(Since I’m doing NaBloPoMo and have to post once a day, I get to finally indulge in writing tv show reviews! So exciting!!)
Recently I started watching a brand new show called This is Us. I tried it because it seemed to me like maybe, maybe, it was not gonna be a show where people fight shoot kill die all the time. I complain a lot about the Doomsday Channel, how hard it is to find shows who do not put my adrenals on overdrive anymore that they already are. Of course there are all the 20 mn shows with terrible humour . But when you’re looking fo ra 45mn show with good acting, good writing, good scenography, queer & poc & women & otherwise marginalized leads that also do not involve terrible things happening all the time, well there is very little choice. How to get away with murder? terrible things happening all the time. Scandal? Terrible things happening all the time. Orphan black? Terrible things happening every second (I didn’t even finish last season). Sense8? I got trough 4 episodes. Orange is the New Black? Don’t get me started on that trauma porn horror. Agents of Shields? Nooope. The only show that would sort of fall into that category of good shows with marginalized leads without constant violence is Jane the Virgin. There is some kidnapping & murder but not too often, and they take a humorous lense to it but maybet hat minimizes violence?
As someone struggling with trauma, I’ve noticed how watching violent shows makes me more anxious, more afraid of leaving my house, more afraid of sleeping… I noticed the difference last winter from when I was watching Private Practice (terrible things happening way to often) to when I was watching the Heart of Dixie (not a good show, but definitely not violent), how I felt much more light & open (like you know, relatively. In comparison). All that to say, a good show that gives my adrenals a break is a pretty big deal.
This Is Us is such a show. Now, it’s not the show of my dreams either, but additionnaly to the lack of violence, it’s got good acting and compelling stories. Basically, it’s about three sibilngs and their parents. We follow the siblings’ lives in the current time, as adults, and their parent’s lives when they were growing up (so in the 80’s or something). In the first episode we see how the parents, Jack and Rebecca, who are white, were excepting triplets, and one of them died in labor, and they ended up adopting a black baby who was abandonned at a fire station. In the current time, the sibilings are celebrating their birthday. Randall is a weather trader with a wife and two daughters; who just finally found his biological father whom he meets. One of the twins, Kevin, is an actor for one of those 20 mn tv shows with terrible humor and his sister, Kate is basically his assistant, struggling with fatphobia in Hollywood, until he decides to quit the shows to go act in broadway as she starts dating a fat man she met in a support group. That’s the basic setting. Pretty compelling right?
A few things that really touched me (+) or gave me pause (-) on the show:
– Randall as a kid is lot more light-skinned than as an adult, and that’s just not okay. I’ve seen this happen other times, like in a french movie recently were the teenage son of two really dark skinned parents was super pale and it just didn’t make any sense. It’s just super disrespectful, by which I mean racist, like the producers were just like “well he’s black so it will do!”.
+ The dynamics around white parents adopting a black baby & how they were messing up with his hair & how few black people there were in the town they lived in & how his brother was treating him badly is a big theme in the show.
+ Randall and his wife Beth are such a secure couple & their daughters are awesome, I want to see more of them, in the last episode I saw (s01e06) it felt like maybe it was almost posible for them to be treated like real characters and not just props like most tv shows treat kids… But I’m not betting it will actually happen. Ageism runs deep.
+ Yeah in between the daughters and William there’s some ongoing intergenerationnality, that’s really rare…Usually shows will only have the occasional grandparent poping up… and also there could be more!
-It’s upsetting how tv shows often show poor poc people moving out of their neighborhood into new white rich neighborhoods like boom when they get the chance! I mean okay, William’s dying and probably getting to spend time with his son & his family is a pretty big deal, but he’s lived all his life in his neighborhood, I have a hard time believing he isn’t attached to anyone or anything there expect his cat. (the same thing happened at the beginning of Switched at Birth, so I’m calling it a thing. A classist racist thing).
-Everybody is like super wealthy. Except for William everyone is middle class or much upper. It’s like they only dare put black families on tv if they’re wealthy (yeah I’m talking about you Black-ish).
+/-??? So I think it’s cool there’s a fat lead, but I’m not sure how it’s landing that her life is so focused around her weight…. I really don’t know if the lense they’re taking subverts or reinforces fatphobia. I’m just really ignorant & privileged about that.
Oh also it’s totally a tear jerker. But for me so far its been emotionnally cleansing not retraumatising. Keeping my fingers crossed!