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TV Reviews

MPAA Rating
Genre
Drama
Cast
Sherri Saum as Lena Foster; Teri Polo as Stef Foster; David Lambert as Brandon Foster; Maia Mitchell as Callie; Jake T. Austin as Jesus Foster; Cierra Ramirez as Mariana Foster; Hayden Byerly as Jude; Madisen Beaty as Talya
Channel
ABC Family
Reviewer
Paul Asay
The Fosters

The Fosters

Are two moms better than one? According to ABC Family, they are.

Stef and Lena Foster have been legally married for a while now, leading their blended clutch of kids through the perils of adolescence and identity. Brandon's the eldest and the only one with biological connections—Stef's son from a previous, heterosexual marriage. Jesus and Mariana came to the couple through San Diego's foster care system and have since been adopted. Callie and her younger brother, Jude, are the newbies, but settling in with their relatively new family just fine, thank you very much. And with Lena now pregnant (after artificial insemination), another little one is on his or her way.

Of course there are hurdles aplenty for this family. The Fosters, after all, is essentially a primetime soap opera. Kids get in trouble, sometimes deeply. Tensions between the two matriarchs surface. Crises are had and averted. Such is the nature of these sorts of shows. It's merely a question of how provocative and graphic those issues prove to be onscreen.

Right out of the gate, of course, one of those provocative issues is Stef and Lena, lesbians in love—who kiss and cuddle and sleep together. So it might at first sound odd to call The Fosters a throwback to shows from the 1950s and '60s, where families were largely aspirational. And, indeed, these two mothers show great love and affection for their brood. This, its makers suggest, is how a healthy family looks—sort of like The Waltons with a rainbow-friendly vibe instead of black-and-white traditionalism. The Fosters wears its message on its sleeve, proffering an utterly transparent social agenda—but a social agenda that runs counter to a Biblical understanding of marriage and family.

It also brings with it a discomforting level of ... well, tolerance.

Now, I'm not talking about tolerance in the politicized sense. For the moment, I'm focusing on the tolerance shown by the Foster parents—and by the show itself—for unhealthy behavior. The adults and kids alike have been known to explore and gratify their sexual urges, for example, and Stef sometimes even supplies her teens with condoms. (As a cop, she says, it's her job to "protect and serve.")

By indulging in such stereotypes, the show strives to not just normalize same-sex parenthood, but also teen promiscuity. On parallel tracks is this: The series naturally takes a dim view of teens selling drugs—unless said teen is selling drugs to raise money for her down-on-her-luck birth mother. In that case, selling drugs isn't necessarily good, but at least it's understandable.

Every bad deed and spiritual compromise here seems to have a good intention. Every breakage of a household rule or municipal law or even moral construct has a mitigating excuse. Rules truly are meant to be broken—as long as there's a dramatic enough reason.

Who really are the Fosters, then? A family that resides in one of the best-written shows on ABC Family. A family that serves as a really effective piece of propaganda. A family that trumpets "family values" while thumbing its nose at those who might have different values in mind.

Episode Reviews

"Take Me Out"

Brandon, a pianist, wants to have another operation on his hand so he can get back into top classical form. Stef says no, as does the boy's biological father. But Lena disagrees, causing friction between the two moms. Callie's dad forces her to get a DNA test before he'll allow Stef and Lena to adopt her.

Jesus nearly has sex with girlfriend Emma … but she's so particular about how they do it that it turns him off. That's a good thing, of course. Still, we see the two kissing madly in a car as she strips off his shirt. (Hers is unbuttoned.) And there's talk of trying again at the beach. There's also talk about Jude being gay, an assertion that prompts another boy's dad to step in and keep the two friends apart. The friend apologizes for his father, telling Jude that he knows he's not gay. "What if I was gay?" Jude asks. The friend walks away, perplexed.

Callie gets slapped suggestively on the backside, and there's a line about how a fortysomething man must really like her. We hear that Mike (an alcoholic) got drunk, blacked out, got into a fight and broke someone's nose. (Stef worries that he's lying and may have actually killed someone.) We hear about leering high schoolers and drug-addicted moms. Mariana wears short shorts. Bad language includes "a--" (once) and the euphemistic "freaking" (once).

"Pilot"

Callie's released from juvie into the care of Lena and Stef. But she seems anxious to hook up with a guy named Jude, whom she calls on a phone she "borrows" from Brandon. When Brandon confronts her about it, she fesses up: Jude's her little brother who's in an abusive home. She needs to rescue him. Brandon goes with her—even though he has a musical scholarship performance that night. Naturally, they keep the trip a secret.

Stef talks to Brandon about the importance of condoms. Brandon's girlfriend invites Brandon to spend the night with her. ("I'll have to sneak out," he says.) Callie rudely asks Lena and Stef if they're "dykes." We see the two women kiss affectionately a few times and snuggle in bed, at all times acting as any husband and wife would in a similar TV drama. There's a reference to Jude trying on a woman's dress (an act he gets beaten for by his foster dad).

Callie promises not to "narc" on Mariana when she sees the younger girl steal drugs. Mariana returns the "favor" by giving Callie advice on how to sneak away from school. A man threatens kids with a gun. (Cops intervene forcefully.) Callie gets beaten up by other girls. We later see her naked in the bathtub, an ugly bruise covering the side of her torso.

Characters say "a‑‑" (twice), "d‑‑n" (twice), "h‑‑‑" (three times) and "jeez" (once). God's name is misused a half-dozen times.

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