This week ABC Family premiered their latest summer installment, The Fosters, executive produced by Jennifer Lopez. The show follows the story of a blended family—a bi-racial lesbian couple that has 3 children, one biological child from a previous marriage and adopted Hispanic twins. The best part of the show so far is the absolute normalcy of the parents—them being a married lesbian couple isn’t half of what makes the show interesting. It’s the story of family, and the myriad of ways in which families come into existence and expand that make it wonderfully unique and simple at the same time.
Since the advent of TV we’ve watched the “white-family fairytale” unfold. There was always the perfect stay-at-home mother, the gracious and stern father, and two adoring children in a house with a yard, picket fence, and yes a dog.
In the 80’s when the Cosby Show arrived, they gave us an affluent African American family, with two working parents and five children, and a pet goldfish (remember the funeral?). Yes, they were perfect, with dance numbers and a Brooklyn brownstone I still covet until this day, but more importantly they were needed to show a different perspective on the American family. For those black families that didn’t see themselves in Good Times, and for white Americans whom Good Times was their only connection to black America, the Huxtables served a distinct purpose—variety.
Then in late 80’s Roseanne and her clan of misfits turned the “perfect family” on its head. Giving struggling families, who don’t always get a long, a voice. For those who had been holding their families to unattainable perfection, Roseanne and Dan were their saviors.
Until a recent commercial went viral—for all the wrong reasons— it seemed that as society evolved so did our entertainment.
A few weeks ago, Cheerios released a new commercial featuring an interracial family, and all hell broke loose on the Internet. One would think that with it being 2013 and all, that this commercial would warrant nothing more than an “oh, isn’t that cute” response. Unfortunately, the racist vitriol that ensued reminded us that we hadn’t come that far after all. We were OK with different “TV families” as long as they were all the same race or didn’t look “too different”. What’s worse is that in Woodbridge, VA an actual interracial family was followed home by security from a Wal-Mart because people in the store didn’t think the white father “matched” his black daughters and a cop had to investigate for possible kidnapping. Yes, this actually happened outside of Washington, DC where our bi-racial President lives!
Television (and now social media) has taught us for better or for worse that exposure to different families and people don’t only matter but are intrinsic to our evolution as a society.
It has been pondered that if the Huxtables hadn’t existed that the Obama’s would have been an unlikely story. Many have remarked that the increase of positive gay characters on television has helped many across this country evolve on marriage equality—because “hey, gay people are just like us”. With the arrival of the Fosters, and hopefully more shows like it in our homes every week, we will begin to learn that what makes a family isn’t biology it’s love—nothing could be more unique or simple than that.
Check out this clip of the cast of The Fosters and J-Lo discussing the show: