Over the weekend, an “inner-tribe” debate began between Tuc Watkins (formerly of Desperate Housewives and Showtimes Beggars and Choosers) and Jesse Tyler Ferguson (of Modern Family).
In a recent Facebook post, Tuc said he found it difficult to watch Modern Family because the gay couple (played by Ferguson and Eric Stonestreet) were too stereotyped: ‘It feels a little bit like the gay equivalent of “blackface.” It doesn’t feel “modern” at all.’
Tuc went on to say, ‘I’m sure I scrutinize their characters more than the others. Maybe I can’t see the forest for the trees. But there’s probably a kid stuffed into a high school locker answering to that stereotype who doesn’t think it’s very funny either. The writers on that show are some of the funniest writers on television today. Why spend their time promulgating stereotypes that polarize us?’
Ferguson issued a rebuttal of sorts in the form of an open letter to Watkins:
Sorry you feel that way Tuc. I know lots of guys who are just like Cam and lots of guys who are just like Mitch. We can’t be expected to represent every gay person. We can only represent these two people.
Also, Mitch is basically a version of me…so I never know how to take it when people say that he is stereotypical. And in defense of Cam, I still can’t figure out how a clown & football coach who also happens to be gay is a stereotype.
When all is said and done, it’s a family sitcom. I feel our writers do a fantastic job of servicing 11 characters each week in just 22 minutes.
I am incredibly proud to play Mitch and I have a lot of pride in our show. As a closeted kid of the 80′s I would have loved to have had a show like Modern Family to watch with my parents. It would have meant a lot to me to see who I secretly was reflected on television.
TV has come a long way and it continues to forge new ground. I am thrilled with the work that you did on Desperate Housewives. It opened the door for shows like ours and hopefully we can hold that door open for many more shows to follow us. At the end of the day we can’t please everyone..and we shouldn’t try to.
Kinda just like life, right?
Take care. Jesse Tyler Ferguson.
So, today, Watkins comes back with an apology of sorts. Kinda sorta.
I’m glad to see that a FB post can stoke a fire that burns in the LGBT community, and supporters of our community.
Many doors have opened in gay people’s fight for equality. Civil rights, marriage rights, and depictions of us individually and collectively on television. Great strides have taken us from tolerance into acceptance and towards true equality.
Stereotypes still exist. They probably always will. And while the truth is usually somewhere in the middle, stereotypes polarize us. No news there. But while an explanation of a stereotype can make good, logical sense, it still leaves the stereotype intact.
I’m glad to have played gay characters, but at the same time have been frustrated by the stereotypes I feel I’ve been party to in playing those roles. I’ve begged wardrobe designers so I wouldn’t have to wear paisley shirts, directors to reconsider a “snap” at the end of a scene, and writers to remove “Hey, gurl!” from dialogue.
I did it because when I was growing up, trying to figure out where I fit it in, I couldn’t seem to locate a role model. The stereotypes I saw made me think, “Well, I don’t identify with that so I must not be gay.”
I can appreciate that one man’s roadblock may be another man’s role model. I feel like my growth was stunted, but understand that another person’s may have been bolstered. I believe that, as a community we want to make the path easier for those who come after us. I want that. I’m certain you do to.
Some audience members can laugh through a character, but it can also distance others. We each come to the fight with our own baggage…as well as our own weaponry. “Revolutionary times call for revolutionary means.” My comments were extreme, and my use of the word “blackface” inexcusable. I regret creating dissension among the ranks, especially when we’re all in this fight together.
I see your point. I hope you’ll consider mine.
What do you think readers? Does the Modern Family couple of Cam and Mitch hurt or help the LGBT community more?