First came Modern Family, a television comedy that features a gay couple with an adopted child. Now, here comes The New Normal, set to premiere on Tuesdays this Fall on NBC. The New Normal is Glee co-creator Ryan Murphy’s new series, about a gay couple (played by Justin Bartha and Andrew Rannells) who want to have a child. Goldie (played by Georgia King) is their surrogate; she apparently agrees to be the surrogate in the hopes that “she’ll be able to give her own daughter, Shania, a better life.” Ellen Barkin stars as Goldie’s grandmother, who “isn’t quite as open-minded as her granddaughter.”
Judging from the preview that you can see here, this gay couple is white and middle-class. In this way, they are very similar to Cam and Mitchell, who play the (mostly) beloved gay couple on Modern Family. Although Modern Family has drawn criticism at times (e.g., for its reinforcement of certain gay stereotypes), the show has mostly been met with positive acclaim regarding its portrayal of the ordinariness of life as a gay couple with children. Perhaps because it is the first TV show to star a gay couple with children, few critics have highlighted the racial and class particularities of Mitchell and Cam. But one must wonder whether a show like The New Normal, which features a white gay male couple pursuing surrogacy (which is, on average, $100,00-$150,000) will ruffle more feathers. Is this progress, or is this portrayal likely to be seen as reinforcing mainstream depictions (i.e., stereotypes) of gay men as wealthy and white? And, further, will be it be criticized (or perhaps lauded) for how it handles the moral/ethical issues of surrogacy (which has been criticized as ‘exploitative’ and as raising “thorny issues of race, class, and gender)? Stay tuned, and set your Tivos.