As most of you know my Ph. D. research revolves around teen media, which gives me a hearty excuse to stay current with all that ABC Family produces, and I am impressed enough by their new show The Fosters that I feel the need to note it. Produced by none other than Jennifer Lopez , The Fosters revolves around a bi-racial 40-something lesbian couple, Stef Foster and Lena Adams, who have five children: Stef’s biological son (Brandon), an adopted set of twins (Jesus and Mariana) and two foster children (Callie and Jude). While I am not willing to make the claim that the show is an ideological paradise because Lena and Stef’s relationship continues to reinforce many patriarchal and heteronormative structures, the show does offer viewers a complex examination of issues like cultural diversity, adoption, the foster system, family, homosexuality etc.
For example, in the recent episode “Quinceañera” questions were raised about the nature of racism and the importance of honoring one’s ethnic background. The episode brought forth thoughts about ethnicity and race through a multifaceted plot line. Even though they are not of Latin decent, Stef and Lena throw Mariana a Quinceañera because they feel it is important to introduce and incorporate the culture of Mariana’s heritage into her life. This cherish-your ethnicity-perspective explicitly comes to light , during a conversation between Lena and Lena’s mother, who is in town for the Quinceañera. It is made clear that Lena’s relationship with her mother has always been strained because Lena, as the daughter of a white man and a black woman, is a lighter skinned than her mother so her mother believes that because of Lena’s fairer complexion Lena doesn’t fully understand the “black” experience. Lena rejects her mother’s perspective and points out that oppression is not a game of comparison. Both the discussion of Mariana’s need for a Quinceañera and Lena’s navigating thorough the world as a fair-skinned black woman are nuanced and they forward really interesting and engaged ideas about social justice and the complex nature of living in a diverse world.
In just a few episodes, The Fosters has taken reproductive justice (including, the use of the morning after pill, sex ed, and issues of parental consent), the foster system (flaws, reports that stigmatize foster children, abuse, sexual assault), Sexual education (both how it works and how it fails), Immigration and undocumented individuals, and finally the definition of family. If nothing else – I have a new respect for J. Lo.
Besides me and a whole lot of 13 year-olds, has anyone seen this show?