Kim’s Pick: This Is Us (2016) Series Review – Pt. 1

So, I’m about 10 episodes into the American Television series, “This Is Us.”

I’ll admit, I did not have high expectations when I clicked on the first episode. Truth be told, I was bored and ticked off that I would be waiting a whole year for season 2 of “Santa Clarita Diet,” one of the funniest and most disturbing horror/comedy series I have seen to date.

More on that in another post.

Back to the point.

This Is Us features a family that looks amazing on the surface but has a lot of issues. The three siblings share a birthday, though one is adopted–and he’s black, in an otherwise white family. That made for some pretty interesting dynamics from the start.

I’ll warn you right here: if you haven’t seen the show, and plan to see the show, click away. Perhaps read my piece on the anime series “Gintama” or check out my painfully unfunny reviews on various kinds of coffee in my area.

Anything to NOT encounter the spoilers below.

You’ve been warned.

Carrying on …

Some of what I’m about to say may be offensive. I couldn’t care less.

One thing is that I have developed a serious disdain for Rebecca, the mother, whose selfishness manifested itself early in the film when she threw a tantrum over Jack’s desire to be a father, but that seems to only get worse as she swings wildly across the spectrum to keeping the identity, whereabouts, and sheer existence of Randall’s birth father an iron-clad secret for his entire life of 36 years. I could literally feel his anguish when he found out the truth — a truth that both his biological father and his wife facilitated keeping from him, in hope that Rebecca herself would speak up.

That, coupled with the many moments in the film where she showed some serious indiscretions as a mother (including showing open preference for her adopted son over her biological son, and snubbing the black connections her son made of his own accord) just makes me really dislike her as a character and question her motivations for everything.

Now Kate and Randall? They have the opposite effect. Though not struggling with the same issues, I do feel Kate’s pain in not feeling as though she measure up to her mother’s beauty and charm — or anyone else’s for that matter. I can actually relate to her wanting to feel beautiful in her own eyes, and choosing to let no one–not even a boyfriend–get in the way of her accomplishing what she really wanted to do. Sure, she slips up now and then in the show, but she shows remarkable strength and resilience, and she is also very loving and fair in the way she deals with both of her brothers, and the other people she comes into contact with. I really didn’t like the scene where she practically destroyed the bulimic girl. That was not cute. But luckily, Kate doesn’t show a history of inconsiderate behavior, unlike her mother.

Randall is probably the one I relate to most. No, I’m not adopted (I hope) but I do understand his driving need to prove his worth. I’ve learned over time to care less about proving myself to others, and more about being who I want to be for myself, but the struggle is still fresh. Watching Randall work so hard to be good at everything and maintain the kind of image that others wanted to see brings back a flood of memories where I did the same thing myself. Putting myself through all kinds of ringers hoping that I would be accepted as good enough.  And don’t get me started on navigating this world as a black woman, whose actions are watched twice as closely as anyone else’s would be. I feel his pain many time throughout the show, but at no time more than when he confronts his birth father who seems to doubt Randall’s understanding of the black experience. I love how Randall opens up and shows that he knows and has felt every bit of that experience that his father and other black people encounter, despise being raised in a white family. It doesn’t escape anyone.

Then, there is Kevin. Despite his feeling that his mother favored Randall over him, I find him to be more like his mother than the other two combined. He is self-absorbed and focus on what everyone else in the family can do for him, or contribute to his progress. I winced at his dismissive attitude towards his sister’s struggles with obesity and his blunt requests to make the conversation about him while adamantly saying that he “didn’t want to make the conversation about him.” His outburst at “being replaced by another black man” when he saw that the new face of the TV show he quit as the lead of was a black man, triggered a brawl between him and Randall. It not only reveal his sour feelings towards his brother, but also showed white privilege at its finest again when the crowd gathered and Kevin was the only one who got asked if he was okay, and he had to announce that the random black dude presumably attacking him was actually “my brother” for the crowd to put their phones away and disperse peacefully. Though I’m happy he claimed Randall without hesitation, that whole scene just had my blood boiling.

Speaking of Randall, his wife Beth has a style that makes me very uncomfortable. She is direct, but I didn’t mind that. It was more that she always seems pretty miserable, not unlike Rebecca. It’s like smiling or just relaxing in general is not something that either of them could do, but I felt like Beth just has something against being pleasant in general. I really don’t like that as it is, once again, subtly perpetuating the stereotype that all black women, attractive or not, have an attitude, or something close to it. They could really have done better with the disposition of her character. Just saying.

As far as fathers go, I believe they did an excellent job with both Jack and William. Those two characters were played so well. William’s heartbreak can be felt so deeply, especially in the flashbacks where Rebecca basically tells him that he will never see his son again. His tears were deep and real when she disappeared without a trace, her selfish and probably slightly racist mind not being able to tolerate the idea that maybe Randall’s father wasn’t just this deadbeat black drug addict that she “rescued” his infant son from. That maybe he was a man with brilliance in his mind and spirit, and a father instinct that the twists and turns of life had snuffed out of him for a time–but only a time. And Jack? He truly wanted those children, and also what was best for them. From the start, he was always concerned about the kids health on a whole, not just making sure to stuff the “right” stuff down their throats, but to get on their level and understand where they were coming from, and use that level to help them make sense of their world. His desire to help Randall get in touch with his roots while still being there for him fully as his immediate father were so humble and genuine, and I could feel his frustration as he tried to cope with his wife’s refusal to think about anyone’s ultimate satisfaction but her own.

Whew, I could say so much more. Which I will, in part too. After I watch the remaining episodes, I will share my own opinions on more of the characters, and go into these ones in more depth. There was just too much of this floating around in my brain to wait until I get to the end of the available episodes in the series to post an opinion piece.

 

 

 

 

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