Broadcast TV is familiar with gay characters; there was Will and Jack and Ellen, to name three. And though they were never official, the "Frasier" characters, Niles and Frasier Crane, were assumed to be gay by anyone familiar with straight men's reactions to the Opera Guild and Château Lafite Rothschild.
So what explains the kiss hype? Steve Levitan, the show's co-creator and writer, says the producers were planning this moment long before fans started to lobby via a Facebook campaign. That's right: the Cam and Mitchell kiss page make a splash with nearly 14,000 supporters. Prop. 8 in California should have this much pizzazz.
If you've seen "Queer as Folk" or "The L Word," you know soft-core porn is a staple of premium cable. The guy-on-guy, girl-on-girl action is hot. By contrast, "Modern Family" is airing a devoted couple's affection. These guys are seriously sweet, but it's hardly a provocative smooch between two hunka hunks of burning love. Still, Levitan did tell The Hollywood Reporter the scene would have "a very nice twist."
The over-the-top coverage just underscores how adolescent America is about sex. In real life, people who love each other kiss. No biggie. And usually, they don't look like movie stars. Happily, for the purposes of verisimilitude, neither do Ferguson or Stonestreet. They will express their love in all their overweight and/or nerdy splendor. Just like everyone else.
Many gay people, like Cam and Mitchell in "Modern Family," are in long-term committed relationships. According to a 2007 study by The Urban Institute/UCLA Law School, more than one in three lesbians have given birth and one in six gay men has fathered or adopted a child. Which makes the kiss publicity seem silly. Compared to what the average teen is doing in the basement, it's a nonstarter. So to quote a line from "A Chorus Line," a musical I'm sure Cam knows well, "Kiss today goodbye, and point me toward tomorrow."
Hopefully, in the not-too-distant broadcast future, the networks will treat all acts of love equally. They won't be special; they'll just be.