28 September 2012

The Politics of a "Modern Family" Review -or- Smart People Believe X, Obama is Smart, Therefore Obama Believes X

Esquire: Culture Blog | Anna Peele | Why Modern Family Is So Conventional

The show is like a Zack Morris cell phone disguised as an iPhone in the form of its gay couple, Mitch (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) and Cam (Eric Stonestreet), and the fact that teen sex is acknowledged. It could not be more conventional — there was an episode about a lost puppy! Even Leave It to Beaver would find that crap lame — yet Emmy voters nominated the entire cast and awarded Julie Bowen and Jesse Tyler Ferguson and named the show the best comedy on television.

It's an excuse for Mitt Romney, by virtue of declaring it his favorite show, to let the world know he is just barely tolerant of homosexuals. Barack Obama also pretends it's his favorite, but at least he sees it for what it is: a hyper-traditional sitcom about nuclear families that will connect him to the thirteen million middle Americans who watched the premiere last night.
This is exactly what I'm talking about when I say people project whatever they want to believe about Obama onto him. How does Peele possibly know that "Obama sees is for what it is"? Did this come up in some White House press briefing?*
If it did, then, ummm... ignore the rest of this post.
Was there some interview I missed where he said Modern Family is his favorite show, but wink-wink-nudge-nudge he actually realizes it's "hyper-traditional" (thus uncool) and is only pretending to like it? Am I missing something, or is that just pure assumption pretending to be fact?

Maybe I've been missing some crucial utterances from the Oval Office, but why would Peele conclude Obama only pretends to like Modern Family? How does she leap from "I think Modern Family is conventional masquerading as edgy" to "Obama knows Modern Family is conventional masquerading as edgy"? There's simply no evidence to build that chain of inference. The only way to get from there to here is:
  1. Obama is a habitually blank slate who's gotten tons of mileage from being all things to all people, and
  2. Peele and people like her have become accustomed to projecting their own beliefs onto his vacuous facade.
  3. Therefore, Obama must believe what Peele knows to be true.
This doesn't really matter when it comes to TV, but people do this with everything. "I think marijuana is swell, and I'm sure Obama does too." Ummm, nope. "I support peace and want to bring our troops home, and I'm sure Obama does too." Nope. "I oppose warrant-less wiretapping of Americans, and so does Obama." Not exactly. "I support more open immigration, and Obama does too." Not so much, actually. "I'm against torture, indefinite detention, and assassination, and I'm sure Obama is too." Sadly, no. But hey, who cares about actual actions when you have Hope?


Also, why the hell do periodicals like Esquire feel compelled to drag politics into things like their TV reviews? I stopped reading both Rolling Stone and Wired because they couldn't separate politics from the rest of their content. I have no desire to read what Esquire's staff thinks about elections, because (a) they aren't particularly sharp when it comes to politics, (b) they're largely innumerate and so anything they say remotely touching on economics is useless, and (c) they're openly disdainful of my views. Stick to your knitting, Esq., or you'll loose at least one more subscriber.


PS. I just reread the second 'graph I quoted above, and I'm now even more confused. Peele is criticizing Romney for cynically claiming to like Modern Family, but then in the very next sentence praises Obama for only liking Modern Family cynically. This is why Obama will win. It does not matter what he does or says. He can say and do exactly the same things Romney does (which he will do, depressingly often) but his supporters will love him for it because he is Cool and Romney is not. Obama was elected in 2008 because he was Cool. That has not changed since then, so he will be re-elected in 2012.


  1. I don't care to read the entire linked review, but the section you linked seemed to be confusing "edgy" with "funny". It is absolutely true that Modern Family is an extremely conventional comedy. It is also pretty smartly written and very frequently wildly funny.

  2. I agree. I think the story lines they write are very conventional, but the jokes they right to serve them are *very* sharp. I think the writing is great, except for the explicit "this is the moral of the episode" bit they always hammer onto the end of the show.