Season 5 episode 6 of The Fosters, ‘Welcome to the Jungler’, was all about how to stop hate, both in the anonymous online world and in public places. Jude and Taylor battled it out against homophobic and misogynistic internet trolls while Callie and Aaron disagreed about how to handle a bigoted guest speaker at the university.
Let’s start with Jude who in this week’s episode really comes into his own. After Noah asks Jude and Taylor why they just ignore the homophobic and misogynistic comments of a video game tutorial host, they decide to start up their own channel in order to create a place where all gamers feels welcome.
And it’s incredible. Taylor and Jude call out the hurtful stereotypes they've seen elsewhere, using their expert gaming skills to prove anyone can play the game. Jude ends their video with "And that’s how you kick ass at Vainglory without being a misogynistic, homophobic douchebag.” Unfortunately after they tag the misogynistic, homophobic douchebag who inspired them to take action in the first place, they get a lot of hate back. And we mean a lot of hate. So much that Noah, who had posted the video on his account, takes it down. He's already experienced this kind of troll attack before when he came out, and didn't want to experience it again.
We can't blame Noah for not wanting to be a target again, but we're also proud of Jude and Taylor for not giving up. They decide instead to livestream a tutorial as “Girl and Gay Guy” and they tell their viewers that their livestreams are a safe place for people who just want to play the game without having to deal with negative baggage. This time, all the messages they receive are positive. We're so glad they didn't cave into the trolls, it's bonkers in all the best ways.
Jude's story really ends on a high, but if The Fosters left their exploration of hate speech at that, it wouldn’t be The Fosters, would it? The storyline with Callie and Aaron also confronts the issue of hate speech, this time on university campuses.
But let’s start with Shawn. You might remember Shawn from season 5 episode 5 as that extremely pushy petition guy. While he annoyed us because he didn’t know Callie’s story (she needs to stay low, man) his heart is totally in the right place. He’s currently leading a protest against a student group who has arranged for a paid speaker to come to their campus -- a paid speaker who has referred to immigrants as “third world trash” and who has said that people of color have contributed nothing to society.
Since Shawn’s university isn’t going to stop this woman from spewing her hateful speech, Shawn will. And he'll do it by creating a protest that will physically block the speaker from entering the university. He wants the hate to stop.
But Aaron, well, he wants the hate to stop, but he doesn’t believe they should physically block someone from speaking. He believes in free speech, even if what is being said is vile, and he thinks that the best way to fight hate is to confront the hater -- to bait them publicly and expose their ignorance.
Ximena tells Aaron that it won't be a debate -- that the students will not be allowed to respond to the speaker as they spout their hateful views. She also mutters that as a white privileged male, Aaron has nothing to lose. Just like Shawn didn't know Callie's situation, Ximena doesn't know Aaron's. When Callie starts to explain to Ximena that Aaron does have something to lose in this situation, Aaron stops the conversation.
Later, Aaron and Callie discuss why Aaron didn't share that he's transgender. This leads to a bigger conversation that so many of us are having right now. What is the best way to stop hate speech? How do our individual circumstances affect how we experience and confront bias and stereotyping? And how do you protect yourself when standing up for what you believe in potentially means facing violence? In the end, Aaron and Callie find themselves disagreeing, much like Noah and Jude did on how to deal with the internet trolls.
Ultimately, Callie decides she wants to participate in the protest and attends training for non-violent resistance. When Shawn points out it's likely they'll be arrested, it's not clear to him, but to all of us, how much of a risk this could be for Callie. Still, Callie's never one to run away when it comes to defending others. That's one of the reasons we admire her.
How do you confront bigotry and intolerance? Share your stories and support for each other below.
Watch the latest episodes of The Fosters here on Freeform.