Nearly 30 years have passed since thousands of quilts, each celebrating the life of a person struck down by AIDS, were sewn together and displayed for the first time on the National Mall in Washington, DC, to sobering effect. The AIDS Memorial Quilt has always been a heartfelt symbol of loss and commemoration. Therefore, I did a double take when I heard it referenced for comedic effect in the season premiere of ABC's well-worn sitcom, Modern Family. It occurred in a scene in which mother Claire and daughter Haley were making a quilt out of old clothes. Teenage son, Luke, upon hearing his mother telling his father that she and Haley were doing something creative together, remarks sarcastically, "Please, that's the saddest blanket since the AIDS quilt!"
At first I thought I should be offended by this snarky comment, but after thinking about it (during the commercial break) I decided I appreciated its edginess since the comment wasn't making fun of the quilt or AIDS. In fact, Luke's comment suggests that he was aware of the AIDS quilt, a good thing, which his gay uncles, Mitch and Cameron, likely introduced him to. This had me wondering if there have been other instances prior to this that the quilt was used for laughs? I've heard jokes with reference made to concentration camps so I suppose enough years have gone by to include some aspects of AIDS in a humorous context. And who knows how long it will be before a joking references are made about 9-11.