Modern Family, Phil Robertson, and Glenn Beck

Modern Family, Phil Robertson, and Glenn Beck

Modern-FamilytigtlecardAt the end of last year, I became a fan of the ABC television show Modern Family. I’d heard it was funny, and my kids urged me to watch it. When the USA network started rerunning episodes virtually every night, I jumped in.

It’s a hit show, but I’ll assume some readers aren’t familiar with it, so here’s a snap summary: The family of the title consists of patriarch Jay Pritchett married to second wife Gloria, a Colombian bombshell, who has a son, Manny, by a previous marriage, and now a baby by Jay. Also populating the clan: Jay’s two adult children, Claire and Mitchell. Claire is married to Phil Dunphy, and they have three kids, while her brother, Mitchell, is gay, and with his partner, Cameron, has adopted a Vietnamese baby, Lily.

Before you start groaning about the politically correct nature of the show’s “diversity,” let me assure you, the writers are smart and deft. They poke fun at political correctness regularly, such as on an episode where Mitchell and Cameron think their daughter is a shoe-in for an exclusive preschool because she is the adopted child–and Asian, to boot–of a gay couple….until a lesbian couple, one of whom is disabled, walks in with their African-American baby.

I think Modern Family succeeds because ultimately it is about enduring family love. It’s rarely vulgar, and even if the characters exhibit selfish or boorish behavior, by the end of the story, they’ve seen their reflection in a mirror and owned up to their sins. Every episode, in fact, ends with a life lesson explained, in much the same way old chestnuts like Leave It to Beaver or Father Knows Best would end with the Beav or little Peggy being schooled in a gentle, tender way on some thorny issue.

Modern Family probably represents a lot of American families now, where divorced and gay members wrestle with comfort levels, with making things work in blended families, with how to love one another.

Love is a Christian theme, of course, and that brings me to my second point in this discussion of current family values–the fundamentalist Christianity of people like Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty who recently opined in a negative way about gays and African-Americans. This led to the gay-rights advocacy group GLAAD pressuring A&E, Duck Dynasty‘s network, to exact punishment, which they did in the form of a suspension. And then rescinded it when countervailing forces applied their own pressure.

As that real-life episode unfolded, I kept thinking of how the audience of Modern Family probably tolerated Phil Robertson’s views more than GLAAD did, even if they didn’t share Phil’s outlook.

Love is patient, love is kind, St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians. And that’s what I think audiences exhibited toward Robertson when they sensed he might have been the target of a politically correct bullying.

Love is also more than a “resounding gong” or “clanging cymbal,” Paul exhorts. And conservative radio show host and media mogul Glenn Beck demonstrated he walks his talk when he announced in a CNN interview that he would stand with GLAAD against what he called Russia’s “hetero-fascism.”

This made news, but why should it? Beck represents where most of America stands. They are repulsed by Russian commentators who want to throw gays into ovens. But they are tender in their tolerance for Phil Robertson, knowing he is not standing with those Russian “hetero-fascists.” They can tell the difference between the hateful actions of a Westboro Baptist Church and the misguided comments of an older man.

And therein lies a lesson for all special interest advocates. There are real haters in the world– people who want to harm gays, who shoot little girls who want to learn to read, who stone and punish women who dare stray outside a misogynistic society. While advocacy groups and political parties pat themselves on the back with smug activities (the American Library Association’s annual Banned Books Week comes to mind) or pronouncements about the Republican War on Women, real hatred for learning, for women, for gays takes place in other places of the world.

Stop wasting your time on the Phil Robertsons of the world, GLAAD. Stop pretending we need to worry a lot about book censorship in America, ALA. Stop accusing conservatives of a “war on women,” liberals.

There is real suffering going on in the world, being inflicted by very real haters. America is Modern Family at heart–a clan of people who want to love each other. Let’s direct our anger at the very real haters out there and stop using faux outrage to score political points against our ideological adversaries.

Libby Sternberg is a novelist. Her latest novel is appearing in serialized form at her blog.


Libby Sternberg

Libby Sternberg

Libby Sternberg is an Edgar-nominated novelist whose works include humorous women’s fiction, young adult fiction, and historical fiction. Her political writings have appeared at Hot Air, the Weekly Standard, Insight, the Wall Street Journal, and Christian Science Monitor.


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