Modern Family continues to rack up accolades, awards, and spectacular ratings. But the hit sitcom has also found itself mired in a surprising number of controversies. Most recently, the show — about the hilarious interactions between the kooky members of a close-knit extended family — is courting criticism for introducing a story line based on ditzy teen Haley's sexual escapades, which some critics are calling inappropriate considering the series' broad audience. Here, a look at that and four other surprising Modern Family controversies:
1. Haley has sex
Brace yourself for the wrath of parents groups, says TV Fanatic. According to Ty Burrell, who plays daffy patriarch Phil Dunphy, his character will soon learn that daughter Haley is no longer a virgin. "Salt will be added to the awkward wound" when he discovers that his wife Claire was already in the know. Look, says David Wharton at Cinema Blend. Nearly every TV show with a teenage character broaches this subject at some point. Hopefully Modern Family will deliver "something a lot funnier and more truthful than your typical 'very special episode.'"
2. Lily says the f-word
On a recent episode titled "Little Bo Bleep," Cam and Mitchell's toddler daughter mimics her dads' uncouth language, and begins repeating the "f-word" at the most embarrassing of times. The young actress who plays Lily never actually said the word on set — she was instructed to say "fudge" while her mouth was blurred and her voice bleeped in post-production. Nontheless, the parents group No Cussing Club and the Parents Television Council said the joke "was in poor taste" because it encouraged children to curse. "Oh, for ____'s sake," says James Poniewozik at TIME. "What the bleep was the big deal?" The subplot was amusing and in no way glamorized cursing, as the parents groups alleged.
3. Cam and Mitchell haven't kissed
At the height of Modern Family's breakout premiere season, fans of the gay couple Cam and Mitchell were miffed that the two very-much-in-love partners had never kissed on screen. A Facebook campaign called "Let Cam & Mitchell kiss on Modern Family!" asked, "ABC isn't afraid of gay characters, so why won't they let them show some love?" The show delivered in season two, with a water cooler episode titled "The Kiss." Short and sweet and in the background of a busy scene, the kiss "was both frustratingly and admirably understated," says Willa Paskin at New York. At least producers "didn't bow to pressure to make Cam and Mitchell's kiss a huge deal, sacrificing character and story line in the process."
4. Gloria is a Latin stereotype
Modern Family may earn praise for its multidimensional portrayal of gay characters, but when it comes to Sofia Vergara's saucy Colombian trophy wife Gloria, "Latino stereotypes prevail," says Abel Ortiz at La Presna. She speaks English poorly, jokes about being a golddigger, constantly references crime and drugs in Colombia, and is always dressed as if she "were going to a club." While that's true, says Jessica Pauline Ogilvie at The Gloss, Modern Family has found a way with Gloria to "be smart and funny and to dole out stereotypes equally." And as far as Vergara is concerned, her performance is true to the Colombian women she knows: "I always try to remember how my mom used to scream, and my aunt, and how women were in Colombia, to make the character as funny as possible."
5. Cam's "acting straight" storyline is homophobic
In a recent "homophobic" episode, says After Elton, Cam tries to prove his manliness by "acting straight" and picking up a woman (played by Leslie Mann) at a bar. He fails spectacularly when she quickly realizes he's gay: "It's obvious… The way you talk and walk and dress and your theatrical hand gestures." The plot perpetuated the stereotype that "straight guys can only be masculine and anyone who isn't is just gay and in denial." It's a shame that Modern Family sent a message to its 13.5 million viewers that "if a guy is girly, he is gay, no matter what he might say otherwise."