A Blended Family Facing Life’s Hurdles Together, Explained
Mar 18, 2023
Nuclear families are hard to come by in modern day teen dramas because controversy and conflict are more easily established when writers focus on the hardships of broken families. When creating the script for The Fosters, Peter Paige and Bradley Bredeweg understood that they needed to create a unique storyline centered around teenagers and their troubles to better connect with young adults as well as families. Instead of establishing the standard divorced family, they created an interesting dynamic with a partnership, co-parenting between the divorced parents, and a blended lifestyle.
The Fosters deals with a multitude of heavy topics including racism, gender identity, abuse, and immigration laws. However, the true foundation of the show, and where most of the difficult topics are talked about, began in the home of Stef and Lena Foster. As the five teenagers grow up in the house, they each face their own share of complex problems. Parents can sympathize with Stef and Lena as they try their best to raise these troubled teens while simultaneously dealing with their own issues. Check out how this beautifully blended family does their best to navigate the harsh world around them while finding solutions to controversial topics.
Diversity & Culture
Disney – ABC Domestic Television
When Callie initially joins the Foster family the night after she is released from the juvenile detention center, she is taken aback by the people in her new housing placement. Lena, a slender mixed-race woman, offers Callie a seat at the table with her adopted children, Jesus, Marianna, and Brandon. Stef, Lena’s Caucasian partner who happens to be a cop, then walks into the room from work. Callie, being on the defensive side to her new situation, uses a derogatory term for “lesbian.” Tension in the room quickly arises until Jesus comments, “They prefer the term ‘people,’ but yeah, they’re gay.” This statement alone sets the tone for how this family accepts differences.
Fairly soon in the series, Marianna is doing her best to understand her cultural identity through planning her quinceanera. It dawns on her that she is Latina, but she feels as if that side of her heritage has been lost because she has a mixed woman and a Caucasian woman for parents. During the party, she becomes visually upset that she does not have a father with whom to do the traditional father-daughter dance. During this time, Lena’s mother, who is African-American, exclaims that she understands why Lena is putting so much effort into her daughter’s party. She tells Lena that, because she is mixed, she will never know what it is like to be a true Black woman in America. Lena, conflicted by this statement, accepts her mother’s words as a lesson to never instill on her own adopted children.
Related: Diversity in Teen Coming-Of-Age TV Shows Over Time
Disney – ABC Domestic Television
Within the pilot episode of The Fosters, it is established that Lena and Stef are in a successful and committed partnership. After the couple takes in Callie’s little brother, Jude, a conversation about sexuality opens up. Jude, being only 12 at the time, gets bullied for his nails being painted. Back at home, he and Lena have a heart-to-heart about how he should not feel ashamed for wanting to express himself. This conversation further explores how accepting and caring this family is. Later in the series, Jude comes out as gay, and the whole family embraces him. His non-stereotypical representation of a gay character becomes a very important element when it comes to tackling some rather touchy subjects. He is portrayed as a regular teen who deals with school and family troubles while also trying to discover his own identity. Unlike many other teen dramas that incorporate gay characters, Jude’s sexuality is not the focus point of his growth.
With the amount of positive feedback and response from fans over the LGBTQ+ representation, the writers decided to take the characters one step further. Tom Phelan and Elliot Fletcher were cast in the series at different times to enhance the storyline. They both portrayed teens struggling with typical things, but their female-to-male transitioning process was a topic of conversation for many on-screen scenes. The ability to talk about a rather misunderstood concept really opened up about how these actors represent characters in film and television. Instead of creating flamboyant characters that typically seem shallow, Paige and Bredeweg produce complex and dynamic characters who represent multiple cultures and groups.
Related: How Stranger Things Missed The Chance to Have a Solid LGBTQ+ Storyline
Disney – Disney Domestic Television
Any parent can agree with Stef and Lena that monitoring teenagers while they are in the dating stage is not an easy thing to do. With Brandon, Stef’s biological son, being older when Callie and Jude come into their lives, Stef makes a point to remind him that foster siblings are not allowed to date. Unfortunately, love finds its way and quickly brings Callie and Brandon together. The forbidden love tempts the two for nearly half the series as Callie wrestles with the idea that she has more to lose than Brandon if things do not go well. Instead of thinking of their chemistry as harmless or even destiny, she is pressed to come to terms with being kicked out of a loving family all over her feelings for a boy.
Being that The Fosters is a coming-of-age story, relationships do not take a backseat in the plot. The teenagers are growing and learning about themselves as they go to school, date, and discover their own interests. While the other siblings date some questionable as well as good individuals, the on-again/off-again relationship and secret love shared between Callie and Brandon raises tension in the household.Thankfully, they both come to a rather mature understanding that Callie needs a family more than she needs a boyfriend. She says this early on in the relationship, but neither truly understands it until the family faces more hardships.
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