NEW YORK (Reuters) - Gay marriage and interracial adoptions can be divisive topics across America, but a new crop of TV shows and films showing “modern” families are winning audiences and awards.
Television show “Modern Family” won the best comedy series Emmy on Sunday. “Glee” was also honored and new films such as “The Kids Are All Right” and documentaries are finding that families outside the mom, dad and two kids norm can make decent financial returns.
“Television is reflecting the way the American family has evolved, the way society has evolved,” said Todd Gold, managing editor of Fancast.com. “The shows we are seeing on prime time as well as movies like ‘The Kids Are All Right’ are looking at a new kind of family.”
Mockumentary-style comedy “Modern Family” features a gay couple and their Vietnamese baby and a man married to a much younger Colombian woman. Eric Stonestreet, who plays one of the gay fathers on “Modern Family”, won a best supporting actor Emmy for his performance.
The characters on musical comedy “Glee,” include a gay teen who has a crush on a straight football player and a geeky girl adopted at birth by two men.
The two TV shows, which won a combined total of 10 Emmys on Sunday, currently reach a healthy ten million strong U.S. audience each.
“We knew we didn’t want to do things that family shows had done before,” said “Modern Family” co-creator Christopher Lloyd.
Both Lloyd and pop culture experts said Hollywood was following society rather the other way round.
“Society is leading Hollywood, but there are writers and producers and directors who see these markets,” said Jay Mechling, professor of American Studies at University of California, Davis.
He said the “the millennial generation” -- those born in the 1980s and 1990s -- are “much more casual and accepting” of a variety of family arrangements.
QUALITY, & COMMON THEMES STILL CRUCIAL
Rather than controversial storylines, winning audiences and awards comes down to quality and broader themes that everyone can relate to, experts said.
“As long as it is not overtly political, and gift-wrapped in entertainment that is good, Americans will embrace it,” Gold said. “They don’t want to miss out on something that is good.”
Also, Americans are less judgmental when it comes to entertainment than they might be in real-life debates.
“While many may disagree with issues like gay marriage, (Americans) have shown that they are incredibly tolerant and accepting when it comes to entertainment,” Gold said.
Lloyd said “Modern Family” reflected common emotional ties such as struggles to raise kids and family decisions.
”We try to find identifiable moments in the lives of these characters where the audience can go “Wow, that happened in my house’” he said. “That’s where you cement the viewers’ allegiance to your show.”
In addition, the gay couple in the show emphasize parental responsibility. “They are not finger-snappy fabulous gay guys. They are more homey, slightly nerdier, smarter gay guys and in many ways the most traditional of the parental units in our show, so I don’t think we ever thought that was going to be too much for Americans to accept,” said Lloyd.
In film, Jennifer Aniston took on the issue of single mothers and sperm donors in her latest movie “The Switch”.
“The Kids Are All Right” -- about a lesbian couple raising two kids who want to contact their sperm donor father -- has won rave reviews for actress Julianne Moore and sparked Oscar buzz for her screen partner Annette Bening.
The independent film has more than quadrupled its production budget, pulling in $18 million in the United States and is soon to open overseas.
Documentaries like “Sperm Donor X” by Deirdre Fishel and “Single Choice: Many Lives” by Anne Catherine Hundhausen are also portraying families in a way that is more in tune with changes in U.S. society.
“It’s not excluding the traditional American family either. We are just seeing more variety,” Gold said
Editing by Jill Serjeant