Some quick context. To say that I’m an open-minded person is not a stretch. For example, my marriage is interracial, I work in a field that is heavy on folks from India and China. I live outside of the United States (Spain). We have two kids, one is 18 and the other is 11 years younger (big age gap). We live in an area famous for its openness to homosexuals (and we moved here from San Francisco). We believe in same-sex marriages (why should all of this misery only belong to us). We have strongly considered adopting a 3rd-world baby (we’re still considering it).
Our motto is “we don’t care and it shows :)”. No seriously, we don’t care. As long as you are not bothering anyone, go ahead and be happy (whatever that means to you and yours).
With that in mind, about 3 months ago, I got into a heated discussion with a co-worker. This was a person I respected (I suppose I still do) and was a little hurt by it. The discussion was around a show called Modern Family.
The show is stupid, I know, but as a relic of the US before we moved, we love watching it. The show’s popularity, I think, comes from its play on stereotypes. The gay couple is really the most conservative of the families, while the heterosexual couple is the most liberal. While the family patriarch is married to a foreign woman that is much younger than he is, but they actually really love each other.
So, there, you got the gist of the show. Anyway, the discussion with my co-worker was around his not liking the show. He’s is older than me, Indian, and with very different views than mine. But the beauty of our relationship was that we always found common ground, that was until this discussion.
The discussion was around why he didn’t like watching the show. He said the didn’t like gay people and why should he expose himself, his time and his family to something he does not like. I argued that if he gave a chance, he’d see the irony of the gay couple and how much in common he had with them.
Anyway, as always, you can never win an argument unless the other person wants you to 🙂
I left flabbergasted and I could not believe how he, my co-worker, someone I respected, could not be more open-minded. I left thinking, look at me, I am super open-minded, I am awesome. He’s stuck in the stone-age. How could he no like this show, it’s a great window into how different types of people can live in this planet… Yay for me.
That was until a recent episode of the show. More specifically, an episode where Phil, the hetero father met his TV-personality hero, a weatherman. I this episode, Phil acts like an asshole (that’s his role in the show, and what makes him funny), but at the end, his daughter Haley meets the weatherman and start dating him.
It was at that point that I realized I could not watch the show. It was at that point that I realized how much I could hate a scene or episode based on something I found distasteful. Not because I necessarily think that dating a younger woman is a bad thing, but because suddenly I began to see the world from the perspective of Phil.
I have a young daughter. What would I do if she dated a man my age when she was 21? Would I be happy like that asshole (Phil)? Probably not. But what could I do anyway? Of course, we’re humans and we want to think we have “control” so I’m sure the internet is ready to give me pointers about religion, or how a good family would make sure this never happens, etc.
But suddenly I was my co-worker. Suddenly I stopped finding the show funny. Why? Phil’s always been an asshole and Haley a young woman. That’s their role, that’s the show.
I will not try to imagine what deep psychological issue causes my co-worker to not like the show. Maybe he just thinks it’s not that funny (maybe it’s not), or maybe he does not like gay humor, or maybe he does not like white humor, or who knows or cares. What I do know is that it’s pretty difficult to put yourself in another person’s shoes. Our first reaction is normally to imagine we’re “better than” them, but when you finally wear their shoes… well, let’s just say that it may turn out that Modern Family is not as funny as we thought it was 🙂