Friday, June 22, 2012

Modern Family

Spoiler Alert: If you haven't seen the end of season 3 of Modern Family (the most recent season as of this posting), you may not want to read ahead!

Like any TV sitcom, Modern Family is far from a realistic portrayal of any actual "modern family." In real life, comebacks are never that snappy, plot lines don't intermix so seamlessly, and stories don't conveniently wrap up after half an hour. That said, the show has become one of our favorites for the past few years, probably because there's so much in it that we can relate to.

The Pritchett Family
In particular, it's great to watch Mitchell and Cameron, two gay men who have started a family together. Even just a few years back, seeing gay characters on TV was a novelty and a caricature (think Will & Grace, or Queer As Folk). Flash forward to today, where they're just another couple of characters in the broad array that is the Pritchett family. And not only are they a gay couple, but they're a gay couple who are raising a child together. Including such an example in prime time television goes an incredibly far way in normalizing these types of families to the general public.

Now is the depiction always realistic? Of course not! Take, for example, when Mitchell and Cameron are trying to convince a birthmother to pick them to adopt her as-yet unborn child:

Cameron and Mitchell Sing!

As the episode plays out, Cam's attempt to show off his voice has him singing "If You Leave Me Now," which convinces the mother that she needs to raise her child herself. The joke, of course, is that they're losing sight of their long-term goal (convincing a birthmother to pick them) in favor of garnering her endorsement as the better singer.

Obviously the show takes this situation to the extreme: throw in two flamboyant gay men, an emotional teenage mother, and the tension of major life decisions, and of course hilarity ensues! In real life, at least in our situation, the beginning of our relationship with a birth mother (or birth family) will be a lot more facilitated: we'll have a counselor from OA&FS along with us at least for an initial meeting, and most communication about who's getting picked by whom will go through them. But in many ways, the Modern Family scene rings true as a reflection of what we might be experiencing in the near future. Sure, the details will be dialed down a few notches, but at the core of it we're going to be meeting an expectant woman who'll be sizing us up as prospective parents for her child, and we will most definitely be feeling the pressure to impress her!

The recent season finale added some new scenes that were especially memorable: Mitch and Cam received "the call," telling them they'd been picked by a birth mother!

Updated: I removed the second clip because ABC's video player can't handle two clips on the same post. See this second clip directly on ABC's website.
Mitch and Cam Are Having a Baby!

And to top it off, it would be a last minute placement - they'll have a baby by the end of the day! This is a scenario that Brian and I have talked about a number of times. Last-minute placements happen for around 20% of OA&FS families. (I'm going from memory - the exact number may be slightly different, but it's in that range.) So while it probably won't happen, it's still very possible that we will receive "the call" about a baby that's either about to be or has just been born. As in, "Hi, you haven't heard from us in about 16 months, and by the way we have a baby for you right now!" I imagine I'd be very much like Cam in that scenario - my secret would last for about 2 minutes!

The mixture they show of excitement and nervousness, of elation and panic, seems about right. How wonderful to finally be picked! And at the same time -- holy crap!! There's a baby coming home today! I can only imagine the emotional chaos that situation would create.

I wish that ABC had the end of this episode online too, since it shows one more really important event that can happen: what our agency calls a "disruption." After Mitch and Cam rushed to drive a few hours to the small town hospital where the birth was happening, the birth family (through a complicated series of events) decided that the child would not be adopted, and would instead be raised by his biological grandmother. Now, the show presented the situation as a Spanish-language telenovela, and it was absolutely hilarious. But the pain that the two men felt as they had their hopes of a little baby boy dashed was palpable, and I couldn't help but feel a little heart-broken myself.

Disruptions are low with OA&FS (I'm vaguely recalling maybe 7% of families experience a disruption?), and in theory that's because of the large amount of options counseling that is available for expectant women at the agency. In fact, that's one of the reasons that we chose the agency; there was a lot more certainty in the placements, especially when compared to placements via the foster system. But disruptions still definitely happen from time to time, and that's something that Brian and I have to prepare for.

This show really impresses me because it manages to capture a number of the realities that are met when a gay couple adopts and presents them in a relatively realistic manner, while still providing a great deal of entertainment. Sure, they exaggerate the details -- but it is TV, after all. I'm just glad that there's a mainstream TV show that's exposing all of America to families like the one we're trying to create. Hopefully by the time our kids are grown, they'll just be part of another modern family.

1 comment:

  1. Yes, part of my modern family too! :) Great post, Andy.