Was all set to blog about the dreaded Texas Rangers (the police force, not the baseball team), when I came across a scathing review of the new ABC TV show Modern Family. Seems my fellow raza in New York didn't like the new sitcom as much as I did, in fact they absolutely hated it, articulating their reasoned position and thoughtful critique with lines such as "fetid shitstorm," "loathsome," "oh Jesus Fucking Christ," and not just one "Ugh!" but two, the second in all caps. Wow. Were we watching the same show?
For those without TiVo and who, presumably, spend their cultured evenings reading books and going to the cinema, Modern Family is a single-camera sitcom, faux doc style, a la The Office, about three contemporary suburban families: one "traditional," one gay, the last a second marriage between an older white guy and a younger Latina with a kid named Manny. Seems the depiction of Manny's father, Javier the Latino (Guanabee.com's words, not mine), the "deadbeat dad" who didn't take his kid to Disneyland (pobrecito!), really upset the folks in New York. Setting aside the fact that Javier the Latino is actually Javier the Implied Latino Who Is Only Talked About And Never Actually Seen, their main beef with the show seems to be offensive stereotypes and what they see as boring, one-dimensional characters. I disagree.
To cherry pick and then highlight the so-called faults of only the Latino characters ("deadbeat dad") while not acknowledging equally offensive faults given to white characters (being racist, for instance) misses the point of the show entirely and makes for a disingenuous review. EVERYONE is held up for scrutiny, ridicule, and, consequently, complexity. Gays, cranky old gringo grandfathers, infantile white dads, Colombian trophy wives: they all receive, with equal opportunity of offensiveness, the same satirical treatment. What makes the show interesting, besides the funny writing, great acting, and the innovative way the writer's use and then subvert stereotypes, is including a Brown element to what has pretty much been a white depiction of what it means to be an "American" sit-com family. It's an organic inclusion, so far, that doesn't relegate Latinos to second-tier status, nor condescend to them with sappy PC reverence (you know, where their humble, hat-in-hand, immigrant asses get saved by the white guy).
Latinos-Who-Care-About-Such-Things complain when we're cast in movies and TV as maids and gangbangers. Fine. I do too. But to then complain that the few attempts at complex depictions are characters not all noble and without blemish is trying to have it both ways.
Sofia Vergara in particular, should be singled out for her performance as Gloria, the hot Latina trophy wife. Vergara takes the usual and tired depictions of TV Latinas, knowingly embraces the cultural stereotypes, and then spins them on their head in, yes, brassy assertions of power and pride. Very badass. And regarding Vergara's part in the abysmal Chasing Papi? All is forgiven.