Screeshot: YouTube/This Is Us
Maybe it’s because I’m pushing the half century mark that every nuance of humanity explored in the first season of This Is Us resonates with me. Regardless of the why, every scenario filters through my veins in one way or another. And based on my conversations with countless family and friends, I’m not alone. The genius of the writing captivates across the board.
This Is Us captures the raw, uncut story of life: colorful, broken, beautiful, imperfect, miraculous, unpredictable, trying, refreshing, scary, magnificent, confusing, wonderful, traumatic, mesmerizing. All the brush strokes on the canvas of universal existence work towards creating a perfectly imperfect masterpiece.
Considering the state of our fallen world, the timing of a series bent towards respect for humankind in every sense of the word seems Holy ordained. Even if we lack first-hand exposure to certain walks of life, circumstances, or experiences, we’ve all been caught in the emotional crosshairs of differing perspectives, beliefs, judgments. Guaranteed. The show has an uncanny way of letting us know.
The producers of the show present real life with real people: experiencing life as a minority, supernatural twin connection, struggles with weight, ups and downs of marriage, homosexuality, forgiveness, drug addictions, miracle of childbirth, death of a parent, death of a child, the power of love, the anguish of fear, identity crisis, adoption, terminal illness, the minutia of blended families. And they address these common, everyday journeys with grace and dignity.
True empathy and love for another comes by way of taking the time to try and understand their innermost being. The knowing requires an open mind, free of judgment ― a lost art in today’s cliff-note culture where labels predispose the heart of a person. This Is Us accomplishes the task on our behalf with poignant character development. The examples in season one are endless. But here are a few of my favorite gems.
Randall’s father, William, tenderizes me each week. From the onset our emotions enter a tug-of-war between wanting to condemn him for abandoning his son and adore him for his humility and regret during his first encounter with his adult son. Then the writers of the show yank our heartstrings with William’s terminal prognosis.
Each week his gentle demeanor and kindness build, exposing a beautiful man who would have been an incredible father sooner had drugs not interfered with his life. But the brilliance of William’s character development, in my opinion, lies in the timing related to revealing his love relationship with another man. Had William been introduced as gay from the beginning, how many viewers would have allowed themselves to see him as a person in lieu of their bias? For those who define a person’s value based on sexual orientation, I hope the reverse order of exposing William’s homosexuality proves all people are worthy no matter who they love. William being gay does not negate any of the beautiful attributes of his soul.
The opposite approach of character progression was taken with Kevin. He’s gorgeous, ripped, and the lead role in a trashy sitcom called The Manny. First inclinations could lead us to believe Kevin is shallow, indifferent, obtuse. But we begin to realize his sound inner compass when he quits The Manny by way of a brazen rant over the sitcom’s empty premise. Still, Kevin shows signs of whininess and appears flighty despite his love and dedication to his twin sister, Kate.
Then on episode five the writers throw a curve ball and use Kevin to explain the entire premise behind This Is Us, including the genius of the title. While describing to his young nieces the meaning of a watercolor canvas he painted, Kevin unearths his profound self-awareness and higher consciousness understanding of the meaning of life.