Season 3 of The Fosters continued its strong run of episodes by tackling racial slurs and identity, all grounded by the coolest prom ever.
Jude finally said it. He said he was gay, and the scene was beautiful and well-earned. In “More Than Words” The Fosters tackled why words matter, whether those words are used to hurt someone else or as a way to define yourself. Jude has resisted calling himself gay for quite some time now because he maintained that he didn’t like labels.
He has also been bounced from home to home his entire life and been told he needed to hide certain aspects of his personality to survive, so his stance made sense. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t hurting him and Connor though. It took a talk with Cole outside of an amazing LGBTQ prom for Jude to understand why it was important for Connor to self-identify as gay and why it was time for him to say the words, too.
The scene was everything Jonnor fans could have hoped it would be. Not only did Connor continue to fully embrace his identity by joining in with the other kids and bonding with them, there was also Connor/Jude dancing. When Jude finally told Connor he was gay and “super gay” for him, it was a sweet milestone in their relationship.
The best part was that Callie’s friend, Cole, was the one who got through to Jude. Cole is such an amazing and important character. Since he was first introduced at Girls United, Cole has not only been a friend to Callie, but a positive character for young transgender teens to look up to. He masterminded the prom and told Jude that while labels can feel restrictive, they also hold power.
For Cole, all he had to hold on to was a label for him to make it through foster care and to continue to fight for his right to continue his transition. Hearing Cole’s story was powerful for Jude, but it also was incredibly touching to hear as a viewer. He is such a strong character, and his return to the show was more than welcome.
Jude wasn’t the only person learning a powerful lesson about words this week. Lena’s parents came to town for a visit with Lena’s estranged half-brother, Nathan, in tow. The siblings have not spoken in 20 years because when Nathan was a teenager he called Lena’s mother the N-word and never apologized.
In all that time, Lena’s anger never abated, and for good reason. Lena’s mother is her hero, and what Nathan said to her was degrading and cruel. Even if it came from a place of anger, he had two decades to say he was sorry, but when Lena confronts him, he denies he ever said the word.
Making matters worse, Nathan’s girlfriend, Faith, an African-American woman, is sitting right next to him the whole time. There is no way she could have known how little respect Nathan had for his stepmother and little sister. Television rarely ever delves into the use of racial slurs in a meaningful way. They certainly don’t discuss how those slurs can linger with the people they are hurled at, but Lena proved it is never too late to take a stand for yourself or someone you love.
Social story lines can be tricky things. If not done correctly, they feel like “very special episodes.” The Fosters always rises above and finds the human heart in social issues. Lena fighting for her mother was more than a message; it revealed more of her strength and sense of justice. Cole helping Jude understand that labeling yourself can be empowering was rooted in Cole’s own struggles. This is why The Fosters is the most important show on television — it never backs away from hard truths, and there is no topic it is afraid to tackle.