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Modern Family's Creators: Jay 'Evolved' With America on Gay Rights

Mitch

Over the course of 11 seasons, Modern Family aired episodes during a crucial period of advancement for LGBTQ rights, including the commencement of national marriage equality and a growing nationwide acceptance of LGBTQ people.

The groundbreaking ABC sitcom may have helped move hearts and minds through its storyline involving Mitch (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) and Cam (Eric Stonestreet), a gay couple who married and raised children over their story arc. 

Their love definitively moved the opinions of one character, the conservative patriarch Jay (Ed O’Neill), who according to the show's creators, Christopher Lloyd and Steve Levitan, proceeded to "evolve" to reflect America's attitudes toward gay rights, as well as interracial marriage.

Regarding the latter issue, Jay's relationship with his second wife, Gloria (Sofía Vergara), including his efforts to learn Spanish, also reflects this shift toward more progressive attitudes, the creators told The New York Times in an interview tied to the show's series finale on Wednesday.

"Jay was the character who started out with one foot in the old way of thinking, and he was trying to figure out his way in a new world. By the end, he has fully planted his other foot on the more progressive side. He’s been through a lot, and it’s hard for people who grew up one way to see the world changing so fast. But he seems to have come out better for it," Levitan said.

"The character made a decision for himself that he wanted a second run at a family and to do better than he did the first time, when he ended up getting divorced and wasn’t necessarily the best father to his kids. He didn’t know so much would be thrown at him in this do-over, but it was nice to see him evolve. And it’s fair to say he might represent a certain quadrant of our society that has come around on issues like gay rights and interracial marriage," Lloyd added.

The evocation of the word "evolve" recalls President Obama's term for how he came to change his opinion on same-sex marriage. He had publicly supported only civil unions for same-sex couples shifted his stance in 2012 to embrace marriage equality, around the same time a majority of Americans also polled as supporting equal marriage rights. A 2019 study shows that number as high as 63 percent.

While Modern Family was criticized by some LGBTQ viewers for often running into trope territory — it took until season 2 for Mitch and Cam to kiss, for example — "there is no denying the hearts and minds the pair changed," The Advocate noted in a piece that listed it among the "20 Most Important LGBTQ TV Shows of the Decade." A spin-off featuring these characters is currently under discussion — and hopefully, it will avoid the mistakes of the past.

Tags: television

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