Thursday, March 5, 2015

A Gay Kiss in The Fosters and Other TV Shows

So, I don't actually watch the TV show The Fosters, but I heard that a particular moment in the show is making waves. Two thirteen-year-old boys kiss. I actually do not even watch much TV, but it seems as though a couple of TV shows have featured same-sex activity. I used to watch Modern Family and laugh at Cam and Mitch's antics, but that got pretty stale after a little while. Through the Internet, I've seen some other TV shows feature same-sex content in limited ways. There is also How to Get Away with Murder, on which an gay man of color who practices safe sex and takes receiving role in anal sex just tested positive for HIV (bringing up a whole host of other issues related to conceptions of whom HIV infects). And of course, there is Looking, the show that is actually centered around gay characters living in San Francisco (again, this brings up particular issues regarding gay normalcy, see

However, The Fosters stands out for a couple of reasons (again, please remember that I have maybe seen two minutes, if that, of all the shows I have mentioned in this post). As a more general note, the family structure on the show differs from the families in many TV shows (even Modern Family). An interracial lesbian couple raising some biological and some nonbiological children. For another, I was kind of shocked by the age of the characters involved in this storyline. I definitely felt uncomfortable at first getting excited over two, young boys kissing, but even just a clip of them interacting in a movie theater while on a double date with their girlfriends really stirred something. Representing a world in which such young boys, who albeit must live in a progressive and accepting household, feel comfortable exploring their sexualities at such a young age is kind of astounding. When I was that age, I'm not even really sure I knew that experimenting in this way was a possibility (again, context dependent). If sexuality and sexual practices are conditioned by the environment in which they occur, I can only hope that this trend of media incorporating these story lines indicate a shift toward accepting different family models, open explorations of sexuality, and more.

For the clip from The Fosters:


  1. "Looking naturalizes displacement by making it invisible. Throw in a smattering of interracial sex and dating, a few conversations about HIV and enemas and pop-up restaurants, and we get the sense that something is being represented, but what? By acting like displacement isn’t happening, Looking plays an active role in cultural erasure—it’s a tourist brochure for a gentrified San Francisco, an advertising campaign with bodies as billboards. In this day and age, when the portrayal of gay lives is hardly more threatening than a trip to Pottery Barn, Looking makes sure that no hint of a queer alternative slips through the cracks in the glaze."

    Sorry I got really into the article on Looking—it made some awesome points and articulated the uneasy feeling I got by the end of the first season—so my comment is about that haha. I'm interested in seeing where the show goes this season and whether or not it will complicate itself a little more. As the writer of the article notes, it is created by the same guy who did Weekend, so there is a chance.... But yeah, the show fell short for me (or at least what I have seen of it so far); I didn't feel like it was making any strides or giving any glimpses of a more complex, queer San Francisco. In my opinion, Queer As Folk—an extremely white, male-centered show from the early 2000s—was, in many ways, more critical and thoughtful. I kind of get the same feeling watching Looking as I do from watching Girls: I dislike all the characters, I feel shut-in by their narrow scopes and spaces, I find them aesthetically very pleasing somehow, and I keep waiting for something....but I'm not really sure what it is...

  2. Ben, I agree with you that there's something a bit uncomfortable about getting excited about young kids exploring their sexualities; I wonder what the target demographic for The Fosters is. Either way, I think it's important for younger viewers to be able to identify with characters in the media that they consume. Again, I don't know what the target demographic for the show is, but I wonder how the age of the character affects the impact the storylines have on the viewer; I think many LGBTQ individuals of any age are going to relate to characters exploring their sexuality, regardless of the character's age, but do you think having younger characters vs older characters will make people who can't relate to the material more sympathetic?