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‘Modern Family’ Values

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Double daddy duty: significantly, Modern Family’s season three also brings the adoption of a new daughter, Lily, by gay fathers Mitchell Pritchett (Jessie Tyler Ferguson, left) and Cameron Tucker (Eric Stonestreet). The hysterically sassy Aubrey Anderson-Emmons (lower right) now plays the role of the couple’s daughter, originally introduced by the hysterically sullen Ella and Jaden Hiller.

ABC’s artfully funny hit sitcom imitates life as too few know it
by Nancy Ford

It’s sort of difficult to remember Wednesday nights before Modern Family. The heavily lauded sitcom about to enter its fourth season on ABC has become a Hump Night staple in America’s ever-increasingly diverse living rooms, bringing with it images once thought more appropriately limited to PG movies. That’s the Pritchett-Delgado/Pritchett-Dunphy/Pritchett-Tucker family’s modern part.

The family’s gay part is, of course, anchored by the coupling of Mitchell Pritchett (Jessie Tyler Ferguson) and Cameron Tucker (Eric Stonestreet), a happy (usually) homosexual family that deftly balances gay stereotype with gay realism. This third season finds our boys considering adopting a baby brother to join their adopted daughter, Lily.

But MF’s wry gay sensibility doesn’t stop there. Brainy teen Alex Dunphy (Ariel Winter) finally finds her inner girly, thanks to a first kiss while on vacation at a dude ranch, but later finds herself with a three-alarm-level flaming gay date for the prom she didn’t want to attend in the first place. “Yes, my bad-boy prom date is gay,” she laments. “He just doesn’t know it yet, so I’m basically his beard. Pre-beard. His stubble.”

Perhaps the show’s most intriguing character is young Manny Delgado (Rico Rodriguez), whose sense of gentility and refinement leads the casual observer to assume he is gay, too. Not necessarily so. “I have a tennis racquet upstairs I only use as a bubble bath frothier,” he says, blithely dismissing sweat-inducing sports. The Latino preteen may be the supreme role model for youth who, if too young to determine their sexuality, are simply “different,” inspiring them to embrace those differences with Manny’s aplomb, self-confidence, and grace.

Modern Family won the Emmy for outstanding comedy series last year, in addition to its eleven previous Emmy wins, and is nominated for fourteen more golden girls this year. The show dominates the Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series category, with MF cast members occupying no less than four of the six nomination slots.

And that’s how we know Modern Family is a sitcom and not a reality show: no real family, no matter how modern, could survive that level of competition.

Available September 18 from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment (foxhome.com).

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