ABC Family has always been at the forefront for groundbreaking and driven young adult programs and they hit the mark once again with their family centered show The Fosters. Pushing boundaries and showcasing real life dilemmas and challenges is the ABC Family hallmark and with The Fosters they go even further than they ever have before. Teenage angst, searing drama, family togetherness, adoption and heart breaking reactions fuel this tumultuous, but endearing program.
While much of mainstream television continues to perpetuate their disturbing queerbaiting agenda, The Fosters have made history recently by showing two thirteen year old boys, Connor (Gavin MacIntosh) and Jude (Hayden Byerly) kissing. Additionally, there was a lead up to it as well with storylines surrounding the questioning of sexuality and even asking adults for advice. This wasn't something these boys were alone in, though Connor did mostly keep to himself based on shaming from his father. Happily, Jude never backed down from his feelings or from wanting to cross lines from friendship to romance. Originally when Connor's father thought that Jude was gay, and Jude was beginning to question his sexuality, Connor's father stopped allowing the boys to spend time together hanging out. Connor disobeyed him though and the friendship still flourished even through the face of adversity. Proudly, Jude didn't rush or pressure Connor into anything, he simply allowed Connor to find his own way into expression which ended up starting simply with a pinky finger crossing during a movie. Connor and Jude's relationship went even further in the recent episode that aired on March 2, 2015 when the two teens engaged in a kiss that set audiences into a fury of cheers. This was the youngest same sex kiss to air on television and hopefully will start a much needed precedence.
What makes this relationship so unique and groundbreaking is that it is composed of two younger teenage boys. Audiences usually see older teens or adults questioning their sexuality and if/when they do, it leads to their characters death or realizing ultimately that they are straight. The writers for The Fosters have laid such beautiful ground work for this sweet budding romance. The actors themselves, Byerly and MacIntosh, have brought a lot of heart, vulnerability, recognition and emotion to these roles. The tenderness, innocence and genuineness reflects not just in the writing, but in their performances. Their portrayals have been able to draw in audiences and pull at their heartstrings in a true, profound, and deeply touching way. MacIntosh and Byerly effortlessly are able to embody and portray all of those bundles of nerves and anticipation that come along with your first crush. They show teens in a real and relatable light, and it is important for our youth to know that there is someone out there that they can look to or identify with who may be going through the same struggles or questions.
Jude's parents Stef (Teri Polo) and Lena (Sherri Saum), which should be noted are a same sex couple, didn't reject Jude as just going through a phase. They let him know he could come to them with any questions and that questioning your sexuality is not wrong, a sin, or something to feel ashamed about, it's something natural. It shows that it's okay to be who you are and that love and tolerance is possible. Also, there is an incredible importance for representation where at risk youth can see it, and see themselves being happy. It seems that on television with queer relationships that it is often one step forward and then ten leaps backward. Hopefully, the writers continue to propel this tender and angst filled ship and steer it in the right direction for both the characters and the audience. With representation, inclusion, and equality on television continuing to be diminished, ABC Family is an exemplary example for other networks showing that queer relationships can have a place and be at the forefront on family centered programs.
These "baby ships" like Jonnor (the name for the Connor/Jude relationship) are also significant because it shows that family and acceptance can go hand in hand. In fact, the fans of the show are outspoken on social media about their acceptance and appreciation for the relationship. Both stars frequently reshare kind posts and warm thoughts fans have sent their way about Jonnor and their message of tolerance. The coupling is even being included in more and more relationship pairing polls like the 2015 TV Couple March Madness poll Zimbio is hosting.
The Fosters is a compelling program that faces a variety of issues realistically and with heart head on from all different angles. This is a show at its core about families, their real struggles, and the curveballs that life throws at you. It also shows audiences that your sexuality is only part of who you are, and it should not define you. What I love about this program is that it teaches audiences that family doesn't have to mean blood, it's who sticks around and who loves us unconditionally. Blood is thicker than water, but above all else, it's actually unconditional love that really is what sustains us.