In prime-time TV and in real life, America's working-class mothers find it tough to keep their heads above water while juggling their professional and personal lives.
Two current shows—Switched at Birth and The New Normal—show the paternalistic attitudes working mothers often face.
For Switched at Birth's working class single mom Regina Vasquez (Constance Marie), money is a particularly fraught issue. As the show's title suggests, her daughter was switched at birth with another. So though she has been raising teenage Daphne (who is deaf), her biological daughter Bay is being raised by the much wealthier Kathryn and John Kennish. Regina and Daphne had been scraping by for years, but once they accept help from the upper middle class Kennishes (including their guest home and a job opportunity for Daphne), they both start to bristle.
The New Normal isn’t the first time we’ve seen gay dads (in this case, dads-to-be) on TV. But from Will & Grace’s Jack McFarland to LeRoy and Hiram Berry on Glee, they’re usually non-custodial fathers or secondary characters. The aughts brought sitcoms It’s All Relative and Normal, Ohio, both of which centred around gay fathers, but neither found an audience.
It wasn’t until 2009's Modern Family that a successful network sitcom showed gay men being full-time fathers — and even there, their portrayal is stereotypical and desexualized. That’s something Glee and The New Normal creator (and out gay man) Ryan Murphy publicly criticized in 2010, stating that if he were to make a show with two gay leads, their kissing would be shown as no big deal.
A sitcom about a married couple who loves each other, wants a baby, and has wacky acquaintances is hardly groundbreaking new territory for network TV. NBC's new Ryan Murphy show The New Normal is another in a long line of focused-on-the-family television fare, but with one significant twist: The married people at its center are gay men. That's interesting, sure, and I'm all for more diverse representations on the big networks, but it doesn't change the fact that this is a standard, predictable, dare I say "normal," new show.