingly fast change in attitudes towards gay people in the United States since the 1990s. Positive portrayals of gay characters on Ellen (where Ellen Degeneres’s character came out shortly after Ellen herself did) and Will and Grace (the most popular television show to prominently feature gay characters in its time) at least partially helped to bring about the greater acceptance of gay people in day to day life that occurred during the time period these shows were still on the air.
Modern Family has taken things a step further as a broadly popular network sitcom that prominently features a stable, loving gay couple who are raising an adopted daughter, accomplishing multiple “firsts” all at once. However, Modern Family isn’t a remotely political show and many wish that it would be bolder in its portrayal of Cameron and Mitchell. Cameron started out as a very atypical, original portrayal of a gay man but has gradually turned into something of a stereotype. There have been complaints about how the show so rarely portrays them kissing or even suggests that they’re ever intimate in any way, among other issues.
Another area where Modern Family hasn’t been very bold is on the question of same sex marriage. Since Cameron and Mitchell are in a stable, long-term relationship and have adopted a child together, were this real life they seem exactly like the sort of gay couple who would be interested in getting married, perhaps by going to some other state which has marriage equality while the question was still in limbo in California where the show takes place (due to Prop 8) or at least by having some sort of “commitment ceremony” or something. Yet, the characters have never even spoken about the same sex marriage issue in passing. The ACLU even launched a campaign last month to try to force the show’s hand on the issue.
Now, after the Supreme Court’s historic ruling yesterday on two cases involving same sex marriage it looks like Modern Family may finally be writing in a Cam/Mitchell wedding storyline. In an item posted to Entertainment Weekly‘s website yesterday, Modern Family co-creator Christopher Lloyd told EW that “It’s a real possibility” that yesterday’s Supreme Court rulings could affect the show’s upcoming fifth season.
Lloyd went on to say:
As you can imagine in Cam and Mitchell’s life, they would be feeling that a door has opened that was closed to them. Wouldn’t it be pretty tempting to think about walking through it? We imagine a lot of gay couples today are deciding whether to get married now that it’s open to them. From our standpoint, that’s something to explore.
But Lloyd also displays the usual Modern Family cautiousness. He says the reason they never delved into the question before was that they “didn’t want to make an overt political statement” and risk alienating any viewers including, I guess, total homophobes. Given the Supreme Court decision yesterday which basically struck down California’s Proposition 8, most legal analysts seem to agree that same sex marriage is now fully legal in California, where the characters of Cameron and Mitchell reside.
However, same sex marriage is still not legal in the vast majority of states and many states still have bans on same sex marriage which have not (yet) been struck down and were not made unconstitutional as a result of yesterday’s decisions. A broadly popular network sitcom like Modern Family depicting a gay marriage could perhaps have some effect in continuing to change attitudes on marriage equality.