This past week, ABC’s one-hour drama The Fosters featured the youngest gay kiss in television history. Since the airing, a lot of mainstream media outlets have covered or commented on the episode.
Twitter, our digital equivalent to a modern-day Roman Coliseum, had its usual thumbs down detractors and thumbs up supporters while the Gay Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) weighed in.
For me, the only problem about the kiss between two 13-year-old boys is that, once again, attention for the show was not focused on foster care.
Since the series premiered in 2013, coverage on the first television program in history about foster children has been absent. If you never watched the ABC Family drama, but read entertainment news, all you would probably know about The Fosters is:
- Jennifer Lopez is an executive producer
- Rosie O’Donnell made some guest appearances
- One of the show’s actors has been cleared in a hit-and-run case
- Two 13-year-old boys kissed
While I can appreciate the significance of that kiss, the show in general deals with far more complicated and compelling themes that, for some reason, have yet to ignite a national dialogue on foster care.
As a former foster youth and professional who used to work in child welfare, I had hoped a show like The Fosters would have resulted in a TIME magazine cover story by now, or at least a Diane Sawyer special featuring the escalating plight and tragic outcomes of foster children.
I’m also surprised that President Obama – despite growing up in kinship care – hasn’t talked more about the foster care system, except for proclaiming May as National Foster Care Awareness Month in a press release. Oprah has also been largely silent on the issue, even though African-Americans are grossly overrepresented in foster care. The collective film industry, too, has done nearly nothing to highlight the growing crisis of how our government handles America’s children.
To be clear, I’m not attacking the actual show The Fosters since I’m happy it exists. I’m just raising a concern on the lack of media attention to what the show is really about.
The average TV-watching, news-reading public still doesn’t know how the foster care system works, how it came to be in this country, how they’re indirectly affected by it or how we can begin to reform it to manageable levels, the way it was originally intended.
Television can present the drama of foster care, but it’s up to the media to explain, examine and expose it for what it really is.