The Fosters Fosters Acceptance for Young Gay Boys
This episode of The Fosters, titled “The Morning After”, showcases the life of an atypical, middle class suburban family. Stef and Lena are a mixed race, lesbian couple, who care for five children. The teens in the show come from a variety of backgrounds, and are either biological, adopted, or foster children. Right off of the bat, it is clear that the show is incredibly diverse, inclusive, and the character’s differences do not define them. Despite the fact that the show portrays several instances of prejudice, The Fosters transmits the idea of acceptance, regardless of someone’s differences and sexual orientation.
One of the main plot points of the episode is that the youngest foster child, Jude, is struggling with the idea of wanting to be who he is versus conforming to the status quo of society. Jude is gay and wants to express himself without facing repercussions from his peers. When Mariana, one of the adopted kids, offers to paint Jude’s nails, he jumps at the opportunity. However, when his older sister saw his nails, she said, “Oh buddy, make sure you take that off before school, alright?”. Although Callie was accepting of Jude’s choice, she expressed a concern for Jude in regards to how his classmates beliefs would affect him. Mariana quickly responded that, “it’s okay to wear it if you want to”. Viewers get the impression that young gay men cannot be themselves for fear of other people’s reactions and opinions. However, due to Mariana’s response, it is evident that Jude’s foster family is accepting of his choice and just wants him to be himself. Jude was visibly relieved when Mariana acknowledged his choice and allowed him to to make the decision for himself. This teaches viewers that acceptance can improve the quality of life for gay young men and can give them the encouragement to face social challenges due to discrimination.
Later in the episode, Jude made the decision to wear nail polish to school. He got shoved in a locker and the boys in his class said offensive comments like “nice nails. Are you wearing a bra, too?”. This homophobic discrimination towards gays reinforces the cultural norm that gay men are not normal and that straight men should put them down. However, Lena’s reaction to the situation completely negated any negative cultural transmissions. Lena opened up to Jude about the struggles of wanting to be herself in terms of her sexuality, but fearing the judgments of others. She gave examples of times when she felt that she had to hide who she is, and how she understood how Jude felt. Lena said that, “It’s not wrong to be who you are. You should be who you are. It’s wrong that there are people out there that make us feel unsafe”. Lena sends the message that it is not okay that there are people who do not accept others for the way that they are. She uses emotional appeals and personal stories to connect with the viewer and emphasize the importance of acceptance and support.
At the end of the episode, even though Jude faced problems at school due to his nails, he wore them to school the next day. His best friend, Connor, also wore nail polish with Jude. Besides the fact that it is a sweet and sappy ending to an emotional episode, Connor’s response provides more than entertainment. Connor proved that although some people may not be supportive, someone should not let other people’s opinions get in the way of being who you are. It also shows that having a supportive and accepting friend can make life easier to manage. Connor’s act of acceptance encourages and is a cultural transmission for the increased support and acceptance for homosexuals in society.
Throughout The Fosters, the norm of opposing gay people is present. There are multiple instances where gay characters are belittled and harassed due to their sexual orientation. However, the acceptance of other people’s differences continued to be fostered. As a result of Jude’s desire to be himself, viewers are left feeling nothing but admiration towards gay people in our society. The amount of bravery Jude needed to face the challenges of prejudice is infinitesimal and the acknowledgment and understanding from the main characters demonstrates the need for it in everyday life. If acceptance continues to to be embodied and represented, it leaves viewers with a better understanding of its importance and they will be better equipped to be accepting of others.