Episode 17: Best Men
By: Carlos Uribe
Modern Family is a show about three branches of a family.
In a rare move for the series, it actually went political for a few moments. Cam and Mitchell are raising a daughter but they haven't gotten married. They might live in California but the status of gay marriage in that state is currently in question. Their plot begins when a friend from their party days, Sal, comes to their house to announce she's getting married. She basically states that she won't go through with the wedding if they're not okay with it since they can't get married themselves. That's when they assure her that they're okay with her getting married and what kind of people would they be if they denied anyone the “right” to deny marriage. It is such a shocking moment for the series. It's not that Cam and Mitchell haven't really advocated for treating homosexuals with equality but the show rarely tries to express an actual political opinion. This is continued further into the episode where Sal doesn't seem like she would take her wedding vow seriously. Cam gets all upset and threatens to hold back the ring because of this. It's the show stating that some straight couples take the idea of marriage less seriously than homosexual couples. The two reveal in the middle of the ceremony that they recently kissed a different person simply reinforces that. There were some funny moments in the plot but it's more memorable because of it's the first time the series has taken a bold stance towards gay marriage. All I can say is that it's shocking the show took this long. While I don't agree with the idea that marriage should be defined by the government at all (civil unions for all consenting adults!), it's always puzzled me how this series hasn't really commented on the issue. On one hand, withholding the issue probably allowed some conservatives watching this show to not feel like they're being preached to and watching this gay couple love each other might convince them there is nothing wrong with homosexuality. On the other hand, how can you proclaim to be as progressive as to redefine the modern family without taking a stance into the legal definition of family?
As the series finally comments on a controversial issue, there's controversy over with Manny at the school. He's always been a romantic character but his recent art has gotten some parents complaining. This is largely because all of his art has been of the female nude. This goes as far as to include a sculpture. They have to talk to him about this but the two think that the drawings are based on Gloria's body. After all, they think this is the only inspiration he could have seen the material to base his art on. This is actually sort-of disturbing but the series backs away when Manny reveals his art is based on the nanny his family has hired to help take care of Joe. Jay and Gloria manage to figure it out when they take out his notebook. They realize he has a crush on her. This culminates in a climax where they rush in just as Manny is about to make his move. There's some yelling but the nanny is able to get a moment of privacy where she lets Manny down gently. He might not have taken it well but it does earn her Gloria's trust. That's because a recurring sense of conflict in the background has been that Gloria isn't sure she can trust the nanny to take care of Joe. It makes sense since a new mother isn't just going to want to leave a newborn child with just anybody. One of the reasons the climax is so hectic before it settles down is because Gloria's mistrust of the nanny is a primary source of her antagonism. Once she realizes that the nanny actually does know what she's doing does Gloria start to respect her. It's a surprisingly complex plot because of the two recurring conflicts: Manny's desire for his nanny and how that gets his art in trouble but also Gloria's problem with the nanny. That the episode was able to handle these two major elements and have them converge so perfectly made this plot work very well. It was funny and it worked well.
It's common knowledge that a child will love you, a teenager will hate you, but they'll grow up and come back to being your friend. This is what the episode handles when it comes to Claire and Haley. When Haley compliments her mom, Claire decides that she's getting the signal that her daughter is coming back to her. Her rebellious stage might finally be over. This was actually hinted in a previous episode where Haley realized she should apologize to her mom after stopping Luke from making out with that girl. It seems like that seed finally comes to harvest here. Claire asks Haley to go to dinner with her and she actually accepts. First the series suggest Manny is using his mom's inspiration for art and now Claire is acting like she's asking her daughter out on a date? Is there like an oedipus complex to this episode? I digress. The two go hang out but Haley ditches Claire to hang out with her friends. Haley does eventually go back and the two bond when they watch Alex at one of her concerts. Only they're shocked when the band she's playing with doesn't play classical music and that she actually sings. That's a nice way to showcase Ariel Winter's talent. In the end, Alex dismisses them rudely just like Haley used to do. This is a way to set up Haley to realize how Claire must have felt like every time she used to do that. It's nice to see that Haley is starting to mature and that she is open to building a friendship with her mom-just around the same time that Alex is entering her teenage years and her rebellious stage. The plot had some moments but it felt a little bit too stiff for it to really work. The idea was solid but the show never had fun with it.
These stages of a kid's life actually come into play with the Phil and Luke plot. Luke likes a girl and goes on a date with her. When her mom forbids her from seeing Luke again, it only makes the girl want him even more. That's because she's entered into her rebellious stage. There's also a point where Phil references that he got Claire because she was also in that stage. So why did the mom forbid her from seeing Luke again? It all began on how Luke got the date in the first place. He didn't ask the girl out but his dad did it for him. One of the best moments in the episode come from that scene(that also add to the creepy level in the episode) of Phil asking a girl out for his son. Just about everything he types garners criticism from Luke but he allows his dad to keep doing his thing. The twist is that the mom was doing exactly the same thing on the other end. So it's like Phil was asking out his mom. This idea led to the mom getting the wrong idea and flirting with Phil. When Phil makes it clear that he remains committed to his wife, the mom gets angry. So she decides that Luke and her daughter can't date. In my opinion, this was the funniest plot of the episode as just about every scene was funny and the conflict simply kept escalating the laughs.
Best Men is a pretty solid episode of Modern Family. The best part of the episode was Luke and Phil but Gloria and Manny were a close second. The Cam and Mitchell plot had it's moments but it's more notable for it's political statement. The Claire story worked the least as it never really came alive. It was overall a funny episode and one that I enjoyed.