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Modern Family Showrunner Recalls The Criticism Over Lily's Cursing

Kids say the darndest things, don't they?

After a debut season was on the receiving end of 8 Emmy nominations, "Modern Family" quickly became a must-watch series for Wednesday night viewers. The ABC sitcom was particularly popular because of how it approached and explored evolving and shifting family dynamics in the west. When it came to typical weekly hijinks, the sitcom's self-aware nature helped create a lasting relationship with viewers, with the show hopeful that it was coming across as relatable. "Treating the fourth wall as a receptacle for raised eyebrows and winks and withering glances that play like dry asides, the characters ask for a bit of complicity, plead wryly for some sympathy, tell us to get a load of this and that," wrote Troy Patterson of Slate as the series wrapped up its immensely popular but controversial third season in 2012.

For all of its relatability and expressive energy, "Modern Family" did receive flack for depicting completely natural but unsavory behavior. Season 3 Episode 13, titled "Little Bo Bleep," features the young Lily (Aubrey Anderson-Emmons) saying the "f-word" at a wedding.

Prior to the episode's release, the creatives behind "Modern Family" received criticism for having a child actor say a swear word on set. During a junket at the Paley Center for Media, series co-creator Steven Levitan revealed that the criticism was largely overblown because Anderson-Emmons said "fudge," and not the word you're thinking of right now. "All these people got up in arms [prior to the episode] ... and then everyone saw the episode, and then it went dead silent... There wasn't one criticism after that," Levitan said.

An anti-swearing group wanted ABC to pull the Modern Family episode

LIly actress Aubrey Anderson-Emmons was instructed to say "fudge" on set but the episode bleeps it out, implying that she said the f-word. Despite the measures taken to ensure the child didn't say the naughty word, several critics expressed their displeasure with the episode prior to its release. Melissa Henson of The Parents Television Council suggested to Fox that children who watched Lily cuss would emulate it. "The more we see and hear this kind of language on television, the more acceptable and common it will become in the real world," they said. 

One notable force against the episode was the No Cussing Club, a group dedicated to eliminating swearing nation-wide. The Hollywood Reporter notes that organization founder McKay Hatch sent a strongly-worded letter to ABC prior to the episode's debut, urging them to reconsider airing it. "Our main goal is to stop this from happening," Hatch said in an ensuing interview obtained by THR. "If we don't, at least ABC knows that people all over the world don't want to have a 2-year-old saying the 'F-bomb' on TV."

Eric Stonestreet, who appeared as Cameron and Lily's dad in the ABC series, didn't take too kindly to No Cussing Club's dismissal of the episode. "How bout redirecting energies of the No Cuss Club 2; reading 2 the elderly, picking up litter, feeding the hungry..." Stonestreet tweeted hours before the "Modern Family" episode aired in 2012.