So… I’ve been dying to write about this show since day 1. But I held off until the end– This is Now.
A little background: This show is co-produced by Ken Olin- the star of another favorite
show of mine Thirtysomething. This is Us’ original title is “36”. 30something, 36- hmm
that has to tell you something! That cannot be a coincidence! This guy is making this
show from the heart! And at the heart of this show is a story about family- being in that life stage now- This- is Us also…-is Me.
This is Us is a collection of stories. About a mother and a father’s sacrifice, about a husband and wife’s love, about a siblings’ collective bond and individual struggles. What makes this show so universal is that in whatever life stages you are, there is always one (or more) story that you can relate to. For me, there is something in each character’s story that moves me:
~There is young Randall, eager to learn about his African American culture as a black kid with white parents- I am not adopted, but I was a Chinese kid living among Filipinos, trying to balance my Chinese roots with the Filipino culture on which I was raised. ~There is Kate, with weight, body image issues- things I struggled with as a teen. ~There is Kevin, struggling in his craft/profession, trying to change his work to reflect his true passion- I uprooted thousand of miles from my happy home to practice psychology, if that is not parallel to his career storyline, I don’t know what is.
As a wife and a mama, I relate the most with the central characters- Rebecca and Jack.
At first glance, the obvious person I would most identify with is Rebecca- a SAHM with musical dreams. And I do. I definitely see my struggles in hers. When some people are hating on her, I want to shout to them- you don’t understand! Put yourself in her shoes, try raising many kids, on your own, without family support on both sides, leaving your dreams behind, and doing that over and over again for many years. I am luckier as it is, I don’t have triplets and my parents are very supportive (but they do live far, so I am lacking in family support too). But the mommy part, the feeling isolated part (most of my best fam and friends live elsewhere)- it resonates with me. The show mentions it but cannot really show 15 or so years of stay at home scenes. I am only on year 5-6 and much as I am fulfilled, I am exhausted. Imagine 15 years with triplets! Also remember that this is a woman who was hesitant to have kids to begin with, and have unfulfilled aspirations as a singer. I am not questioning her commitment to her family, but she definitely have that unfinished business that she suppressed for many years. And all the feelings she bottled up, unfortunately came up and it expressed itself as resentment towards Jack. Hers is a life of restlessness- of longing for her personal dreams vs. the mama guilt she carries for being her family’s caretaker all these years. And when she finally sees the fulfillment of one dream, it also threatens to shatter her family dreams
And Jack. Oh Jack. The beloved patriarch. The father role model. People will assume I
love Jack because he is perfect. Flawed but close to perfection right?! How many times
have I (and I’m sure most of the audience wives) have turned to their husbands and
say, “why can’t you be like Jack?” “See that, that’s how you’re supposed to do it.” Many
people are hating on Rebecca precisely because Jack is perfect and Rebecca is, well, for
lack of a better word, opposite of that. Extremely flawed. Always complaining. Selfish.
And the list goes on…
But if there’s anything about the show one must learn, is that it was never a straight
forward storytelling, and it’s multi faceted, and that’s what makes it riveting to watch. For me, more than Jack’s goodness, I see a man whose identity is tied to his family. He was the one who wanted to start a family. He was a man whose personal dreams take a backseat for his family. He was the one who, when the kids were getting older, desperately wants a baby (or a dog) to cling on to their cherished childhood. This is a man who vowed to create a family so unlike the one he grew up in. And he did. He was saved by family, his happiness lies in his family, his life is his family. And although that may sound like the best thing in the world, it also makes him easily frustrated and volatile when it comes to his family. And how far that will lead to his self-destruction remains to be seen
And all these characters come together to create these rich complex and loving
relationships that we call family. What makes this show stand out for me is the realness
of each relationship, and how the sweetest moments come with human flaws. How
selflessness needs to be balanced with self-love. And how underneath the conflicts,
after all the mistakes and misunderstandings, hope is always around the corner.
Because a family is what you make it to be. A house is not a home until love prevails.
Life is not about one perfect act, but a series of choices to keep it together. That this is not about one’s self solely, nor is it about others always. This is about both. This is the collective and personal journeys we take together as a family. ^This- makes- This is Us.