“In summary, when LGBT folks “make it” on television, streamed into the dominant currents within televisual flow, are they no longer quite queer, that “mainstreaming” undoing the force of disruption and negativity that makes “queerness” to begin with?”(Joyrich, 134).
Lynne Joyrich posits this question in Queer Television Studies, wondering if a queer subject can truly remain queer after fitting into the mainstream of media. To visualize this, the gay couple in the TV show Modern Family comes to mind. Though an overused example, these two truly represent the notion of the mainstream queer losing its queerness. The entire program showcases different, seemingly nontraditional family dynamics (compared to the stereotypical notion of an American nuclear family) with the intent to show that these dynamics are no longer unusual at all. The very premise of the show then, aside from the actual gay couple, is to de-queer the queer. The interracial couple, for example, defies what American culture denotes as normative for a proper family; and through the sitcom format, this show depicts that the interracial family can be “normal” too.
A possible definition of Queer, one that particularly fits with Joyrich’s article and the narrative of Modern Family, is that queer is the subversion of the ordinary. Then, if a family of two men and their adopted daughter, or a family of a white man, woman of color and her child, are depicted as normative, are they out of the ordinary at all? Can something be non-normative after it is made normative? No. It can’t. That would be hypocritical.
So then there is merit in Joyrich’s claim. No longer is the interracial couple depicted as the Other, nor is is the gay couple. Granted, the gay couple depicted in this series is two cis white men of higher socioeconomic status, so it is not that groundbreaking. Instead, this series reinforces homonormativity. These gays are normal and safe, they look a lot like the normative cishet white family, in the same way that the interracial family does. Both of these families in Modern Family only have one “difference” per family–the gay couple is not interracial, everyone in the interracial family is cis, etc. Though these families lose their queerness by becoming mainstream, they’re not very different from the preexisting norm.