Misner 1 INTRODUCTION 11-year-old Manny stands perfectly still on the soccer field, his eyes gracefully following the path of a blonde girl on her bicycle, when the other team glides right past him to score the winning goal. Chaos ensues from all sides as his teammates, coach, and yelling parents snap him out of his daydream. Gloria, his mother, lets her presence be known by yelling profanities in Spanish. In the pilot episode of Modern Family (2009), the audience catches their first glimpse of these two characters’ personalities, and more importantly, their Latinidad, or Latin-ness. The southern California sun beats down on the scene, and when it is over Gloria drives her large SUV into the driveway of her family’s contemporary Malibu home, cuing the opening credits. Fifteen years ago, there was Will & Grace (1998) . The four best friends, two gay men and two straight women, lived, worked and played in New York for eight seasons. This show embodied the young professionalism and sexual availability that became the hallmarks of the ‘gay ‘90s’ on television. 1 Marked by its appeal to an educated, socially progressive audience, the wave of programs on primetime featuring queer characters promoted a hegemonic acceptance of sexual difference. Today, Modern Family reinvents this representational revolution in various ways. Debra Merskin notes that “television [is] a powerful site of cultural (re)production where dominant beliefs about race, ethnicity, sex, and gender (among other ‘isms’) are reinforced and recirculated.” 2 As of September 29 2009, Modern Family creators Steven 1 Becker, “Gay-Themed Television and the Slumpy Class: The Affordable, Multicultural Politics of the Gay Nineties,” Television and New Media 7(2006): 185. 2 Debra Merskin, “Three Faces of Eva: Perpetuation of the Hot-Latina Stereotype in Desperate Housewives ,” The Howard Journal of Communications 18(2007): 134.
Misner 2 Levitan and Christopher Lloyd officially added to a list of specific representations that draw upon cultural signifiers to redraw the features and boundaries of Latinidad . Although they might have set out to show the comedic side of a “progressive” family— one that is sexually, racially, and generationally diverse—Levitan and Lloyd have also established a complex web of cross-gendered, cross-generational, and cross-ethnic power relations through the characters in this family. Furthermore, the line between a traditional and modern family becomes increasingly blurry as new articulations of patriarchy and heteronormativity deconstruct the dominant relationships within families of countless other sitcoms. In light of the industrial trends of the ‘90s that emphasized class-contained gay representations and thus appealed to a specific audience, I propose that Modern Family , through its Latino representations contained in a stable family structure, participates in a rearticulating of the American family that includes ethnic difference while maintaining its centrality to conservative cultural values. On a larger scale, this analysis reveals how the
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