September 12, 2012

TV For Thought: The New Normal and Adoption by Gay Parents

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Mastermind of smash hits like Glee and American Horror Story, Ryan Murphy is on a new network with his latest foray into comedy, The New Normal. The comedy centers around a gay couple (played by The Hangover’s Justin Bartha and The Book of Mormon’s breakout star, Andrew Rannells) hoping to adopt and the eventual surrogate and family. Sure, the sitcom plays to the stereotypical notions of race and sexual orientation, but there is a serious level of discourse to be drawn from the plot nevertheless. And in true Ryan Murphy style, one aspect of discussion is of great import to gays and their approach to parenting.

The pilot starts with a short video confessional from Bryan Collins (Rannells) to his future child. It’s short and sweet but is enough to pull at the heartstrings. He just introduces himself and then lays the killer line, “Oh god, I think I would just die if you call me daddy.” Cue tears welling in the eyes. The audience feels that desperation and hope lying within him; you just want some child to come along that instant and say the magic word.

This moment of pure tenderness over something so seemingly simple just further accentuates the fact that gays are in fact like any other aspiring father/mother. They, too, want to hear the voice of a little one who sees them as their whole world wrapped in one human being. Seeing those glassy eyes and hearing the breaking up of his voice captures the want and need for Bryan to get that baby.The show, however, could not go on without having the flip side of gay adoption represented. Enter Jane Forrest (Ellen Barkin). She’s an unapologetic and honest lady which in some circles would be considered a bigot (according to her great-granddaughter Shania, played by Bebe Wood).

Clearly uncomfortable with gay and black people alike (unless of course we’re talking about those that make her hair look good), Jane uses every epithet she can come up with instead of coming to terms with the reality. Stuck in this very limited view of the world, obstructs her view of the humanness of the people themselves beyond arbitrary labels. She embodies all of society’s naysayers in respect to the rights of minority groups. For some reason it is difficult for her to fathom how a gay couple can effectively raise a child.

Never mind that her own family has not necessarily raised children in the most hospitable of environments for three generations. Jane had a child with a man who happened to be in the closet. Her own daughter died young leaving her to raise her child to her dismay. Then her granddaughter got pregnant young and out of wedlock with a man who is cheating on her and essentially deadbeat. In other words, three generations of women had children in the face of adversity, albeit not of the same degree as gay parents.

And that is a big issue in America. As much as some people like to say that gay parents are harmful to the development of a child, straight parents can be just as bad, if not worse. The other issue to contend with is the fact that some heterosexuals get pregnant without actually wanting to enter into parenthood. At one point Jane mentions that she thought her daughter was a fibroid tumor and that “[b]y the time [she] figured it out, [her daughter] had a face and [she] was screwed.” Gays, on the other hand, do not have the option to accidentally have a child thrust upon them. Instead they face a painstaking processes of adoption and approval.

It is a shame that gay marriage or adoption remains such a contested issue in American society today, but it is one that society needs to learn to accept in one shape or another. I’m not necessarily saying that one has to agree with the set notions, but one does have to accept the reality that they exist and should still be granted rights and privileges as a basic human being and member of civilization. So no, The New Normal, does not offer a new spin to life in America but it does showcase what the title implies: a new normal American society. One in which gays, blacks, whites, heterosexuals, single persons, couples, etc., all coincide in a society freely but with those who do not fully understand harping on their shortcomings. Isn’t life just grand?

Original Author: Natalia Fallas