Let me start by saying this: I am neither trying to be contrarian nor attempting to get clicks. I actually really truthfully don’t understand the mass appeal of NBC’s new hit show This is Us. In fact, I find much of the show alienating and undermining of what it means to be Black and/or woman and/or overweight and/or queer in the United States today.
I remember when the first trailer came out for the September 20th debut of the show that was billed as a “skillful, shameless tear-jerking” picture of American life. Most of this sentiment stems from the fact that the characters on the show seem to be a “normal” white American family. But, we soon find out that it is everything but normal.
At the start of the series, white American parents, Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) and Rebecca (Mandy Moore), are preparing for the births of their triplets. However, as circumstances turn out, they end up losing one child and adopting another. The adopted child just so happens to be Black and was abandoned by his father as a newborn. As the show develops, their children, Kevin (Justin Hartley), Kate (Chrissy Metz), and Randall (Sterling K. Brown), go through regular woes of family life with the added complexity of being the handsome superstar jock, the overweight sister, and the token Black person, respectively. While this makes for great television, it also romanticizes many of the circumstances of racial, size, sexuality, and gender difference in ways that make it hard for me to watch the show.
For starters, there is an overwhelming lack of engagement with the fact that Randall is a Black child who becomes a Black man whose life experiences will necessarily require an eye to the politics of race in America. The triplets’ birthday seems to place their birthdays in the 1970s, a period when Black Power rang from the tongues of many young militants and allies. And, while the show has made a few attempts to address the ways Randall’s race is critical to his personhood, they have yet to truly articulate a set of justice-conscious politics that would seem relevant for the era.
Read the full post at Water Cooler Convos.