Qualitative Media Analysis Essay
Over the course of time, the traditional idea of American families has transformed by a large extent. The societal perspective of nuclear families has changed, and along with the change in perspective, the cultural beliefs have also evolved. Quite contextually to the present scenario of family structures in the modern American society, the popular sitcom series, Modern Family, portrays on the screen a contemporary view of the families in the American society. Nevertheless, the sitcom is not beyond the domain of stereotypes or institutionalized ideologies of gender roles in the society. Among the three families that are portrayed in the sitcom series, the family of the gay couple is extremely interesting to the audience owing to the portraiture of the homosexual characters on the screen.
The Tucker-Pritchett family consists of the homosexual couple Mitchell and Cameron. In the very first season of the sitcom series, the gay couple adopts a Vietnamese child, Lily. Of the two gay characters, Mitchell is the biological son of Jay. He is also the younger brother of Claire. Mitchell is portrayed as an uptight advocate who is also the breadwinner in the household. In stark contrast, Cameron is an extremely flamboyant and colorful individual. He stays at home to take care of Lily. In the first season, there is no public display of affection on the part of the couple- something that is worth criticizing since it stands in stark contrast to the affection shown by the other couples on the show. There the public perception of the gay couple is that they do not indulge in loving each other openly.
It has to be understood that there is a clear sense of patriarchy in the relationship between Mitchell and Cameron. In spite of being males, they both comply with the traditional roles of the two different genders. Mitchell is seen to have a professional role in the sitcom, since he is the breadwinner of the family.
Cameron on the other hand has a domestic role to play in the series. His role is like that of the other women in the TV series as he also functions as a caregiver in the family maintaining the household. In the episode “Benched”, the two men endeavor to switch their roles in the family when Cameron decides to go for a job interview. However, the sitcom shows that the switch is very unsuccessful as Cameron ends up missing his daughter all through the day. Thus, the gender specific roles are reinforced through this portraiture. Also, Mitchell is found to admit saying, “As much as I love Lily, which is you know, more than life itself, I am not cut out to be a stay-at-home dad.”
Thus, it becomes very clear to the audience that Cameron is representative of the “woman” of the family. In the episode, “Run For Your Wife”, when the couple lock the baby in the car, Cameron is seen panicking and shouting like women. The emergency lady asks Mitchell to ask his wife to calm down. In another episode from Season 3, when the couple makes an accident, the guy runs away. Cameron is seen screaming like women as he keeps on running after him. Interestingly, he is wearing a pink shirt, and is screaming in a gay tone. What is extremely interesting is that the character of Cameron is instrumental in blending the demarcation between sex and gender. In stark contrast to the patriarchal beliefs and practices of Mitchell, Cameron is found to have extremely feminine traits in his behavior. This can be seen as a signifier of hegemonic masculinity. However, on the other hand, this might also be taken to be reflective of the dynamics of relationship between two gay people in a relationship in real life.
One might also opine that the character of Cameron is representative of the stereotype of a masculine buffoon. Cameron has a lot of assertiveness and pride. However, he goes on to overestimate his intelligence. He also engages in carrying out faulty schemes, and he takes poor decisions. Cameron is seen in the show to be in need of being rescued by the help of his more rational spouse, Mitchell. One can very well cite examples where Cameron trusts his own judgment with sheer overconfidence. Thus, he goes on to spend a lot of money, and even allows Lily in the episode “Bad Hair Day” to glue a wig onto a baby. The sitcom shows Cameron ending up to reach out or Mitchell or any other family member to aid him in cleaning up the messes.
The primary question is whether the portraiture of gay people in the sitcom complies with the real personalities and perspectives of homosexual people. It needs to be comprehended that in the society also gay people have specific gender roles attributed to them. If one considers a gay couple, one would find that one of the two people play the role of the homemaker. The person who sticks to the role of the homemaker takes care of the household chores. The person, thus, plays the feminine role going by the parameters of the gender roles that are institutionalized in the world society.
People live in a society that has acceptance for nuclear family structure. This family structure can consist of heterosexual individuals, or the family can be made up of homosexual people. However, both the members of the family have to carry out specific roles so that they can run the household. Hence, one of the members plays the role of the breadwinner, while the other helps in household work.
Simone de Beauvoir opines in her seminal feminist work, The Second Sex that the societal forces condition the child’s behavior so that he or she attains masculine or feminine attributes. However, a person is definitely not born with a sense of gender. Also, gender stereotypes aim to ascertain the normative roles of a male and a female child. Thus, the male child who grows up to be feminine in nature cannot be said to be an anomaly. Rather, that person has escaped the mental conditioning that is planned by the patriarchal societal structure and dynamics. Hence, a gay person can very well opt to engage in feminine activities.
However, the portraiture of gay couple in the sitcom is not beyond the realm of patriarchy. The gay couple is not seen to share their love for each other on screen for the audience to see. This might reflect the social censorship of homosexuality in some communities of the world. In stark comparison to the avoidance of public display of affection on the part of the gay couple in the sitcom, the heterosexual people on the show are seen to share affectionate moments.
The gay couple is seen to hug on screen, rather than kissing each other like the other couples on the show. This does not comply with the behavioral traits of gay people in reality. It is absolutely fine for homosexuals to engage themselves in public display of affection just like the heterosexual couples of the society.
Thus, Modern Family portrays the relationship between two gay people on the show. The portraiture of the homosexual characters might not be perfect, but it does reflect several intricacies of relationship. The physical attraction that is a part of homosexual relationship is consciously avoided on screen. In this way, it speaks out half-the-truth about homosexuality. Nevertheless, the sitcom is instrumental enough to show how a gay couple can be responsible enough to raise a child. The portraiture is in compliance with the emotions and sense of responsibility of the gay people. It shows that a man can be caring and responsible enough to adopt a child. Thus, the debate remains if television is not bold enough to portray the gay people of the society in the true light of their being. The sitcom goes as far as portraying the progressive outlook toward homosexuality, but stops at this before expressing everything.
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