The L Word vs. The Fosters: In the Hospital

2006. Seven years ago. That’s when season 3 of The L Word was filmed. Season 3 is when Dana (Erin Daniels) dies of breast cancer.

I cannot find a video with the particular scenes I want from The L Word in it, so I’ll try to paint the scene with words.

When Dana was admitted to the hospital, the only people the hospital officials would talk to were her parents (Susan Hogan and Michael Hogan). As for Dana’s current partner Lara (Lauren Lee Smith) and her ex-partner and friend Alice (Leisha Hailey) – they weren’t given any news and weren’t allowed to visit Dana. All this is spite of the fact that her friends brought Dana to the hospital and had to call her parents themselves to notify them that Dana was sick. When Dana’s parents arrived, they told both Lara and Alice to go home.

The unfairness of being denied access to loved ones in the hospital was painted loud and clear in The L Word. I think the issue was one of the reasons the series creators decided to do a breast cancer story. Access to loved ones who are same sex partners during health crises has been a rallying cry in the last few years in the struggle to legalize same-sex marriage. It’s been heard.

Flash forward to 2013 and the show The Fosters. Stef (Terri Polo) gets shot. Her partner Lena (Sherri Saum) and their 5 kids are all at the hospital. So is Stef’s ex-husband (Danny Nucci).

Look what happens at about the 3:36 mark after Lena tells the ER doctor (Samantha Sloyan) that she’s Stef’s domestic partner.

Seven years between these two scenes.

We live in a different world today, do we not? Visibility on television plays a part in changing attitudes. Pop culture does matter.

Images: ABC Family

Lorraine Toussaint and Annie Potts Together Again on The Fosters

From 1998 to 2002 a series called Any Day Now captured my devoted attention. It starred Annie Potts as Mary Elizabeth (M.E.) Sims and Lorraine Toussaint as Rene Jackson. The two grew up together in Birmingham, Alabama in the 1960’s. Despite their difference in race and the upheavals and violence of the civil rights movement swirling all around them in Birmingham, they were best friends.

Lorraine Toussaint and Annie Potts
Lorraine Toussaint and Annie Potts

Years have passed since those childhood days, which we see in frequent flashbacks. M.E. has been in Birmingham the entire time and has a husband (Chris Mulkey) and kids. She’s a housewife and aspiring writer. Rene has been gone, working as an attorney in Washington. She returns to Birmingham after her father’s death and they strike up their old friendship.

Any Day Now was about friendship and marriage and family. It was set in a crucible of the civil rights movement. The reverberations of race and the struggle for equality that affected the two friends’ childhoods and continued into their adulthoods made for powerful storytelling. Even though there were heavy themes involved, the stories were told with warmth and understanding.

While I loved it for the characters and the stories, it’s safe to say that it was a groundbreaking story of civil rights and race relations.

These two actresses – Lorraine Toussaint and Annie Potts – worked together to weave stories with a message about equality and human rights. Any Day Now ended over 10 years ago.

This week on ABC Family’s new series The Fosters, these two actresses will be together again.

The Fosters is about a multi-ethnic family of foster and biological kids raised by two moms. The moms are Stef Foster (Teri Polo), a police officer, and Lena Adams (Sherri Saum), a school Vice Principal. ABC Family emphasizes the family relationships and downplays the two mom aspect of this show to present it as just another family.

Much as ABC Family doesn’t make the lesbian couple the focus of this family drama, there’s still the lesbian issue right in your face. And the race issue. Lena is bi-racial. Two of the adopted children are Hispanic. While I love it for the characters and the stories, it’s safe to say that it is a groundbreaking story of civil rights and race relations.

The Fosters Wedding
Sherri Saum and Terri Polo

Monday night on ABC Family, in the season 1 finale of The Fosters, Stef and Lena are getting married. Their parents will be in attendance. Their mothers will be played by Lorraine Toussaint and Annie Potts.

On the very day the Supreme Court of the United States struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, the wedding scenes in the series finale were filmed.

When the civil rights struggles began in the 60’s, no one knew how long the fight would last or how hard the battles would be. A movement that originated around justice for African Americans has grown to include women’s rights and gay rights and encompasses numerous social justice issues. It isn’t over. We still struggle, despite all our progress.

It’s a long and painful history of struggle and progress that I will remember when I see the wedding of two women on The Fosters. A history that is tangibly tied to the early struggles in Birmingham and the South by the presence of two women who worked on a show called Any Day Now. This episode of The Fosters represents much more than a modern love story. It represents 50 years of the fight for equality in America.

Bravo to ABC Family and The Fosters for pulling these threads together into this powerful television moment with two brilliant casting choices – Lorraine Toussaint and Annie Potts.

Lorraine Toussaint and Annie Potts images via Lifetime.

Update: This post was syndicated on BlogHer.com.

Must Watch Show: Switched at Birth Renewed for a 3rd Season

Switched at Birth on ABC Family is a terrific series. The announcement came this week that it’s renewed for a 3rd season. I originally watched because I’m a Marlee Matlin fan and like shows that feature sign language, but I quickly got caught up in the story and interested in the characters.

Daphne Toby Emmett Bay

The story involves Bay Kennish (Vanessa Marano) who should have been a Vasquez, and Daphne Vasquez (Katie Leclerc) who should have been a Kennish. Instead they got switched at birth and went home from the hospital with the wrong families. The story begins when the two girls are in high school and the truth is revealed to the families and the world at large because Bay does a science project involving DNA.

The Kennish family is wealthy and privileged.  D.W. Moffett plays John Kennish, the father. Lea Thompson is Kathryn Kennish, the mother. Lea Thompson and Katie Leclerc could be biologically related – they look that much alike. Lucas Grabeel is Toby Kennish, who is Daphne’s biological brother but regards Bay as his sister.

Constance Marie plays Regina Vasquez, who raised Daphne as a single mom. An alcoholic single mom. Single because Daphne’s father, Angelo, who we don’t meet into well into the series, took off. He’s played by Gilles Marini. He may have taken off because Daphne got sick and went deaf or because of issues around Regina’s drinking. Anyway, he was an absent father.

Associated with these characters from the start are Emmett (Sean Berdy) a deaf friend of Regina and Daphne’s and Emmett’s mother Melody (Marlee Matlin) who is also deaf.

A recurring conflict in the series is what happens when the deaf community comes up against the hearing community. When the Kennish family meet Daphne, they all learn some sign language. But there are conflicts around this culture clash in many episodes. In one episode the deaf students at the school that both Bay and Daphne attend stage a strike to try to keep the school from going 50% hearing / 50% deaf. Since Bay is hearing, this adds to the many conflicts between Bay and Daphne.

Incidentally, the school strike episode was almost completely done in sign, a first for any TV series.

Bay and Daphne face conflicts over boyfriends and schools. There are jealousies over access to parents and acceptance by parents both biological and by upbringing. The girls face their identity crises in completely different ways.

Everyone in both families consider the parents who raised each girl to be the parents. The parents with the last word, so to speak. The newly discovered birth parents are referred to as “biological” parents. Soon enough, however, both girls effectively have two sets of parents because they all live together in the Kennish compound, which includes a guest house.

Another recurring storyline of conflict involves who knew what and when. Turns out Regina knew early on that the babies had been switched and had been keeping an eye on Bay all along. Boy, was John Kennish mad when he found out that secret.

ABC Family put together a couple of videos that will help you see a little of this in action.

Beginners Guide to Switched at Birth, Part 1

Beginners Guide to Switched at Birth, Part 2

ABC Family can add this to its list of other series that look at the question of what makes a family, most notably The Fosters. In both The Fosters and Switched at Birth, there are themes around whether family is biology, or love, or some other combination of factors that mix with biology and love.

If you aren’t already a fan of Switched at Birth, I hope you’ll give your consideration. It’s worth it.