Representation of Modern Families in Kid-Friendly Entertainment
By Alex Temblador
I recently wrote an article for The Next Family called, “Family-Friendly Films That Feature Adoption and Foster Care,” that shared wonderful family films with adoption or foster care story lines. My reasoning behind doing so was because every family deserves a chance to see similar families like theirs represented in various forms of entertainment.
The same can be said of other modern families, so I decided to search for family-friendly films with multiracial families (such as families with interracial parents and multiracial children) and LGBT families. My goal was to find G-rated or PG-rated family-friendly films (perhaps a few PG-13). Though some parents are okay with their children watching PG-13 or R-rated films, others are not (until they get older of course), thus my reasoning for finding films without sexual content or harsh language. This proved to be a far more difficult task than finding family films with adoption story lines.
I discovered that there are many films that feature interracial relationships, however, not many of those feature multiracial families. And if they do, they are not often kid-friendly or family-friendly films. The same occurred when I searched for LGBT families in films. I found same-sex relationships featured in movies, but I found myself with only a few LGBT families featured on the big screen. For instance, The Kids Are All Right features a wonderful LGBT family, however, the film contains certain types of content that not all parents would find appropriate for their younger children (i.e. sex scenes).
The fact that it was difficult to search for family-friendly and kid-friendly films with multiracial and/or LGBT families speaks to a larger problem in society.
Though there are often films with interracial relationships and LGBT relationships, they are made for adults. Most children, then, are unable to see relationships like their parents on screen, much less see children that are similar to them in movies. What kind of message does it send to children if they only see one type of family on screen? That their family is “abnormal” or not worthy of featuring?
The argument could be made, “Well, there’s just more same-race, heterosexual families in the U.S.”
Perhaps, but in 2011, there were 2 million children with parents of two different races. I’d say that’s a big portion number of the population. The Williams Institute in 2013 reported that 6 million American children have LGBT parents (and some are in multiracial homes). Aren’t those numbers significant enough to make an argument for more diverse families to be featured in family-friendly films?
So I changed up my search and started looking through TV shows, and I am glad to say that TV seems to be a bit more open to portraying modern families, like LGBT or multiracial families. Granted many of these are adult shows (Scandal, How to Get Away With Murder, Empire, Parenthood, Transparent), but a few are family-friendly.
Of course, there’s Modern Family which has both an LGBT family and multiracial family featured. Still, it may only be interesting to tweens and teens and not as engaging for younger children (under 10). There’s also The Fosters, which has lesbian mothers in an interracial relationship with foster and adoptive children. That too, might also only be interesting to preteens and teens.
Even though there are far more LGBT and multiracial families on TV, it was still hard for me to discover TV shows with these particular modern families – for young kids. There were some that were appropriate for tweens and teens, but not many that would be considered appropriate for young children. And some that were young kid-friendly, aren’t still on TV today (Wizards of Waverly Place and Sid, the Science Kid).
Maybe I should have searched for days for these TV shows, but let’s be honest: if I can’t find these shows quickly, how will most parents find them?
So as parents, what do you do? How do you show your child that there are families like theirs in the world? (Or different than theirs? Because it doesn’t hurt showing your kid the beauty of diversity in families)
Unfortunately, it appears that only the literary world has made significant steps forward in featuring modern families. A quick google search brings up children’s books with LGBT families, multiracial families, African American families, Latino families, adoptive families, blended families, single-parent families, and the list goes on!
It was quite simple for us to create two Pinterest boards filled with modern family books.
Still, books are not enough. If I learned anything from the research phase of the article I tried to write, is that there needs to be kid-friendly shows and films with the families that exist in the world. I don’t even want to say “diverse families” because it almost seems redundant. Families in today’s society are diverse, and yet, they aren’t being featured well across different channels of entertainment.
So I call on the world to represent more modern families on screen, film or TV, especially in terms of kid-friendly and family-friendly shows as it can do wonders for any child in various aspects of their lives. Let’s not even limit it to LGBT families and multiracial families. We need more single-parent families, generational families, blended families, and families with disabilities in entertainment too!
Families are beautifully diverse now. So film and TV, stop pretending that they don’t exist and start representing them for our children and our families.
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