So last night, I watched The Fosters‘ spring finale, featuring the wedding of Lena Adams and Stef Foster, who together form the superlative lesbian couple at the center of the show; afterwards, I took to Tumblr to try to translate my thoughts into written words, and realized that despite all the hullabaloo surrounding the wedding, I had little to say about it or them. I had lots to say about Callie, the white straight teenage girl who is the show’s point of view character, but not the people about whom the episode was ostensibly about. It wasn’t until I read a friend express their disappointment with the episode that I realized why. Like my friend said, the episode, in the end, wasn’t really about Lena and Stef.
And they’re right. Sure, Lena and Stef are prominent throughout the episode, and time is spent on their conflicting ideas about the wedding and the heaping helpings of parental drama that became inevitable the moment Stef proposed. They’re even show in bed together. But as the many, many shots of Callie’s pained face made clear, it wasn’t their story, not really. After the brides’ dance with their children, we hear no more from them, and the final few minutes of the episode are spent on heartbreaking Callie angst.
Now, this isn’t to say that what we did get regarding Lena and Stef wasn’t fantastic, or that one is wrong for enjoying the heck out of it. But that doesn’t necessarily make it enough. The Fosters had set up high standards for itself, as the show that had expressed over and over again a commitment to rarely-represented experiences, and tackled privilege as one of its main themes. As the only same-sex wedding between lead characters we’re going to see in this series, and one of only a handful we’re likely to get in the near future, it was not at all out of the question to want and expect it to be treated as the important thing in the episode, as it almost certainly would have been had it been a traditional wedding. And yet, once one thinks about it, for every thing included, there was something that could have been added: a post wedding conversation. A scene with Lena and Stef’s queer friends (although that one I can sorta understand, given the already-large number of guest-stars already in the episode). An actual sex scene.
Discussing the episode, I got touch of Deja Vu: the execution of the wedding reminded me a lot of the way Archie comics handled Kevin Keller’s wedding a year or two back. Like the one in The Fosters, it was hyped up to all heck. Like the one in The Fosters, the actual issue was less about Kevin and his husband-to-be and more about using that wedding as a background for the more prominent characters’ drama.
And you know, as a straight guy who has his experiences as a straight guy consistently validated, I was satisfied with that, back then: I thought that it indicated a tremendous level of progress, and that that was enough, for now. But as the same-sex wedding as background becomes a trope, it strikes me that while that may indeed indicate a heck of a lot of progress, it is also a sign that we haven’t gone far enough. As well-meaning as the people behind these works may be, the way they are executed nevertheless send a problematic message: gay people’s experiences are not worth focusing on to the extent equivalent experiences by straight people are. And it is precisely because these people are well-meaning—and are at the helm of works experienced by a not-inconsiderable amount of people—that it’s important to let them know that hey, they can do better. If they are truly committed to making things better, they’ll take the constructive criticism and use it to improve their craft, and maybe sooner rather than later, we can have the same-sex wedding episode QUILTBAG people deserve. On the other hand, if this episode wasn’t a fluke (and a big dang fluke it is) and Lena and Stef’s experiences continue to be treated as second-class events, then I’m sorry, The Fosters: you’re not the show I thought you were.