Editors' Note: Guest blogger Zack Rosen is a Leo who is losing his hair. He blogs at The New Gay.
If you ever want to do something interesting, and you’ve already masturbated to Lebonese scat porn, you should try watching Modern Family back to back with Family Guy. Besides their shared use of the F-word, it’s striking to see how much both of these shows traffic in stereotypes. While Modern Family has won accolades in the queer community for a fairly honest portrayal of a gay couple, and Family Guy is widely reviled for sucking, and for being offensive to everyone in place of actual humor, the shows are very similar at their core.
This morning I watched the most recent episode of Modern Family, where gay couple Mitch and Cam exploit their status as gay parents of a “minority” child to win a spot at a prestigious preschool. Immediately after, I watched a Family Guy from last season where Peter makes a black friend who is great at darts, buys tacky paintings from the gas station and drives Peter crazy with the knowledge that he used to fuck Peter’s wife with his stereotypically 12″ penis.
At first glance, comparing these shows would seem like comparing apples and an ambrosia salad made from Keith Richard’s precum. After all, one is a look at three diverse families in real life situations, and the other hasn’t done anything worthwhile since I was a virgin. But if you look closer, they are cut from the same reductive cloth.
I do think that Modern Family is smart, well-written, and consistently very, very funny. But its edging closer and closer to “All in The Family” territory (there’s that word again) without an Archie Bunker figure to show that such sentiments aren’t ok anymore. As funny as she is, Gloria’s entire character centers around being a shrill, fiery Latina. No matter how insensitive Jay looks when he makes jokes about her origins, it doesn’t change the fact that we are laughing with him and at her.
Less cut-and-dry are Mitchell and Cameron. I continue to applaud the show for making these characters, for the most part, ordinary. They are older, domestic and don’t do things like go clubbing all night, wear tank tops 24/7 or cut hair to make a living. However, they are too often the subject of wink-wink-nudge-nudge jokes that play on gay stereotypes. While they try to offset this with references to Cam’s athletic prowess or Mitchell’s dowdiness, they fail the “drinking game” test. That is, if you took a shot every time of of them made a comment about gourmet food, home decor, or general sissiness you would have your stomach pumped faster than Ke$ha at a swallowing-mandatory BJ party.
Family Guy, by contrast, makes no attempts at couching its stereotypes in warm fuzzies and group hugs. When they have a trans character, you know that she’s going make another character vomit. The resident Jew in Quahog is cheap and whiny. While the Latino maid on the show sets race relations back about 45 years, at least they’re honest about their bigotry and don’t make any claims towards doing anything new.
I like Modern Family and I don’t like Family Guy. In the end, that’s the biggest difference for me. That’s why one is “appointment viewing” and the other is a backup for when I’m stoned or otherwise unable to leave the couch. But at the end of the day, I know this: Family Guy doesn’t have to worry about having a family audience. Pandering to no one but stupidity, they can take risks.
Modern Family, on the other hand, has been a runaway hit for over a year and still lacks the balls to show their gay characters regularly kissing like most couples. And that, more than anything coming out of Peter Griffin’s mouth, is offensive.