It looks like America’s favorite family comedy will be back for a 9th season. Though not yet official, the co-creator and Executive Producer of Modern Family, Steve Levitan, announced that the prospects for at least one more season look promising.
This is excellent news for fans of the critically acclaimed show, which broke boundaries by beaming a lovable gay dad family into America’s living rooms once a week. Just as Will & Grace provided untold numbers of LGBTQ youth with a positive portrayal of gay men on television, Modern Family helped demystify the idea of gay fathers. Jesse Tyler Ferguson, who plays Mitch, admitted the show has even done so for him, personally: after playing a gay dad on television for 8 years, he says he hopes to start a family with husband Justin Mikita in the near future.
But eight years after the show’s premiere, some are starting to wonder just how “modern” Modern Family continues to be.
These days you can’t flip the channel without stumbling on a show with a gay father figured into the plot. And more often than not, these gay dads display a greater degree of diversity and complexity than Modern Family’s white, upper-middle-class, Mitch and Cam. Hits like Frankie & Grace and Girls have shown the struggles of gay fathers who have come out much past their prime. 13 Reasons Why features a plotline involving an interracial gay couple and the complications their sexuality causes their teenager daughter.
Modern Family has continued to find ways to trail blaze, mostly notably by casting Jackson Millarker, an eight year-old transgender actor, in an episode this past season. But as for Modern Family’s gay dads—can TV’s most boring gay dad couple stay relevant with such competition?
It’s a question castmates and producers discussed themselves following a recent screening of the season 8 finale. Tyler Ferguson says the plethora of gay couples on television today can only be a good thing. “I grew up very closeted,”said Jesse Tyler Ferguson, who plays Mitch, one of the two gay dads on the show. “And I always thought how great it would be if I could turn on my television and find someone who’s not just gay, but in a gay relationship. That would have made my coming out a lot easier.”
Julie Bowen, who plays Claire on the show, agreed, saying the very fact that featuring gay dads on television is no longer revolutionary is a testament to just how far we’ve come:
“People think it’s old hat to have a gay couple and they’re complaining, ‘Well they’re both white!’ and you’re like, ‘Yes, but eight years ago they were gay and that was the first thing that people noticed.’ The fact that they aren’t noticing their gayness, that’s great, that’s a stride, that’s steps forward, that’s wonderful.”