BLOG POST (Module 9): LANCE MENDOZA, Gay Characters as another model minority in Modern Family.

Below is a scene of Mitchell and Cameron from Modern Family

In the video, Mitchell and Cameron wants to enroll their adopted daughter, Lily, to a prestigious school. They thought Lily would have a good chance in getting enrolled because of her status as an asian adoptive daughter to a gay couple . However, another couple is trying to enroll their child in the same school at the same time with qualities that seem to beat theirs.The child is African with lesbian parents, one of whom is disabled.

In the show, Mitchell and Cameron represent the portrayal of gay characters as another model minority. Mitchell, in particular, displays qualities similarly given to Asian characters — Type A, high strung, timid but smart, and economically successful. He is generally not confrontational and prefers professionalism in difficult situations. In addition, he works at law firm after graduating Cornell and Columbia University at the top of his class which contributes to the successful stereotype. On the other hand, Cameron portrays the other aspect of stereotypes given to gay characters. He has a very big personality and a flare for theatricals. As such, his bubbly outgoing personality contrasts to Mitch’s uptight manner. Although he might be flamboyant, Cameron has mainstream interests and an american backgrounds that would appeal to the viewers like football and growing up in a farm in the midwest. This might be why Cameron exist as a character since he has traits that still grounds him to the mainstream culture.

Both Mitchell and Cameron have seemingly negative traits that is actually admired by mainstream media. They have this obsession in making sure Lily’s life is perfect by going to the right schools, etc. Although we all know that helicopter parenting is generally not a good thing for the child, it resonates with our deeply ingrained idea of  pursuing material security through a solid work ethic. Seeing a gay couple going through difficulties to achieve success is much more digestible than those “getting hand outs”. As Becker puts it in his work Gay-Themed Television and the Slumpy Class, “… gays and lesbians, reported to be well educated with a disproportionate amount of disposable income, seemed to be economically self-sufficient.”

 

Another thing worth noting about the scene provided is that there seems to be a hierarchy of marginalized communities. In the video, lesbian parents with a disabled partner and african boy is implied to beat gay parents with an asian girl. Based on this limited example, It seems like the group that “wins” is the one that belongs to a less accepted marginalized group. This might be due to the saturation of “safe” token minorities being represented in the media. As such, the line of what might be seen as this “safe” token minority is being slowly pushed further towards the less accepted. This line is what becker might refer to as “edgy, risque programming”. A decade ago, during the Gay 90’s, the group that lands perfectly on this edgy and risque line would have been predominantly white gay male couples.  In other words, the change that we might be seeing might be a reflection in the shifting attitudes and identities of many Americans.

 

The change in what is considered edgy and risque in Television might also be partly motivated by the need to attract viewers in a market saturated with similar shows. As Jane Arthurs points out in her work Sex and the City and Consumer Culture, in order for a show to be successful it needs to have the “ability to innovate within a pattern of predictable pleasures … that appeals to a commercially attractive audience”. The show does this with the scene simultaneously portraying the gay characters as a model minority while calling attention to how commonly LGBTQ is represented by white males.

To add more, I think it’s interesting how the show is portraying a gay couple exploiting the slumpy sensibility. This is a recent phenomenon where “maintaining at least an appearance of celebrating social differences became de rigeur for those who wanted to be ‘hip’ and ‘sophisticated’ “(Becker). The scene in Modern Family highlights this apparent acceptance and celebration of diversity in the mainstream media. The couple knows that their non-traditional status will give them an edge since it will provide the school with a passive way of affirming their open-mindedness, analogous to the way that slumpies consume gay-inclusive shows as Becker points out.

Discussion Questions:

1.) What do you think is the direction that LGBTQ characters are being portrayed in Television is going?

2.) What do you think is today’s version of edgy and risque programming?

3.) Do you think that the representation of gay characters reflects the acceptance of LGTBQ among Americans?

4.) How do you think LGBTQ Characters should be portrayed in Television shows?

 

Relevant Readings: Gay-Themed Television and the Slumpy Class by Ron Becker and Sex and the City and Consumer Culture by Jane Arthurs

Thoughts and comments are welcome below!

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15 thoughts on “BLOG POST (Module 9): LANCE MENDOZA, Gay Characters as another model minority in Modern Family.”

  1. Modern Family’s representation of gay characters reflects the growing acceptance of LGBTQ among Americans. The fact that the show casts a family with gay parents as some of its main characters represents the shift in the media culture. Originally this may have been outrageous or controversial at the best but now it is a much more normal occurrence. Inevitability the progress that LGBTQ are making outside of media translates to what is depicted in media because television shows what people want to see to some extent.
    Gayness was once seen as a negative thing and in some cases it still is. But there is growing acceptance and even admiration for gay people as being “cool”. As depicted in this clip of Modern family, it is changing from being something that holds people back to something that empowers them. This change in their portrayal is important to the representation of and image of LGBTQ.

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  2. Hi Lance!
    This was a very informational and entertaining read. Although I do not watch Modern Family, I feel like you picked out a scene that perfectly exemplifies the point you are trying to get through. I feel like the direction of LGBTQ characters is going in a more positive than negative direction. At first, producers were more resistant and skeptic to even considering putting gay characters in shows. Now, we are seeing more diversity with these characters and it is becoming more common to see them in mainstream television. Although not every character is perfect, I think that the representation of gay characters is not being too exaggerated from most. I think today’s version of edgy and risque programming would fall under the category or genre recombinations which means that more shows are being mixed with 2 or more genres as a way to attract more audiences. This is edgy because it is introducing something new to us that can succeed or fail, for the most part. I feel that the representation of gay characters is brining about more accepting attitudes towards the LGBTQ community because it is becoming more common to see gay actors on television and other forms of media, so people are not taking this as a surprise anymore. I feel that LGBTQ characters should be portrayed in a vast majority of ways. Some people think that there is only one way to be gay (flashy, loud, and flamboyant) when in reality this is not the case. There should be more representations about gay characters and the different ways they act.

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  3. Hi Lance! I think you used a wonderful example to explain main points from both Arthurs and Becker’s work. I believe that this video is funny and perfectly captures what the predominantly white gay male stereotype associated within the LGBTQ community. Although I’m not a avid watcher of Modern Family I believe that this portrayal of the characters Mitchell and Cameron is perfect to discuss the direction that LGBTQ characters are being portayed throughout television. First off, I see more and more how the “gay white male” is constantly being portrayed in a general manner. By general, I mean a way that is stereotypical (i.e. being flamboyant, artistic, somewhat dramatic, etc.)–in the same way characters like Cameron and Mitchell are within this scene. However, with shows like Sense8, I’m beginning to see the shift in how characters within the LGBTQ community are represented. In this particular show there are minorities and transgender individuals who are represented unlike most shows like Modern Family who primarily represent the conventional white gay male(s). The clip you provided is an excellent example of how most people within the LGBTQ community are represented on TV, and hopefully there will be a shift in not only how they “look,” but also how they “act.” I think LGBTQ characters should be portrayed in a non-stereotypical manner because TV shows today, portray falsified textbook examples of what it means to be part of the LGBTQ community (particularly the gay community) rather than showing how members of this community really act. Most of the time, these stereotypes are negative and false overgeneralizations. TV stations and shows need understand that there are differences between particular generalizations that may have some truth in actuality and false over-generalizations. Once again, nice example and utilization of the readings by Arthurs and Becker!

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  4. Hey Lance,
    Good analysis of Modern Family. The scene you picked out in the show was very powerful because you see the double standards between black and white LGBTQ characters. The direction of LGBTQ characters are being portrayed in television has increased positively, but at the same time, there is some information that is not told properly.I think today’s version of edgy and risqué programming is the content of when stereotypes are perpetuated . Your choice of this Modern Family is an example of this type of programming. We see how white privilege plays out with Mitchell and Cameron, they are able to get Lily into a good school versus the black lesbian couple, who have to find their child another school. I do agree that the acceptance of gay characters reflects the acceptance of LGBTQ in society. I feel that television mirrors society in so many ways. Through this scene, we see how white gay men are more accepted in society than black lesbian women. I feel that there should be equal and even representation of LGBTQ characters; they should factor the different ages of a queer person and the different ethnicities as well.

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  5. Hi there! What a funny scene!
    I do think that the line between normal and edgy that television programs try to straddle is moving in the direction of more marginalized people. While in the 90’s, a gay, wealthy, white person was considered off-the-wall enough to be trendy but not too absurd, that standard is moving further toward what would have been too risque in the 90’s. While a disabled, minority lesbian with an adopted black child seems a bit beyond that line right now (hence why it stood out for comedic effect in that clip), I think the “wealthy” and “white” aspects are beginning to drop away from that sought-after middle ground. We are starting to see characters in shows like Orange is the New Black and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt who are LGBTQ and also low class or belonging to a racial minority.
    I think these trends indicate an acceptance of LGBTQ people in society, but a somewhat shallow one. I say this because, as the line of “just risque enough” moves, it’s still a matter of trendiness and not genuine acceptance. However, this still helps, and is better than nothing. I think the biggest thing that would help the image of LGBTQ people in the media is simply to portray them as real people, instead of as an over-the-top caricature.

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  6. Excellent work! I haven’t watched Modern Family, but your point is clear, I think. I certainly think that the clip reflects a growing shift in the perception of what is “risqué”: doesn’t matter if it’s gay, so long as it’s white, and male it’s not “risqué”. So, the focus of the Slumpies of today will, probably, be those groups who aren’t 1)male, 2)white, or 3)gay, or any combination of these three. The assumption of the white characters in this clip is that they’re going to lose out during the selection process because the other couple is more of a “minority” than they are. The comment above mine by Tashya Lee points out that the characters’ own sense of privilege is indicated by the exasperation they feel over being confronted with a couple is more of “minority” than themselves, and I think that’s an important point as well (and it also is the point of the joke).

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  7. First off, entertaining post, Modern Family is always funny and usually very well done, this example is no exception. I think that you stumbled onto what some circles refer to as the “Oppression Olympics” where groups vie, whether directly or indirectly, to decide who is the most oppressed in a kind of intersectional framework establishing the kind of hierarchy we see in this clip where the writers of Modern Family seem to be poking a bit of fun at this phenomena. I certainly hope this is not the kind of direction LGBTQ characters come to be portrayed in television as rather than seeking to become accepted and equally treated as all groups should be this kind of portrayal is rather divisive and seeks to create levels of “Queerness” or “Privilege” that are in no way up to the people or characters themselves and can be all but symbolic in some cases. I would certainly hope that the direction of LGBTQ characters in television follows perhaps Modern Family’s example and not the example they are poking fun at.
    I do not think we have to look far for edgy or risqué programming nowadays as there seems to be a sort of movement toward the fringes of Marxist cultural studies and identical politics a sort of “rule 34” of their own, if it exists I can find a way for it to be offensive to me. This is not meant to trivialize legitimate affronts that can arise in programming without a doubt, I simply mean to point out that there seems to be a movement to criminalize thought with the hopes of gaining some sort of acceptance or nod from a benevolent culture warrior that might very well be the reason we see such a divide among this country. If I had to guess and say that there is one genre of edgy or risqué programming today I would venture toward news programming, in the era of alternative facts, fake news, and identity politics, it is hard not to look at news programming in this light.
    I think to some extent the representation of gay characters reflects the acceptance of LGBTQ among some of the country. The urban centers which might very well make up major population of this country, are indeed the controllers of the media and television and incidentally or not generally have a more favorable perspective toward LGBTQ people. I think it is easy to fall into the trap of the echo chamber that is the urban centers of the West and East Coasts and think that everyone feels as you do, forgetting that there are many in the “flyover” states of rural areas that feel very differently than you.

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  8. Hi Lance, I think you picked an interesting scene for this module. I think this clip certainly shows the sort of tokenism TV producers use with gay characters to satisfy the ‘slumpy’ need for ‘diversity’ that Brecker and Arthurs discuss. I especially like your analysis of how Mitchell and Cam are aware of such desires for multiculturalism and try to use it to their advantage, which sort of makes a paradox for the show because it uses this sort of thinking while also satirizing it.
    Overall, I do think the current type of representation reflects LGBTQ’s current level of acceptance in mainstream America. While there are much more diverse gay characters on TV than in the 90’s, the majority of gay characters are still white and affluent, and I think this shows that mainstream America only accepts diversity on the same level that 90’s ‘slumpies’ accepted diversity. In fact, if i recall correctly, I read something about how homosexuals are actually underrepresented, and if this is true I think it relates to what you said about gay characters being the ‘safe’ token minority. In other words, mainstream America isn’t comfortable dealing with other minority groups, so it is overcompensates that with a certain depiction of a minority that it’s comfortable with.
    I think LGBTQ characters should be represented much more realistically on television, which would mean moving away from the stereotype created in the 90’s. One step would be to have better diversity of LGBTQ characters in terms of race, socio-economic status, and even sexually. Most LGBTQ TV characters fall under the L and G part of the acronym, so it’s important that there be more representation for bisexual and transgender people. Additionally, as established by Brecker and Arthurs, most LGBTQ characters are white and affluent, so having more African-American, Asian-American, Latino/a, working class, and middle class LGBTQ characters would the group be represented more realistically on TV.

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  9. Hey Lance, I really enjoyed your post on Modern Family and your analysis of both Mitchell and Cameron. I think you used the Becker and Arthurs readings well, and I also thought it was interesting how Mitchell demonstrated many characteristics ascribed to the Asian model minority type. I really liked your analysis of Arthurs quote that successful shows “innovate within a pattern of predictable pleasures,” and how this is done with Mitchell being shown as a model minority type character that is edgy, but still is mainstream as him and his partner are depicted as white males. I also thought your analysis on how the kind of edginess that is accepted in today’s media representations is changing was interesting, because I think it shows that although an interracial lesbian couple would probably not have been accepted during the 1990s, it is commonplace to see these kinds of relationships today. Finally, it was interesting how the “Slumpy Sensibility” was portrayed in the world of the show, with the school knowing that a non-traditional family would give them a good reputation. I think this goes to show that the goal of appearing hip and with the moment extends far past consumption of entertainment.

    I feel like a lot of shows within the past 20 years can be seen as being somewhat edgy and offering thrills while making sure to not stray too far from a certain way prescribed ways of presentation. Something like Frasier comes to mind, in which there are a lot of jokes and a few characters referencing gay culture, but nothing that really jumped out too far that could’ve offended the fiscally conservative Slumpies. I think it means a lot that shows like Modern Family (which is very much mainstream) have two main characters that are openly gay and in a relationship with each other. However, I think that portrayal of LGBTQ characters still have a long way to go in terms of both the wide variety of characters there are (not just white males!) and the number onscreen. Despite all this, it is encouraging to see that there are LGBTQ characters onscreen, and I agree that this means that America is no longer stuck firmly in the Slumpy 90s era, but is willing to broaden its mindsets and say that LGBTQ people should be accepted in today’s society.

    I think you mentioned what today’s risqué programming is in your post: non-white, non-male LGBTQ characters. I think these types of characters are becoming better represented in television, however their existence in a show might be a form of edginess the show employs. Building off of that, one of my favorite ways that an LGBTQ character is portrayed in a television show is Captain Holt from Brooklyn Nine-Nine. The fact that he is gay does not interfere with his job nor does it define him as a character, but his relationship with his husband is still a key facet of who he is, and their mutual bond plays a big role in Holt’s character development and motivations throughout the series. While Holt’s character might not be flawless, I really appreciate the way Brooklyn Nine-Nine doesn’t make his sexuality his defining feature, but an important part of his personality nonetheless.

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  10. What do you think is the direction that LGBTQ characters are being portrayed in Television is going?

    I think it will be closer to the reality since the there are more people raising their voices through activities or protests like pride parade. As the real voices are raised and then it is harder to keep the stereotypical characters, in terms of morals. Yet, I’m not saying that the portray of LGBTQ characters will be completely different but I think it will be more normal to see those characters by such parades and having more representations on TV.

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  11. Hello! Thank you for your blogpost! I really enjoyed it and I found the connection you drew with the model minority analysis to be very insightful. In particular, I would like to address your question about the direction in which the way LGBTQ characters in TV is going. I believe that especially in the beginning of queer television, there was a very clear-cut distinction between that and mainstream tv. However, I believe that over the years, this has changed significantly. Although there has been a fairly stereotypical way in which members of the LGBTQ community are portrayed, like the ones you mentioned in your discussion of Cam, I think that because of the reaction by the LGBTQ community to those stereotypes, there has been an attempt by the media to incorporate queer TV in mainstream media. I also want to make a quick comment on your question about the way we should portray LGTBQ characters in TV. I think that the only natural way of figuring out what the “right way” is, is by including more LGBTQ people in positions where they get to make decisions about contents of shows and so one. By having greater diversity in leadership positions, that’s how we achieve better representation.

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  12. Hi! Great blog post and analysis on Modern Family, I think it’s so interesting to think about how LGBTQ characters can also be portrayed as model minorities. I also think it speaks to how one of the ways Mitchell and Cameron may have been able to become accepted within their community is through class ascension. Interesting too is how little television has tried deviating from these slumpy-targetting representations of gay characters. I would hope that networks would start focusing more on representing gay and queer characters who are facing more realistic struggles like disproportionate economic circumstances, even just middle class characters would be a leap forward in what is currently being represented.

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  13. Hi Lance!

    I am personally a fan of Modern Family and I really like your insights from this blog post. To answer your question, I think the situation of LGBT portraits on television media is getting better and better. Moreover, it is not only a progress in the quantity but also in more and various forms of depiction. Before, we may only consider whether the LGBT group is considered and accepted by the society. However, in Modern Family, their existence from the very beginning is already very natural and accepted. They share the same life struggles, sometimes a little more but happy sorrowness like everyone else. They worry about issue for their kid’s education, and that’s not something only bothers the LGBT parents. They are treated just as every other group of people and thus I think the direction of LGBT depiction is getting more and more natural. Meanwhile, this couple in Modern Family has gained much attention and appeal to a lot of audience. The fact that they exist in a family TV series that tries to imitate real life situations have showed that it is related to the society’s acceptance of LGBT people.

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  14. I think Modern Family’s representation of gay couples shows how queer is becoming the new norm and thus more mainstream. The implication of the “gay model minority” shows the increasing acceptance of queer folk as mainstream and less as the other. I think the Modern Family is not a very good representation of LGBTQ characters because it focus on a wealthy and white couple, who’s biggest hiccups are some of the smallest problems. In addition, I feel like the characterization of Mitch and Cam are very stereotypical and do not do anything to express the diversity of LGBTQ community. Shows such as Sense8 are doing a relatively good job at showing diversity in the LGBTQ community. The shows plot line allows the characters to address issues within the LGBTQ community, but doesn’t let being queer consume the character.

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  15. Hi Lance, great post! I really enjoyed the clip you used and your analysis. In response to your question on what direction TV shows are heading in their portrayal of LGBTQ characters, I think that they are heading towards portraying them as more similar to straight characters. In the lecture video, Gail discussed some common portrayals of gay characters as being more feminine, with different voices/personalities that distinguished them as different from the straight characters. In more recent TV shows, like The Walking Dead, gay characters seem more “normal”. Aaron, a gay character in the show, isn’t portrayed with the stereotypical attributes usually attributed to gay characters. He’s like many other male characters in the show, and you wouldn’t know he was gay if the show didn’t tell you.

    Jumping off this, I think that this representation of LGBTQ characters in TV shows a growing acceptance of LGBTQs among Americans. Portraying them in a more positive light, or at least how any other straight character is represented, shows this equalization in acceptance of LGBTQs with straight people.

    I think LGBTQ characters should be portrayed just like any other character in the show. The Walking Dead does a very good job of this. I think that it’s also important for the character to not have their sexuality be their only defining trait. Fully fleshing out the character is really important, for both minority, female, and LGBTQ characters.

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