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It Starts and Ends with Family

by Alan Mehanna about a year ago in advice
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Fantastic Stories and Why We Need Them Issue # 1

It Starts and Ends with Family
Photo by James Besser on Unsplash

This, being the first issue in what will hopefully be a long term newsletter of my ramblings — ramblings that will hopefully be meaningful and resonate with any eyes reading them, will cover something that I have always found quite interesting about stories, especially due to the fact that as the title states it starts and ends with family.

Let us begin with a little bit of context…

Living in Lebanon in 2021 has proven to being quite the challenge.

My dear home country has experienced so much in the past three years. It started with the 2019 protests as many of my fellow Lebanese brothers and sisters began awakening to the fact that our economy was collapsing. How did this awakening happen you ask? A rumored WhatsApp tax — yep, that’s right, because if there is anything that the Lebanese value more than anything in the world it’s their social life.

These protests were then followed by the spreading of Covid-19, lockdowns, the tanking of whatever remained of the country’s economy, which then climaxed with the explosion of the Beirut Port on August 4th, 2020.

Now, the country is in absolute free fall — according to dictionary.com free fall means when a country is in decline, especially a sudden or rapid decline, as in value or prestige, that appears to be endless or bottomless, which is quite accurate. Prices are surging, cost of living is almost unbearable, and the basics of life (electricity, water, gas, internet, food) are all now a limited resource.

So, what on Earth does all of this have to do with family?

The answer: Everything…

You see, due to all of the chaos in Lebanon, many families - including my own - have packed their bags and bid this beautiful country run by mafias adieu. I will be following them in due time, but for now I am still in Lebanon facing the trials and tribulations that even the heroes of the great myths of old would have found challenging.

I come from quite a tight knit family unit.

Sure, we’ve had our primetime soap opera moments, but at our core we undoubtedly love each other, and the past three years have really been a challenge for us. We spent 2020 without my sister’s family and now I spend 2021 without my parents, while building a family of my own, which I will hopefully be bringing home with me to the US of A.

As I sat in Lebanon, navigating my way through the day to day, I felt the need to delve back into my TV Series archive and watch shows that gave me the good feels… and the first one I chose was ABC’s primetime family drama: Brothers and Sisters.

capture from ABC's Brothers and Sisters Season 1

If you never had the chance to watch this beautiful series, it follows the Walkers through their familial problems, the dysfunction, and most of all their love and appreciation for one another.

As cheesy as it may sound, the show is more powerful in today’s world than it was when it aired, confirming to me that it was way ahead of its time. The family made up of Nora Walker, the matriarch, and her children: Sarah, a married mother of two, Tommy, also married, Kevin, a lawyer who also happens to be gay, Kitty, the only conservative in the family, and Justin, the youngest and a war veteran.

Look at that family dynamic…

In today’s world, based on stories I’ve already heard, this family would have blocked each other on social media, stopped talking to each other, and maybe even outcasted some members… which when you think about it is very, very sad.

In spite of their differences, the Walkers always put their love for each other first and foremost, and everything else was secondary. They were not defined by their political views, their sexual identity, or their opinions. Even their mistakes were forgiven and they were all given the opportunity to learn and do better, and that is what made the show as powerful as it was.

Looking at the television landscape of today, we are met with anti-heroes, dark tales, and images that the only perfect families are the ones that all think and speak alike.

If family is where you are given an opportunity to grow to face the challenges of the outside world and sometimes the challenges that arise within the home, then why would you get rid of that? Why would you imprint the image of Perfect Family = One Perspective? There is nothing more false than that.

Family is diversity - diversity of thought, of history, of culture, of perspective, of political view. It is a chance for us to learn, to challenge, and to educate; to understand love and forgiveness; to fall and be held up; to trust, and to embody compassion.

In today’s series landscape, it seems that characters are more often than not uttering the same babble that you hear on mainstream media, mocking those that are different, and focusing more on blocking and cancelling than about forgiving and understanding.

Even the teen drama series (The OC, One Tree Hill, Friday Night Lights) of old were always focused on family.

NBC's Friday Night Lights Promotional Photo

Today, the only teen drama series that has that and executes it in the most beautiful and genuine way would be Hulu’s Love, Victor, a series that also wasn’t afraid of showing a slightly more conservative or traditional perspective and the journey towards expanding knowledge and understanding within a family -- themes that should not be shied away in our ever so divided world.

Victor and Isabel Salazar from Season 2 of Hulu's Love Victor

I guess in many ways the other reason why I feel so strongly about this is because I see it in my own life and in my own family, both my immediate and the one I in the process of building.

I, honestly, miss seeing a family on television that has diversity of thought. I miss seeing the true bickering, the clashing perspectives, and the stories of togetherness, understanding and everlasting love.

Which brings me to this update — I am going to write one…

Brainstorming has already begun with some light outlining, as the core of the idea was already established in one of my abandoned screenplays. I’ve found a way to breathe life into it again in a manner that is relevant, relatable, and most importantly representative of the type of families that are so rarely represented today.

Being in Lebanon without my family close by has given me the ability as a member of my family and as a writer to look at our dynamic objectively and see its importance not just in my life but for the genre of narratives I want to be exploring moving forward.

I know one thing, even if current content seems to want to push the division narrative, I for one will swim against the tide and write narratives that will push: understanding, compassion, and diversity of thought.

For with that I am able to (and yes this is where I bring it back home to my TEDxTalk) explore hardship within a family, humor to balance out the dark, heart because that's where the story truly lies, which will inevitably lead us to hope.

And if there is one thing we can all agree on in this day and age, it is that we can all use a little hope.

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About the author

Alan Mehanna

  • 🎬 AwardWinning #Screenwriter
  • 🗡️#FantasyGeek
  • 🎙️#Podcaster
  • 📺#SeriesLover
  • 📚 #Storyteller
  • 🗯️#TedxSpeaker

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