‘The Fosters’ is back—and it’s quietly making TV a better place

Tonight, ABC Family’s The Fosters returns with its season three premiere. Although the show has many fans, there are many who still have yet to discover this quiet gem about the lives of one amazing foster family. So, to celebrate the show’s season premiere and convince you to watch the show, I wanted to share how I discovered and fell in love with The Fosters.

It was the summer of 2013, which just so happened to be a summer that I wasn’t in LA and was instead, back home, in the Sacramento suburbs with my parents.  I caught glimpses of the pilot because my mom was watching it. I’m embarrassed to say that this was my first reaction: “Mom, why are you watching this?” A few moments into the show, I was saying, “Wait, why is Callie living with them?” I quickly became obsessed with the series. It was more than just a teen soap. Yes, it had those somewhat campy ABC Family moments, but there was heart to The Fosters that reminded me of shows like Gilmore Girls and The Wonder Years. More than that, it’s challenging stereotypes and moving the needle in the right direction on TV. Specifically, here’s why The Fosters has my heart.

It’s Portrayal of the LGBT community has been game-changing 

I remember reading an article around the time when the show first premiered which highlighted how The Fosters portrayed the LBGT community, including featuring same-sex parents and burgeoning sexuality. The Fosters has been revolutionary because they don’t treat the LGBT community as anything other than regular people (what a concept!). The show does not have scenes of lesbians kissing to titillate its audience; it merely shows a devoted couple in a moment of intimacy. Also, with the character of Callie’s younger brother, Jude, The Fosters depicted the youngest same-sex kiss in network television history! Booyah!

Maia Mitchell will break your heart as Callie Jacob

I think it’s great when shows match solid writing to exceptionally talented actors. I can imagine the character of Callie was pretty well drawn out in the pilot script, but Aussie-born Maia Mitchell brought her to life. Immediately, she hooked me. In the first scene of the show, Callie is released from juvenile detention and a social worker attempts to get Lena to take her in. Lena looks at Callie’s heartbroken face and immediately wants to become her foster parent (even though they’re not looking to take in any new foster kids). In two seasons of the show, Maia has given an Emmy-worthy performance, portraying deep emotions with subtlety. Just look at that face! Your heart just broke! Admit it!

The Fosters doesn’t shy away from tackling the harsh truths of the foster care system

The foster care system in this country has many problems. A few years ago, there was a show on CW that was about just that issue called Life Unexpected. Unfortunately, it was canceled after season two, but luckily The Fosters has taken up that mantle, showing the suffering that Callie, Jude, Jesus and Mariana go through in trying to find a decent foster family. Callie, especially, is defensive, and doesn’t trust adults easily because of her experiences. She’s had to be the parent, the one who takes care of Jude because no one else does. It takes a while for her to let her guard down and really open herself up to Lena and Stef. Conversely, Jesus and Mariana deal with the residual effects of having a biological mother who was unable to care for them because she was a drug addict.

The show doesn’t pretend that we live in a perfect world

The world Lena and Stef live in is not a perfect one and while the show never exploits their sexual orientation, it doesn’t shy away from the fact that homophobia is still prevalent in our society. Stef must deal with her father who has never really supported her “lifestyle.” She tells him not to come to their wedding if he doesn’t one-hundred percent support their union. Both Lena and Stef discuss with Jude the fact that not all people are going to understand their sexuality and many are going to feel like they deserve to share their hateful views on it. There is work still to be done in fully eradicating homophobia in our society and The Fosters acknowledges that.

It proves that love in ALL FORMS in beautiful

Okay, this is definitely the reason I use most when trying to convince people to watch the show. We are living in a golden age of television – groundbreaking, revolutionary television. But, I think we forget that a show doesn’t need to be ultra-dark to be revolutionary. The Fosters is a quiet show – it’s about a family and the unconditional love they provide to one another. I love the show because it promotes kindness and respect. Those ideas may not be flashy, but we could all do with a weekly reminder of what really matters.

Images via fosteryouth.tumblr.com, the fosters.wikia.com, www.afterellen.com, amazon.com