A Christian Filmmaker’s Review of the show “The New Normal”

December 31, 2012

Before I begin my review, I should preface with a bit about myself for a reference of perspective. I’m a Christian (not the “Hail Mary, full of Grace” kind, or the “Megaphone-in-the-mall” kind… I’m a Bible-believing follower of Christ), and a filmmaker in LOVE with well made TV shows of nearly any genre. I often watch shows not based on content, but on aethetic appeal and filmmaking style. I call watching TV, “research”.

Now, before you assume this is a gay-bashing, right-wing-nut-job controversy fest, I encourage you to read this in it’s entirety to understand my point.

I stumbled across Ryan (“Glee” & “American Horror Story”) Murphy’s  new show “The New Normal”, and decided to give it a watch. Typically I stay away from shows that play off popular culture for it’s own sake, and prefer shows with great technical content or incredible storytelling ability. After watching the available episodes from it’s first season, the show has my brain turning and thinking about where the world is heading, specifically with morality in media.

The New Normal

Bryan meets with a Catholic Priest in “The Godparent Trap” Episode of The New Normal.

If you haven’t seen it yet, the show is based on a gay couple who employ a surrogate mother (Goldie) to give them a baby, her extreme right-wing grandmother, and Goldie’s eccentric daughter. The show raises heavily controversial themes about homosexuality, child-bearing, sex, and stereotypes.

Before I get into the heavy stuff, I should mention that the show is EXCEPTIONALLY well made. Very cinematic, clean, the score perfectly accents the mood, and at times, funny. Let’s just say, if you liked “Glee”, you’ll love “The New Normal”.

Now here comes the heat.

Critics have  reamed the show for being “too provocative” or “too in-your-face gay”. The biggest flaw in my mind, isn’t that it’s “too gay” (though the homosexual element of the show would make my grandparents wince), it’s the extreme stereotyping the show portrays. Brian (the main character, written as a simile of Ryan Murphy’s life) is gay, but is, perhaps unintentionally, a cartoon character of a gay person. The writers of the show obviously want to show the other side of the coin, a homosexual’s perspective of life, with a goal of making America change their minds about the gay lifestyle. They attempt this by creating the character of the grandmother; a right-wing gay hater who uses her own twisted humor to make Brian & David’s lives a difficult joke.

The writers of the show are under the impression (perhaps by the success of “Glee”) that they’ve made a self-fulfilling prophecy by creating a show that claims the title of “This is what is Normal in America now“. The danger is that they’re ABSOLUTELY right.

What we watch becomes our reality. If you accept the reality of “The New Normal”, you’ll see all gay people as clowns who hate republicans and spend their ridiculous fortunes on pointless antics. You’ll see all people in strong favor of traditional families as people who hate homosexuals and go out of their way to make their opinions the loudest in the room. You’ll see Christianity as an outdated version of Catholicism, with a still crucified Jesus who is wildly misunderstood and misappropriated. If the show were to be more accurate, it would be called “The New Stereotype”.

Look, I know it’s for entertainment purposes. We can kick off our shoes and laugh with characters we relate with. In fact, creating characters is what I do for a living. But when our “New Normal” becomes anything like the show,  we simply enlarge the battlefield of separation and hatred… FROM BOTH SIDES. Instead of bringing these two varying opinions to a level of understanding, they create a breeding ground for more misunderstanding.

For our society to improve, we’ve got to stop making shows that highlight and extend social stereotypes. All gay people aren’t clowns, Jesus isn’t a dead religion, and not all republicans are ridiculous bigots.

Should you watch the show?

If you’re a creative person looking for great editing and script structure, go for it. If not, I’d say you could be more productive making popsicle stick houses, or going for a walk. Coming from a fan of Ryan Murphy’s work and willingness to try something new, I’d say watching “The New Normal” won’t break down any more walls than poking at the Great Wall of China with a toothpick.

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