When ABC first announced The Real O’Neals, about a gay teen coming out in a Catholic family, backlash from religious groups was swift and somewhat expected.
Given that the story is based on the life of Dan Savage – the gay author and sex columnist who’s been somewhat gleefully confrontational with conservatives – and the family is in the midst of a divorce too, groups like the American Family Association could, in theory at least, rightfully believe the show was trying to shred the traditional values they hold dear. That couldn’t be further from the truth.
“We’re not making fun of religion at all,” says Martha Plimpton, who plays Eileen O’Neal, a strict Catholic mom. In fact, she says, her character is a sympathetic treatment of what parents like her may be experiencing. “She’s a deeply faithful woman who has a code for living. She has a real fear her son might go to hell, but it comes from a loving place.”
In a bigger sense, The Real O’Neals is a sympathetic exploration of the conflicts virtually all parents experience when what they think their children should do rubs up against what they choose or who they are and, as Plimpton puts it, “how you learn to love them no matter what.”
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