'The Fosters' Jude LGBT Storyline Was Weak & We Know It Can Do Better
This ABC Family series may have made its first flub: The Fosters Season 2 premiered on June 14 and after its successful, breakout first season, I had high expectations. The top-ranking new cable series of summer 2013, which has contributed so much to the LGBTQ conversation, chose an overdone and archaic storyline to address Jude's sexual orientation on Monday night's new episode, "Take Me Out." And I couldn't help but feel like they'd taken a gigantic step backwards in the show's positive momentum and contribution to ABC Family's teen drama programming.
There's been speculation about whether or not Jude is gay since last season when he asked Sherri Shum's Lena when she first realized that she was gay. Coupled with his consistent friendship with Connor and that one time he painted his nails, Foster fans speculated that Jude was, in fact, gay. And, he might be, but if ABC Family and The Fosters' writers plan to address it with the storyline they introduced last Monday night, they're making a huge mistake.
During the last episode, Jude went with Connor and his father to the batting cages and it honestly went a lot better than I expected. Jude didn't embarrass himself, like he feared he was going to and he seemed to get along with Connor's dad. But, apparently Connor's father is a hypercritical jerk, so there's that. When they finally finished playing, Connor seemed upset and embarrassed by his father's constant criticism in front of his friend and Jude tries to comfort him by, casually, putting his hand on his back. Connor's dad notices and the scene ends with a shot of his face looking slightly concerned and upset.
Fast-forward to the following day at school when Jude tries to confirm sleepover plans he and Connor made earlier and Connor tells him that he's not allowed to sleep over the Foster house because his dad thinks Jude is gay.
Jude responds exactly how Fosters fans would expect him to, coming from a home with two moms and he challenges his friend, "So what if I were gay? Would you not be my friend anymore?" Connor just shrugs and walks away, but the entire exchange just seems so standard and well, backwards, in a television age where Glee and a host of CW series have been addressing homophobia in teen drama series for years.
And it only gets worse when Jude seems embarrassed to admit to Callie and Mariana why Connor isn't sleeping over. I know, back when the nail polish controversy went down, Callie was disappointed that Jude decided to wear it, but they've come so far as a family since then that there's really no excuse to hide the truth.
On any other show, this type of overdone, old-fashioned storyline starring a sports-oriented, homophobic father might be able to pass. But on a series like The Fosters, that's contributing so positively to the LGBTQ discussion by presenting ABC Family's teenage viewers with a lesbian relationship at the core of a family, it just seems so backwards and wrong. Our society has moved so far past this exclusion mentality when to comes to sexual orientation — with the help of series like The Fosters and characters like Stef and Lena — that this storyline seems counterproductive and jarring, especially after addressing a similar issue with Stef's father not supporting her relationship with Lena during Season 1.
The concept of The Fosters is showing viewers this "new" type of family (on television, anyway) and presenting this overarching acceptance for everyone regardless of where they come from or what their sexual orientation may be. It just seems entirely backwards and like a cop-out for the series to put Jude at the center of such an antiquated storyline when he's still a developing character. He deserves better, Fosters fans deserve better, and the series itself deserves a better shot at handling an issue that is at the center of what the entire series is about.
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