The ABC Family network gives us a multi-ethnic family with lesbian parents.
by Aisha Bouderdaben
ABC Family brought a new type of family to television screens everywhere this summer: an interracial lesbian couple raising a multi-ethnic family. The drama is called The Fosters.
While this isn’t “new” to the LGBT community (it’s our everyday), it is definitely a new positive representation in mainstream media, and, ultimately, it’s refreshing.
The Fosters is produced by Jennifer Lopez and co-creators Peter Paige and Bradley Bredeweg. Lopez told the Huffington Post, “You can’t keep spoon-feeding the idea of what the perfect family is. It just doesn’t exist.” She said that most families diverge from the “traditional.”
“It’s not really that far out there. It’s really just reality that no one has decided to talk about, strangely. We talk about America like we’re this melting pot, and it’s not really reflected in our programming,” said Sherri Saum, who plays one of the mothers, Lena Adams.
“This show should have been on the air ten years ago,” Teri Polo, who plays Lena’s partner Stef Foster, said. “It couldn’t have been, but it should have been, because this is a reflection of the way the world is today.”
Saum and Polo play a couple who maintain a full house between Stef’s biological son (David Lambert) from her previous marriage to Mike Foster (Danny Nucci), a set of Latino twins they adopted (Jake T. Austin and Cierra Ramirez), and two new additions with a troubled past (Maia Mitchell and Hayden Byerly), for a total of four teenagers and one preteen.
“ABC Family is synonymous with groundbreaking storytelling and iconic characters,” the president of ABC Family, Michael Riley, said in a statement.
This show tackles difficult issues, such as race and abortion. Lena has an argument with her darker-skinned mother about being biracial in America in a way not previously addressed on television. And when Jesus—one of the twins—has unprotected sex with his girlfriend, Lexi (Bianca Santos), there is discussion over the morning-after pill. It deals with teenage romance, and even scarier topics such as stalking and sexual abuse. It deals with religion, between Stef’s father who doesn’t approve of her lifestyle and Lexi’s Catholic family who do approve. Recently, it was revealed that Lexi and her family are undocumented, so the show may even tackle immigration issues in the upcoming season.
“Even though it deals with ‘heavy topics,’ I feel kids who do tune in will say it’s not a heavy topic—this is what I deal with at school every day, or this is my family’s life,” Saum said.
“They’re not heavy topics, they’re real topics. It’s happening,” Polo agreed.
“My only hesitation was Is this going to be written well, is it going it be written realistically, is it going to be something that we can be proud of representing? I wanted it to be real and something that people would enjoy, not preachy and not issue-y, in-your-face, and it was everything and more,” Saum said. “And the people who are involved in this project, from Jennifer Lopez to our producers and writers, are just so collaborative. And Teri’s such an amazing mom in real life, so whenever there’s a topic in the show that she’s like, ‘I wouldn’t say this,’ they’re like, ‘Okay, what would you say?’ and incorporate it into the show. So, it’s just like family. It’s amazing.”
When interviewed by Denis Faye for the Writers Guild of America, Paige and Bredeweg agreed that the show could last for a long time. “Look at some of the most long-running series in television history—7th Heaven, Roseanne, The Cosby Show—it’s all based around a family,” said Bredeweg. “Family stories are endless, so for us this could potentially be one of those shows—if we’re so lucky.”
The Fosters premiered on June 3, and runs Mondays on ABC Family at 8 p.m. with ten episodes scheduled for season one. The season finale, titled “I Do,” airs August 5. If you haven’t watched the show yet, consider waiting for the DVD release of the first season and buying it immediately.
Aisha Bouderdaben is a contributing writer to OutSmart magazine.