This is Us. Have you watched it? Are you loving it? I am addicted to it. I think all of my friends are addicted to it. It’s a beautiful capsule of heart wrenching fictional reality and I swoon. The reaction has been visceral. Not just for me, but for everyone I speak to. It’s remarkable how deeply people are affected by this one television show, and the only other time I remember a show creating this kind of gut reaction was Parenthood. Which, for the record remains my favorite show ever on television – EVER. 2nd to that is Friday Night Lights.
So why do people resonate with This is Us? Because it’s real. Yes, it’s technically “fiction”, but it’s “it could happen” fiction. Yes, there’s an actor on it who’s made of money and a high paid something stock trade – perhaps that isn’t exactly the most natural reflection of real life for most people but the rest? It’s real. The conflict, the emotions, the problems, the conversations and feelings – they are so real it makes you cry. We are in this weird phase of humanity – between wanting everything to be Pinterest Perfect and wanting to honor our conflicted feelings inside and really focus on all that matters in life. The problem in the real world is that most people don’t know how to identify what really matters. We are stuck between believing what the advertisements tell us we should care about and finding out what we really do care about in our hearts. And that is why This is Us is resonating. Because the show is pointing a giant blinking arrow at exactly what matters in life and it’s making everyone who watches it cry sweet tears of relief. It’s clear. The basic, primal priorities of life are coming through loud and clear and it’s powerful.
Randall is a high paid, successful something – not really sure what he does, but we know he’s loaded. We know he can afford a boat, a giant house and has no issues financially. We also know after the first half of this season that he would give it all up if it meant he could go back in time for more time with his dying father. We know – deep down in the emotional centerpiece – that he would be happy as a janitor if it meant he could really know his dad, and his girls their grandfather. We know it. We feel it. And it hurts us to think that Randall won’t have that time he so desperately craves with his dad. It’s real. It’s approachable. It’s deeply focused on what matters.
Kate is obese. Morbid. Sadly obese. She’s struggling with that difficult place between acceptance and change. Can you relate to that? Maybe it’s not weight, but can you relate? She wants so badly to be healthy and “normal” that she’s willing to cut herself open to have a chance at a better life. Why is her story resonating with people so deeply? Because inside every single human being is Kate. Every single person feels judged for SOMETHING. Every single one of us can relate to her sadness, fear and discontent because we’ve all been there in one way or another. Whether it’s weight, scars, poverty, intelligence, style.. it doesn’t really matter because the feeling is the same. The feeling of being judged by another is a feeling that is universal. Kate and her story resonate so deeply with so many because she is a human being and we are seeing the hard, painful feelings that come with being a human who is judged by another human. She is a woman dealing with the fear of being rejected, the awful self mantra of “I’m not enough as I am” and the constant struggle to be something she’s not. Her story is shining a light on our society and it’s lack of acceptance and it’s exposing just how terrible we are to each other. Shining that light on change that needs to happen so that we can focus on the things that matter most. I promise you that a persons weight has nothing to do with anything that truly matters in this life, and Kate’s story breaks my heart because no woman should ever – and I mean EVER – feel like she’s not enough as she is. No human should ever be made to feel as if they are not enough. Her story – it cuts me to the core because I feel it too.
Kevin is the wild card. In the show he’s Hollywood, cocky and frankly the one I related to least. Until I related to him the most. He craves purpose. Deep down he wants to have a career that resonates with him on a cellular level. He wants to have a life that matters. After spending years feeling like he was in his brother’s shadow, Kevin broke out and found success, but even Hollywood success wasn’t enough. It didn’t satisfy. His story is a glaring representation of how our society is obsessed with success, notoriety, materialism… but none of that matters. Kevin would turn it all in if it meant he could go to work every day and make a difference. He craves family, connection and meaning. His character may be cocky and he may not know it, but the story is a powerful piece on the world we live in.
Then we have Rebecca and Jack. Real. Volatile. Loving. Beautiful. Their heartbreak was our heartbreak, and I’m pretty sure no one saw the end of the first episode coming. We fell in love with them from that first moment because they ARE us. They are all of us. Scared. Funny. Angry. Loving. Terrified. Wondering if raising a black child in a white world was the right choice. Knowing that their love for Randall overrides every piece of criticism from society and that color? It truly – TRULY – does not matter. These two have stolen our hearts and shown us that family is where it begins. Is it always smooth? Nope. Is it always easy? Hell no. Is it always worth it? Absolutely. And the color of your skin means nothing when it comes to love. I don’t have to point out the parallels to our society on this one, but know this: human is human. Love is love. The color of a person’s skin has no effect on the power of their heart and the love it shares.. and the love it deserves in return.
Do you see it? The theme? The underlying river through this show is what matters most in life. It’s a beautiful story that draws us in because for an hour each week we get to focus on what really matters for these characters. It makes us cry and think and inspires us to analyze our own lives. Or at least I hope it does.
I don’t really have a segway to tie this into my blog or design career, but I will tell you this: change is coming. In a world where political change is terrifying, kids are being murdered in schools, genocide is sweeping a beautiful nation and hatred is at an all time high, people are closing ranks. Friends are sticking close, families much tighter and priorities being evaluated. Materialism is decreasing – minimalism is increasing. People are starting – FINALLY – to focus on what matters. Spending money on experiences instead of things. Keeping up with their passion and priorities instead of the Joneses. A subtle shift is happening and shows like This is Us are making that shift move a little bit faster. Shining a beautiful, passionate and creative light on what matters most in life. Purpose, love, humanity and family.
A few years ago I was having lunch with a friend. I was complaining that I couldn’t afford to purchase the sofa that I loved so much, that it would be irresponsible of me to spend the money on that one thing. She just laughed and she said, “Jess, no one is going to remember you for the sofa. No one gives a fuck about the sofa. All anyone cares about is how you make them feel when you’re with them.”
And so there you have it.