ABC's Modern Family is a critically acclaimed television sitcom that has been the belle of the ball at awards shows, picking up where fan favorite Arrested Development left off after being unceremoniously canceled. Modern Family takes a comedic look at the shenanigans of a dysfunctional extended family, whose lives are interconnected either by choice or by circumstance.
The hit show has been in the headlines lately because of a recent episode in which Lily, a 2-year-old child adopted by a gay couple, drops the "f-bomb" while serving as a flower girl at a wedding. The Parents Television Council, a nonpartisan advocacy group dedicated to promoting responsible entertainment, protested the episode, asking ABC to pull the episode because of the profanity uttered by the child.
At the same time that the PTC is waving the indecency flag, the Supreme Court heard arguments about a Federal Communications Commission regulation adopted during the Bush administration that allows the agency to punish broadcasters with stiff fines for use of vulgar language. Cases leading up to this included Cher dropping the f-bomb at the Billboard Awards in 2002 and Bono dropping the f-bomb at the 2003 Golden Globes.
The FCC cited Fox, which aired the Billboard Awards, for indecency; the network took its case to court and was dealt a blow in 2009, when the Supreme Court upheld the fine based on administrative law. Now the Supreme Court is being asked to rule on the issue of free speech versus censorship — upholding decency laws governing when and in what context certain words can be uttered.
Who knew the f-word could cause so much trouble? I find it laughable that protesters are worried about the f-word but haven't seen fit to boycott salacious shows like Toddlers and Tiaras, Teen Mom or even the myriad reality shows in which men and women cuss and brawl their way through entire episodes.
I watched a marathon of Love and Hip Hop and Mob Wives, both of which played throughout the day, when children could be watching, and was flabbergasted at what passes for entertainment. We won't even mention music videos, which play all day long, and their penchant for promoting materialism, promiscuity and violence across musical genres.
Lily's f-bomb, which was bleeped out in the show, should be the least of the PTC's worries. (In case you're interested, the child actress actually said "fudge" while shooting the scene.)
Here's a newsflash: Two-year-olds actually use bad words, which they typically pick up from their parents, not a television show. While many would agree that there is a time and a place for everything, now is the time, and Modern Family is definitely the place, to push boundaries, which is why the show is so successful. Modern Family dares to go where other sitcoms will not — finding the humor in everyday life as opposed to fabricating it — which is why so many sitcoms reek of bad writing that isn't funny.
I get it — children should not be exposed to everything — but I firmly believe that it is the job of the parent or guardian to monitor what a child is exposed to, not to dictate to a television network what is acceptable for a target audience of adults. Children should be in bed by 9 p.m., so whether or not Modern Family uses the f-bomb should not matter because the babies should be resting.
If you have teenagers, you should still be involved in determining what media programming, including video games — many of which are extremely violent — is acceptable for your household. Parents, not the Supreme Court, should be monitoring television.
The Supreme Court is expected to rule on the Fox case this summer. As for Modern Family, if your children are in bed on Wednesdays by 9 p.m., then you have nothing to worry about.
Nsenga K. Burton, Ph.D., is editor-at-large for The Root. Follow her on Twitter.
Nsenga K. Burton, Ph.D., a media scholar, is digital editor in chief at Grady Newsource and a faculty member of the Cox Institute of Journalism, Innovation, Management & Leadership at the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia. She is founder and editor in chief of the award-winning news blog the Burton Wire. Follow her on Twitter here or here.