By Erin Strecker
Updated November 28, 2011 at 08:30 PM EST
Modern Family
Credit: Richard Foreman/ABC

I love television, and being at EW, I see a lot of it. TV can just be mindless entertainment, but it can also be so much more, which is why this amazing PostSecret this past weekend was such a great treat to see.

The secret, featured on the PostSecret mobile app, reads, “These two characters cured my homophobia. Best thing that ever happened to me,” over a picture of Modern Family‘s Mitchell and Cameron.

It’s no surprise Mitchell and Cameron’s (Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Eric Stonestreet, respectively) weekly hijinks and declarations of love are changing minds all over America. But what’s even more exciting is they aren’t the only ones: Between Kurt’s relationship with his father on Glee and older examples like Lorelai and Rory’s teen mom relationship on Gilmore Girls, TV can help shape the conversation of major social change. And while many of us, consciously or subconsciously, stick with programs that reinforce ideas we already believe, it can be a nice surprise to have those ideas challenged in popular entertainment.

While it’s not quite as serious as changing beliefs surrounding homophobia, I distinctly remember watching The O.C. when I was 14, and remember feeling extremely emotionally invested in Seth Cohen’s (Adam Brody) struggles at school. I don’t know that it changed my mind about anything (I was already pretty anti-bullying), but I do know it gave me a little extra empathy toward my fellow classmates (not to mention a serious crush). Television can also be held responsible for changing my mind about slap bets as an acceptable way to settle an argument.

The Modern Family secret, which was retweeted by Ferguson and others, is a nice reminder of the power of television. With the Kardashians dominating the entertainment news cycle, it is easy to be dismissive of television, or accuse it of rotting our brains. The homophobia-curing sentiment, along with the news this week that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney considers Modern Family one of his favorite shows, makes me think there is hope for some more mind-changing yet. (Come on, Mitt: Think of the Tucker-Pritchetts!)

I’m sure movies change plenty of minds — documentaries are made to engage and inform. But when it comes to changing long-held beliefs, TV seems to have a built-in advantage. You get to know the characters week after week, developing an affection and emotional investment that just isn’t paralleled in a one-off two-hour film. When you already love the characters, you go on a journey with them — through questionable decisions and bad break-ups, season-long drags and triumphs. When the writers throw in some social commentary, it’s not as easy to dismiss the subjects as “political” or “pointless,” because you are already right there with them, kissing Blaine for the first time or crossing your fingers for Mitchell and Cameron’s adoption. You care. And once you care about fictional lives, it’s much harder to be hurtful in your real life.

I’m curious: Has a TV character ever sparked a change of heart for you? Share away!

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