Are two moms better than one? According to ABC Family, they are.
Stef and Lena Foster have been 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 legally adopted. Callie and her younger brother, Jude, are the newbies, still in foster care as the series opens. After suffering some hard knocks, the siblings are struggling to trust their new family. But if the show lasts for any length at all, methinks they'll eventually settle in just fine.
Oh, not that there won't be lots of hiccups along the way. The Fosters, after all, is essentially a primetime soap opera. Children will get in trouble. Tensions between the two matriarchs will surface. Crises will be had and averted. Love will be shown. 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—with each other and with their children. They're nurturing and supportive and work together as a team. It's as if they've read and put into practice the best of parenting books. An example: When Callie breaks a bevy of rules, she tells Stef she's willing to return to juvenile detention as long as her brother's taken care of. Stef rejects the offer. "You're not disposable, Callie," she tells her. "You're not worthless."
Their children don't always respond with the same level of grace or maturity, of course. There'd be very little narrative tension if they did. Yet these Foster kids love their moms fiercely. They support them. And woe to anyone who might question their mothers' lifestyles.
In a way, the Fosters are a throwback to shows from the 1950s and '60s, where families were largely aspirational. This, its makers suggest, is how a healthy family looks. The big glaring difference? This is a show with a transparent social agenda—one 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, or suggesting that Stef and Lena are anything less than loving parents trying to do the best they can for their kids. Same-sex couples don't love their children any less than parents in traditional families, after all. When I speak of tolerance, I speak of the tolerance shown by these parents—and by the show itself—of unhealthy behavior. Their own and their kids'. Brandon, for instance, is sexually active with his girlfriend, and Stef smilingly urges him to use 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 has a good intention. Every breakage of a household rule or municipal law or even moral construct has a mitigating excuse. Forget "the buck stops here." In The Fosters, the buck never even slows down. Here, rules truly are meant to be broken—as long as there's a dramatic enough reason.
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.