“Would you look at that, just strutting down the middle of Buckeye Road in broad daylight, proud as gay peacocks,” said Jane Forrester (played by Ellen Barkin), a 52-year-old character on the comedy TV show The New Normal.
“Why shouldn’t they be, Nana?” said Shania Clemmons (Bebe Wood), the great granddaughter to Jane, in response to her comment about a lesbian couple showing affection and holding their baby on the sidewalk.
This is the second scene in the show’s pilot episode and the audience’s first impression of both Jane and Shania. Because of what Jane says, this encourages Shania’s mom, Goldie Clemmons (Georgia King), to be a surrogate mother for a gay couple because Goldie thinks that too many people treat gay couples the way Jane does and she wants to do something to help them.
The New Normal, aired on NBC, is a comedy TV show about the characters David Murray (Justin Bartha) and Bryan Collins (Andrew Rannells) a gay couple who want a child and need a surrogate mother. They find one through Goldie, but also meet her grandmother, Jane, and her daughter, Shania.
The New Normal deals with the controversial topic of gay marriage and shows different generational perspectives, from an 8-year-old to a 52-year-old. Even though it is meant to be an entertaining comedy, The New Normal takes some edgy risks and pushes some boundaries with their stereotypes and offensive language.
Forrester’s character represents the older, more conservative generation. She is portrayed as a stubborn and rude woman who also turns out to be homophobic, racist and votes Republican. Forrester is the villain and tries to tear down what isn’t traditional. By making her identity so harsh and disrespectful, it fuels the stereotype of an older traditional generation. But because her opinions are so tenacious and impolite, it is uncomfortable to watch because the stereotype is over-the-top and never makes Jane’s character look good.
For instance, when Goldie considered voting for Obama for president Jane said, “When I was a girl we studied presidents who owned people like this president.” This quote isn’t even meant to make someone laugh or make the show light-hearted, it just makes Jane look bad so why is this needed in the show?
At the other end of the spectrum is eight-year-old Shania. Her character is very open and accepting, and disagrees with her great grandmother a lot and even calls her a bigot. Shania’s character is full of life and charms you with her cute smile and huge glasses. She has such a big heart that, as the show goes on, it is hard not to fall in love with her and her innocence.
Wood, who plays Shania, and Barkin, who plays Jane, do a great job of representing what the writer and director want them to be. Wood and Barkin show opposite opinions and act well off each other. On the other hand King, who plays Goldie, seems weak and fragile. She is overshadowed by her daughter and she just ends up patting Shania’s back at the end of the day instead of speaking up for what she believes in and showing Shania how to be a strong woman. But Bartha, who plays David, and Rannells, who plays Bryan, show affection more than any other gay couple on a TV show and do a great job of capturing the love they have for each other. By showing their love for one another, it creates a certain thought in your head of “why shouldn’t this be okay if they love each other?” and opens up the audience’s mind in a new way.
This show reveals how society has changed, compared to a generation ago. However, in this show they still use David and Bryan as the target of most jokes to create humor. The jokes help make the environment of the show light-hearted and less serious, which helps the audience feel comfortable with such controversial issues.
But since most of the jokes are coming from Jane, the director and writers make the older generation look heartless. The humor also contradicts the main purpose of the show, which is to promote a more accepting attitude toward people who are “different” and break the stereotypes; however the jokes still make fun of the stereotypes.
The show has a lot of potential to become popular and create a new way to look at those stereotypes, but for it to succeed the writers and director need to adjust Jane’s character to be personable and relatable to more people instead of seen as the bad guy.
The show also should direct fewer jokes toward the gay couple and focus more on the couple themselves (making humor about everyday events that the couple has to go through, similar to a heterosexual couple). It should also include the extra struggles David and Bryan have to deal with for being “different”. With a few changes this show could change how people look at homosexual couples.
“Look around,” said Bryan to his partner David when they were talking about adopting a baby, “Your idea of traditional might need a refresh. . . face it honey, the abnormal is the new normal.”