Family / Kids

The Fosters Roundtable: Premiere Week

Spoiler alert-o-rama! We’ll be dishing, dicing, slicing, and debating the new ABC Family drama The Fosters each week, and it’ll be no holds barred! So read no further if you want to watch the show and actually be surprised by what happens! And then come back, read up, and join in the conversation! ~ Polly

Did anyone catch the series premiere of The Fosters on ABC Family Monday night?  In case you aren’t in the know, The Fosters is a one-hour family drama created by Peter Paige and Bradley Bredeweg, produced by none other than Jennifer Lopez.  The plot revolves around a multi-ethnic family headed by a lesbian couple, and the pilot episode dives right into the issues of creating a family with biological children, adopted children, and foster children.  The show begs the question: What makes a family?  Jennifer Lopez answers that question quite simply: love.

JLo+FostersCast

Executive Producer Jennifer Lopez with the cast of The Fosters. In rear, right to left: Jake T. Austin, David Lambert, Danny Nucci, Cierra Ramirez, and Hayden Byerly. Front row: Maia Mitchell, Sherri Saum, JLo (her own bad self), and Teri Polo.

Personally, I love dramas (or heck, sitcoms–hello, Modern Family) that focus on large, closely-knit families.  I really enjoy shows like Brothers and Sisters and Parenthood.  Both my partner and I come from larger families that remain close into adulthood and we can relate to the way these complex relationships are reflected on the small screen.  But when have we seen our experience as a queer family represented?  Not very often, and certainly not as the center of a show!

It seems that my household is not alone in our excitement–my co-writers here at Lesbian Family are pumped about the show, too.  So much so that we all want to write about it.  We figured several posts per week about one show might be a bit much, so instead several of us will be chatting about each episode together.  This week, Nicole and I “sat down” and deconstructed the issues and major plot points of The Fosters’ inaugural episode.  She and I will be doing this weekly, sometimes with others joining in, so long as the show runs. Look for upcoming Fosters Roundtables each Tuesday morning following the Monday night airing of the show. Should be a good time.  We hope you’ll join us!
[hr]

Cast of Characters
Stef Foster – mother (police officer)
Lena Adams – mother (vice principal)
Brandon Foster – son, 16 yrs old (bio kid of Stef’s from a previous marriage)
Jesus Foster – son, 14 yrs old (adoptive, twin to Mariana)
Mariana Foster – daughter, 14  yrs old (adoptive, twin to Jesus)
Callie – “temporary” foster placement, 16 yrs old
Jude – Callie’s brother, 12 yrs old
Mike Foster  – ex-husband to Stef (police officer)

 

“Pilot” Synopsis
“Callie, a 16-year-old girl fresh out of juvenile hall, goes to live in the care of Lena and her partner Stef and their kids.”

[hr]

Sandra:  OK!  So, I’m hearing a lot about Mike. As far as he goes – I’m leery of how his character will unfold (as seems to be common), but I’m not ready to write him off just yet.  If written well, I think he could be a really valuable and compelling character.

 

N:  Oh, I absolutely agree. I’m curious to see where they go with him. It seems like, on the homefront, they’ve got a good relationship with him (whether because they’ve had to, in sharing custody of Brandon, or because they actually had a vaguely amicable break-up remains to be seen), while Stef seemed fairly wary of being partnered with him again at work. And I mean, who wouldn’t be – who wants to work with their ex, even if it was amicable? But I definitely think that having him in the mix will be interesting in terms of seeing how TPTB [the powers that be] interpret having a father role in the mix when the main family is run by two moms.

 

Sandra:  I know when I mention to people that we live with our known donor (but don’t co-parent with him) many people raise and eyebrow – just as I raised an eyebrow at Stef and Mike working together.  But, in our case it works – and a seemingly complicated arrangement can be quite simple.  I’d love to see a mutually respectful and caring relationship between all three parents.  Although from Stef’s resistance to the arrangement and Lena’s reaction I’m not convinced that will be the way this is headed.

 

N:  Well, and it is ABC Family, so I’m betting there’ll be plenty of drama in store for us there, among other places! I’d love to see that, too – and on the flip side, friends of ours live with their known donor and co-parent with him; it can work in many set-ups! But I think there’s always a more danger of drama when it’s two people who used to be in a relationship, but aren’t anymore.

 

Sandra:  Very true.  So, about the ABC Family tagline?

 

N:  Right – and maybe it’s petty of me, I don’t know. (I’m sure our readers would be happy to tell me!) But ABC Family’s current tagline, at least for the grouping of shows that The Fosters falls under (along with Switched at Birth) is “A New Kind of Family.” Which–I get that it’s a brand, and brands need to have their sayings and tag lines and logos. But watching the episode on Monday, and being on Twitter and interacting with people and seeing everything labeled as “a NEW kind of family”–I confess, it hurt a little bit. I can’t even quite place my finger on why.
Perhaps because it felt like, in claiming “new” status (if only “new” to television), it was negating the fact that LGBT families have been around for decades (likely longer)?

 

Sandra:  That sounds about right.  I didn’t watch the show on TV (I tuned in on the internet) and haven’t seen any other ABC Family shows, so I didn’t know about the “New Kind Of Family” branding.  I poked around online to find out more about the show and the phrase that stuck out to me in promotions was, “What makes a family?” That seems to be a much better fit.  In an interview that Jennifer Lopez gave she asked that same question and answered with simply “Love,” which I think was the perfect message–not only for the LGBT aspect, but also encompassing the fostering and adoption angles.

 

N:  I’d seen the “What makes a family?” in the promotions, and really liked that. Though it seems on the surface like it’s about definitions, when you get down to it, it’s about opening up to the idea that families can be formed in many different ways, as opposed to “A New Kind of Family,” which feels much more like it’s defining the family structures.
As for building families – I’m interested in seeing more of the backstory of how Jesus and Mariana came to the Fosters.

 

Sandra:  Yes, and how Stef and Lena became a couple!

 

N:  Absolutely! As somebody who identifies as bisexual, I’m curious to see whether Stef will be labeled as such (my early-in-the-game bet: no), or whether she’ll have had an awakening, or realized that she couldn’t hide anymore (my money’s on one of those two). But so it seems obvious, inasmuch as it can be from one episode, that Stef and Lena have been really honest with the twins about their birth mom, and are trying to keep some connection with their heritage, through setting up a possible meeting, and (learning? keeping current with?) their Spanish.

 

Sandra:  Yes, the scene where Stef enters the room while the twins are speaking in Spanish.  She says (in Spanish), “You know the rule is not to use Spanish to talk about other people.”  I liked that little snippet because A) that’s a good rule to have and B) I assume that Stef made an extra effort to learn Spanish to connect with and/or preserve her twins’ heritage.  I wonder at what age the twins were placed in foster care/with the Fosters because it is easy to lose language if it’s not a constant presence in your life when you are young.

 

N:  Right. I wondered that, too. Based on the dialogue, I think they ended up with Stef and Lena around the age of six. Which made me wonder if they’d been with Ana until then, or bounced around in foster care for a while before landing there. But given how fluent they still are, and Stef’s ease with it, I feel like it’s a safe assumption that it was encouraged in the house.

 

Sandra:  The show is heavily billed as featuring “a multi-ethnic family” so I’m interested to see how the racial and ethnic identities come into play.

 

N:  I am, too. I’ve heard some rumbling from people about how the color on the show is still fairly white, or at least comfortable living in a white world. I’m interested to see how it’s all handled and brought in. The only other ABC Family show I watch is Switched at Birth and, though the cast is very very white, they’ve actually done a fairly decent job of dealing with race on the occasions it’s come up. And I think this is one area where having Jennifer Lopez as the Executive Producer will be a huge bonus. I’m hoping so, anyway.

 

Sandra:  Have you read many reactions to the show?  Television critics? Obviously many of us with LGBT orgs/media are excited and hoping the storyline raises awareness.  Of course on the other hand, the far right is the flipside of that coin–I think Million Moms asserted that ABC Family had “lost their minds,” and I’m sure there will be other slams from social conservatives.  I suppose in the end it will come down those in the middle and whether it’s good television.

 

N:  “And whether it’s good television”: that’s a tough thing, isn’t it? To feel like the weight of [our] public representation as presented to the masses is based on whether or not a show is good? Yikes! I’ve been staying away from too many reactions until I’d had a chance to get mine down here in this forum (I’ll be off to gorge myself shortly!), so I don’t know much of what people thought about it outside of my small community. My wife has been (uncharacteristically) following more of it, and it seems like what she’s found has been mainly supportive, minus the obvious detractors, a la Million Moms. I think the part that’s been hard, though, and part of why I dread wading out there into those waters just a little bit, is the challenge of trying not to take reactions to the show too personally. Even (or especially) when it’s people who like and support it, but maybe have a slightly different point of view, or don’t quite get it. I guess that’s the flip side to hoping the show is good–if it is, and it sticks around, we’ll have lots more people making lots more comments about how we live, even if our families aren’t built precisely like the Fosters’ family.

 

Sandra:  Yes, but it’s exactly those conversations, even when they aren’t pretty, that lead to change and understanding.  I have high hopes–mostly because of the awesomeness of having a queer family on TV, but also because I’m looking forward to getting invested in these characters and their stories.

 

N:  Absolutely. Conversation is key, and, so far, I think The Fosters is going to be a really good avenue for fostering discussion. Plus, like you, I’m really excited to see a queer family on TV and am looking forward to getting to know them better–already my heart aches for Mariana; I can’t wait to see what they’ve got in store for us.
[hr]
What about you? Did you watch the show? What did you think?

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

No Comments

  1. I am following it more intensely “fannishly” than I have done any show in… maybe ever, because I am interested in how much traction this portrayal of our universe gets. Queer parenting has been around forever (yes, that tagline annoyed the eff out of me too) but seems to be fairly insular, and a network like ABC Family puts it RIGHT OUT THERE. Million Moms doesn’t even need snipers, they can just open fire.

    And I am mostly heartened by the collective positive response. (The LA Times also thought it was good, although they murdered the headline by saying “rainbow bright future.”) I am finding it more difficult to deal with the commentary of young teens/middle teens who say things like “Of course Mike needs to protect his family. That’s a man’s job.” I had to back away from the internet when I read that. And it’s hard — because it’s KIDS saying these things. Young people who are going to grow up and vote, and I can’t believe they’re still being taught, and still cheerily perpetuating, “manly man” heteronormative stereotypes.

    Anyway! Thank you for blogging this! Keep up the good work!

  2. First I’m hearing about this show! (Did you know you’re running a news-breaking site?) So excited to check it out.

    • OMG I think that’s a LesFam first! Other than our breaking the news of our personal opinions of various matters and kids’ exploits, from the ignominious to the impressive.

      Watch this space tomorrow! Because we’re following the Roundtable up with a piece on The Fosters‘ overall reception this week and the “real world” issues around foster care and LGBT parents’ roles (in many states severely legally restricted) in it.

  3. Love this. And I’m watching episode #2 right now, and the cop dad was talking to Stef and disparaged Lena as “hippie dippie” and OH NO NO WAY YOU DON’T TALK ABOUT MY PARTNER LIKE THAT is what Stef DIDN’T say. So I can’t wait to talk with you all about this.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.