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I just watched the Season 5 finale, where Cam and Mitch get married. After exchanging the rings there is the traditional kiss between the newlyweds. Their kiss is very short, at which point I realized again what I already have been wondering now and then during the whole series:

Why do we never see Cam and Mitch kiss each other?

They are together for many years, but they are almost never exchanging any form of physical affection. In contrast, Phil and Claire or Jay and Gloria are regularly shown kissing or (in the Dunphy's case) even making out. The only time Cam and Mitch are showing any kind of physical contact is when it is needed for the plot, as with the marriage kiss, where there really is no good way to avoid it.

I thought it was great that Modern Family was taking on such a controversial topic as gay partnership and showing it as something normal on television. But it still feels that the topic is handled very conservatively in that regard and I wonder why.

Is it because either the producers or the network are afraid that showing them kissing might scare away viewers? Is it a regulations thing of some sort? Or are the actors maybe just not comfortable with it?


Before anyone brings that up: I am aware that there is an episode about Mitchel not being very affectionate because of his father. I think there even was another short kiss between him and Cam in that episode (again, because the plot demanded it). However I am more interested if there is any reason outside of the plot for the lack of physical affection. To be honest it felt more like they made that episode to have a justification for it and not that they were doing it for plot reasons so they can bring it up for that episode later.

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Not sure what tags would fit here, neither plot-explanation, analysis or production really match the topic of the question. Does anyone have a good idea? – atticae Jun 11 '14 at 2:21
I don't see why analysis wouldn't fit, being such an overly broad tag. It might not suffice or be much specific, but it's definitely a start. – Napoleon Wilson Jun 11 '14 at 9:02

4 Answers 4

The answer is probably "viewer comfort".

I'm a straight guy (bear with me, I'm explaining viewer experience) and while I strongly agree that gay partnership is acceptable, I still cringe when I see a kissing scene between two men.

The fact of the matter is: Society has gotten used to seeing a man and a woman kiss on TV, but non of us grew up seeing men kiss, and while most intelligent people will respect the rights of people of all sexualities, kissing scenes between two men can be cringe-worthy for straight guys.

While the franchise is taking big steps by including homosexuality in a tv show, it still has to please viewers, and many viewers are simply not comfortable with gay kissing scenes yet.

Note: I hope I'm not offending any gay readers here at all.

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Personally, I just can't bear to watch the scenes. Support it. I'm ok with it. Just can't watch it. I watched Milk, which was a very good movie with a great story, but without fail, when it came to kissing scenes, I couldn't handle it. Looked away and got very uncomfortable each time. If my experience is similar to the majority of straight men, then it makes sense for the show to avoid kissing scenes when possible. – user9733 Jun 11 '14 at 4:31
while many viewers are comfortable, even more so, watching two women kiss, although we never grew up seeing that. Just a comment @jt0dd & did not mean at all as a hateful retort. – KharoBangdo Jun 11 '14 at 5:36
@Kharo I specified "straight men" as having issue watching gay men for that reason. Straight men, for some reason, often don't have a problem with gay women kissing. I suspect it may work similarly for straight women watching gay men kiss. – user9733 Jun 11 '14 at 5:43
You make some reasonable points, and I have to admit that I often find it awkward too to see men kiss. But as you say, that may be just a matter of "not being used to it". That being said, I also found it awkward how the two characters seem to be avoiding physical contact at all cost, which (to me) makes their relationship appear not as close as it is meant to be. – atticae Jun 11 '14 at 13:35
"non of us grew up seeing men kiss" -- depending on your viewing choices. I was 7 when "My Beautiful Laundrette" was released. That had an interracial gay kiss, so two sources of discomfort, and was rated 15 here in the UK. So by the time I was old enough to watch it, actually I did grow up seeing these scenes, in movies. But I think this answer is quite likely correct. Primetime TV does like to give the audience a couple of generations to ease into anything formerly taboo, and rarely challenges us to watch something unfamiliar to large parts of the audience. – Steve Jessop Mar 15 at 11:29

As @jt0dd says, it seems to be viewer comfort.

A Facebook petition was actually set up by a group of fans back in Series 2 calling for a kiss between them, as it hadn't happened yet:

"Cam & Mitchell, the adorable gay couple on ABC's Modern Family, have not been shown sharing even a brief kiss throughout the series' first hit season. ABC isn't afraid of gay characters, so why won't they let them show some love?" the group writes as its credo.

This was just one example, but there were a few different sources calling for this moment. It did finally arrive, with Vulture stating:

The kiss was both frustratingly and admirably understated. On the one hand, seriously, that's what you call a kiss?! On the other, Modern Family's creators didn't bow to the pressure to make Cam and Mitchell's kiss a huge deal, sacrificing character and story line in the process.

Given the amount of attention and hype this one little kiss generated, it's easy to see why the producers have avoided giving it any more exposure. Whilst they may be happy with gay characters, it's senseless for them to do something that risks alienating any of their fanbase. If their market research has suggested that having more intimate scenes between Cam and Mitchell could lead to a loss of viewers who find it distasteful, or unpleasant, to watch, they won't do it, regardless of their own opinions on the issue.

This can be clearly seen in Modern Family in any intimate scenes that Mitchell and Cameron find themselves in, compared to the other heterosexual people on the show. Whilst the others get far more on screen romantic and sexual scenes, Mitchell and Cam's are greatly reduced.

This does largely appear to be an attempt to appease a fanbase who, whilst supportive of their relationship, don't wish to know or see the more intimate aspects of it.

Obviously, this raises questions about whether this is fair or whether, in time, the show should do more. These questions go beyond the show though, and venture in to the realm of what mainstream America is actually prepared to watch. There will always be campaigners in favour of more graphic scenes between the couple, and others in favour of less. Time will tell how the show goes, but for now it's treading a happy medium where it's trying to portray the love and care between them, rather than anything more graphic or sexual.

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Hm, your quotes only support the claim that there are people who support a more intimate relationship. The part about "alienating the fanbase" is just conjecture (much like jt0dd's answer). Of course, it's valid conjecture based on personal experience. Still would be nice to know for sure if that really is the reasoning of the showrunners. – atticae Jun 11 '14 at 13:32
@atticae: I don't think it's conjecture at all. We're not discussing something that is suspect or guessed at. We're discussing a widely known and accepted phenomena. America is still uncomfortable with homosexuality. Look at the reaction to Michael Sam being drafted for the St Louis Rams for example. The showrunners couldn't come out and say that, for fear of looking anti homosexual - but they certainly wouldn't want to overpromote it, simply to make a point, and risk damaging ratings and therefore their own show's future. – Andrew Martin Jun 11 '14 at 14:08

Viewer comfort is probably the answer, but I'll also point out that the actor who plays Cam (Eric Stonestreet) is straight in real life. He may have some influence on how often he and Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson, who is gay in real life) kiss or show other physical affection.

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Of course I'm sure viewer's comfort is a factor, but you're forgetting what it's like in the show. Mitchell's dad is obviously very uncomfortable about him being gay and kissing another man. Jay's friends are there and so is the entire family. I'm sure a lot of them would have been uncomfortable too

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It seems like you are talking about the wedding scene, but if you read the question further than the first paragraph you might realize that that's not really what this question is about. That was just one part of the bigger picture. – atticae Jun 27 at 13:00

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