Thursday, September 27, 2012

Foster to the future

Could lesbians finally have more to be thankful for from Jennifer Lopez than her sizeable, um, talents? Turns out, maybe. Jenny from the Block is producing a new one-hour family drama centered around a mixed-race lesbian couple. Let me repeat that, a one-hour family drama centered around a mixed-race lesbian couple. One more time? Still think you fell down, hit your head and woke up in a utopian society where mixed-race lesbian couples get to star in their own primetime TV shows? Nope, it’s real and in development with ABC Family.

In fact the series, called “The Fosters,” has just cast its lead couple. Former “The West Wing” star Teri Polo and “Rescue Me” alum Sherri Saum will play Stef and Lena Foster. Together they have a biological son as well as several adopted children. Teri will play Stef, a “tough but kind” police officer. Sherri will play Lena, a big-hearted school principal.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, their lives get complicated when they decided to take in Callie, a troubled teen with an abusive past. Callie’s “disruptive ways threaten to turn the Fosters’ lives upside down.”

Now this concept is interesting for a number of reasons, none the least of which is the fact that TV currently does not have any scripted shows centered around a lesbian character, let alone a lesbian couple, let alone a mixed-race lesbian couple. Sure, there are lesbian characters in major roles on TV. But none are central. In fact the only show built around a gay woman on TV right now is “Lost Girl,” which centers around everyone’s favorite bisexual succubus.

The uniqueness of the characters is matched by the uniqueness of their storyline. On most shows with gay lead characters, their gayness is the story. Think about it. “The New Normal” – the fact that they are going to be gay dads is the story. “Partners” – the fact that one roommate is gay and one roommate is straight is the story. “Glee” – everything is basically gay even the straight folks.

But on “The Fosters,” if the plotline holds, the fact that the lead couple is gay is not the central issue. The fact that they’ve adopted a troubled teenage girl is the central issue. And that’s a big difference for a gay leading character.

Alyssa Rosenberg over at Think Progress wrote a winding, interesting piece last week about the role of homophobia in modern stories about gay culture. Make no mistake, homophobia still exists and is still a powerful and important story for us to tell. But she argues that limiting our stories to those that revolve around our gayness as the central problem in our lives is – well – awfully limiting. And it’s true.

When we argue for our rightful equality, our argument usually boils down to this: We are the same. We are like you. So we deserve the same rights. But too often when we are portrayed it is our gayness that is our most predominant characteristic, and often our most problematic one. Not that we have unfulfilled dreams. Not that we have trouble getting the kids potty trained. Not that we have fights with our partners about the garbage.

Which is what give me hope for “The Fosters.” If it pans out, this could be a show where the gay characters get to be gloriously gay, but also everything else that makes being a human being so glorious and sometimes not so glorious. Fingers crossed. If JLo pulls this off I might even forgive her for those ridiculous Fiat ads. Maybe.


Anonymous said...

I so so hope the writing for this show is strong enough to support all the plot's chacracters in a dignified, realistic, and non-stereotypical manner. If it is in fact good, I'd really hate to see it go down because of terrible scripts!

Fingers crossed, Universe. Fingers crossed.

Carmen SanDiego said...

As one half of a mixed-race lesbian couple I will cross fingers and toes for this.
Now, where is my copy of "On the 6"?

Kristan said...

Dude, this show sounds awesome, regardless of any "politics" behind it. But then you throw in what it could MEAN for lesbians and people of color being represented in mainstream media? And you have gold. So yes, let's all pray the writing is great, because I would love to support this show, the same way I love supporting Nikita, Scandal, and The Mindy Project.

Anonymous said...

Oh Jesus Christ, just what we need: Jennifer Lopez getting richer by dicking around with our image. Having run into her 'reality' show about asshats who repossess vehicles, which is CLEARLY SCRIPTED AND STAGED, I can only believe she'll make her 'lesbians' (I see know reason to this at face value given the above) as trashtastic, dimwitted, and offensive as she has her repo people. Fuck this, Ilene Chaiken was bad enough.

Anonymous said...

resoMajSorry ,I can't with Jennifer Lopez,untalented, no real face (botox my love),dumb..
The plot is not original,déja vu..
But the tittle is fun aka Jodie!

Anonymous said...

Sorry ,I can't with Jennifer Lopez,untalented, no real face (botox my love),dumb..
The plot is not original,déja vu..
But the tittle is fun aka Jodie!

sorry minus the bug

Anonymous said...

Please to the goddess, I hope they chem tested those 2 actresses together before hiring. Because that is another thing that America can't seem to get right with their lesbian characters. Is it too much to hope that the writing is strong, the story works AND the leads have sexual chemistry together?