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I guess I just like liking things

From L. to R.: Smartest person on the show; Lunkhead

From L. to R.: Smartest Person On The Show; Lunkhead

When my wife and I finished watching through Cheers we were on the search for a new sitcom to watch together. A friend suggested Modern Family so we tried it… and are now halfway through season four. It’s only taken us a month and a half to get this far, whereas it took us a full year to get through 11 seasons of Cheers. You can draw your own conclusions, but let me add this in: on Modern Family, Shelley Long plays the ex-wife of the head of the clan. Whenever she comes on (which is thankfully not that often) we have residual shudders from all the “Diane & Sam” nonsense from Cheers that we were long ago sick of.

I don’t know how familiar you are with the show, so here’s a quick breakdown: Jay is divorced from his first wife but is now married to Gloria who is much younger than him and has a son (Manny) from her previous marriage. Jay’s two kids are Claire and Mitchell. Claire is married to Phil and they have three kids: Haley (wild child), Alex (smart kid), and Luke (likable doofus). Mitchell and his partner Cam have adopted Lily, who is Vietnamese.

The first episode of season three is entitled “Dude Ranch,” and it sees the whole clan headed off to Wyoming to go to one. Hijinks ensue, as they do. There are a bunch of other people at the ranch, and one of them is the kid show in the picture up top here. He’s a miniature version of Jersey Shore and I don’t know how better to describe him than that. He acts like the sort of jerk that assumes every woman wants him, and he’s acting this way in Alex’s direction. Pretty soon he kisses her against her will – and we find out this was her first kiss. Later she finds him and confronts him about it, but then ends up kissing him, and being kissed by him again, and at the end of the episode it’s mentioned that they’re “dating” long distance or whatever. It’s all played for laughs.

Wow did this ever bother me.

Right off the bat let me say that I’m sure I’ve seen this exact thing in TV and movies (probably even books) hundreds of times. I retroactively feel bad about being amused by it. I mean, let’s look at the underlying thoughts here:

  • Guy kisses girl whether or not she wants him to because he’s a guy and it’s okay for him to do that
  • Girl protests, but she obviously wanted him to do it
  • Furthermore, because of it, they end up in a relationship

Do I even need to get into how messed up this thinking is? And it’s even more surprising given how progressive the show presents itself as being. Playing it for laughs and dismissing it as a “boys will be boys” thing puts a stamp of approval on it that it absolutely should not have.

If I ever have a son, I’m going to want to watch this episode with him when he’s old enough and we’re going to talk about why it is not okay.

Am I way off base here?


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