In today’s society, what constitutes a “normal family?” They can’t possibly be the biological parents and their two biological children. For many people, that’s “normal,” but for others, family life is entirely different. So, why don’t we see more depictions of large, dysfunctional, blended families in films and television shows? How can they be portrayed in a way that is more authentic and relatable?
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In other words, Hollywood must do more. When you think about it, there must be more than a few stepparents who are running shows over there, right? Even so, these shows and movies have laid the groundwork for what’s to come.
1. Modern Family
Even if Modern Family’s big, blended Pritchett-Dunphy-Tucker group is a satire, there’s a lot of truth in it. To keep the characters accessible from the beginning, the author chose to focus more on everyday situations (especially those that go awry) rather than on wild, far-fetched scenarios.
2. Grey’s Anatomy
No, it’s not a mistake. Most of Grey’s Anatomy’s action takes place in either the ER or the operating room, making it a medical drama series (the longest-running of all time). It’s also a prominent motif in the show: Most doctors at Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital discover their new (real) families through work, whether that’s because they lack a biological family or because the family they were born into, well… suck.
3. Mrs. Doubtfire
Besides being one of Robin Williams’ most renowned portrayals, Mrs. Doubtfire (1993) is a sweet story about an ex-husband who goes to tremendous measures to see his children. When another person (in this example, Pierce Brosnan as the extremely suave and extremely unpleasant Stu) emerges to take their seat at the family dinner table, it’s absolutely relevant to anyone who has felt like an outsider.
4. The Fosters
A sitcom like The Fosters is easy to overlook, but it’s worth the time. For starters, it can be found on the Freeform cable channel. (It is, in fact, a real-life thing.) In addition, the show’s name is cringe-inducing: The Fosters, a show about a foster family. However, if you’ve missed it, you’re in for a disappointment. This may have been This Is Us before It Was This Is Us on another network. When Stef (Terri Polo) and Lena (Sherri Saum) are introduced as the parents of a biracial lesbian couple with biological and adoptive children, it feels fresh and thought-provoking.
5. This Is Us
In the time-hopping joy of This Is Us, the Pearson family goes through everything from fostering to financial hardship to unemployment and death. Randall’s journey as a transracial adoptee is a compelling one. There are times when Jack and Rebecca make mistakes, but what parent does? The sequence in which Jack discovers Randall’s motive for wanting to box is one of the most heartwarming on this show (there are around 3 million of them).
6. Yours, Mine and Ours
You might find some inspiration for keeping your large family in order from the 1968 film Yours, Mine, and Ours, largely based on the true story of Helen and Frank Beardsley (with Lucille Ball as widow Helen and Henry Fonda as widower Frank). Each of the family’s 18 children—yes, 18—is given a number, a bathroom, a bedroom, and an assigned seat at the table by Frank, a Navy officer. For the record, the Rene Russo-Dennis Quaid adaptation from 2005 isn’t quite as fantastic.
Take a time to consider the 1999 film Stepmom before you brush it off as an unrealistic ideal. No one says that a stepmother and a biological mother can’t be friends. Obviously, the film isn’t ideal; a cancer diagnosis shouldn’t be necessary for bringing adults on board for the sake of their children, but it’s nice to see a stepmother on screen who isn’t evil at all; if nothing else, the film shows that a stepmother’s role is never simple.
8. Bonusfamiljen (‘Bonus Family’)
Is a blended family the new stepfamily, or is it something else entirely? Politicians in Sweden prefer “bonus dad” and “bonus mom” because they are less offensive than “step” in their lexicon. The award-winning Netflix dramedy of the same name follows Lisa (Vera Vitali) and Patrik (Erik Johansson) and their ex-partners Martin (Fredrik Hallgren) and Katja (Petra Mede) as they attempt to co-parent their three children. It’s engrossing, heartfelt, and reassuring all at the same time.