Can You Be "Coming of Age" In Your Late 30's?
A Look at "This Is Us"
So there's this show called "This is Us". You may have heard of it. 92% on Rotton Tomatoes, 76% on Metacritic, and one of the most talked about shows from last year. We are now entrenched in its second season and if you haven't seen it, let me break it down for you;
The story follows Kevin, Kate, and Randall, two biological siblings and one adopted, black, sibling all born on the same day. It jumps around from following their interactions with their parents as children, teens, adults and also follows the lives of their parents Jack and Rebecca through time. I specifically noted that one of the "big three", as the show calls the triplets, is black because this is heavily addressed by the show. A lot of time is spent on this material.
A recent comment a friend of mine made on social media aimed some heat at this program stating that our three main characters are narcissistic and abrasive. My wife and I watch this show regularly and I have to say, he's right...but that's the point.
The show's primary focus is on their adult lives at the age of 38 and really just jumps back in time to tell us what decisions and events shaped who they are now. I can identify with this because I too am 38, and they are telling the story of every 38 year old in America today, to a certain extent.
All of us children of the 80s and 90s can relate to these characters on some level because we see ourselves in their thoughts, words, actions, responses and motives. We get it because we are going through that right now. Further they are narcissistic, or rather can be viewed as such because at this age we are still asking ourselves who are we going to be.
Randall quit his very well paying job last season and has spent this season trying to sift through the dust of that choice. His inner conflict stems from having found and lost his biological father and trying to incorporate this new information into his current identity.
Kevin lost his lucrative TV show, funded a play, and is now in a movie, but still is struggling with his sense of identity. He feels like a background character in his own life and anytime he breaks his way into the forefront something else happens to overshadow him. At least that is how he sees it.
Kate in her way is in the same boat. She has to decide what defines her, whether its her weight, her budding singing career, her relationship with Toby (easily the best character), or if there is something more. She's someone who has let personal struggle and tragedy define her that she is trying to figure out how to be happy.
All of these things are elements of life my generation are dealing with. A lot of us, despite some level of personal success are still trying to figure out who we are and what defines us, and we all have to find those answers for ourselves, just like the big three are doing. From a perspective of someone who's already experienced that, thats a narcissistic journey and yes they come across as kind if assholes in the short run.
Compare for instance "This is Us" to "Twilight". I was in my late 20's, early 30's when this series was big, and I thought it was the biggest pile of garbage ever produced...until I looked at it from a different perspective. Of course I wasn't going to like it, I was already past the age of its target demographic. It's a story that appeals to teenagers and had I been a teenager at the time it was big, I would have had a lot more appreciation for it. I know I would because I remember me from that age.
"This is Us" speaks to people going through a certain stage of life, even during its flashback sequences its still dealing with that late 30's, early 40's "time to grow up" stage, and the constant struggle of just what that means. What does it mean to be a grown up, not just an adult, but something more? The show explores this very topic and if you've already gone through this stage, yeah its pedantic because once you are out of a phase you don't want to go back.
People in their late 40's and beyond, especially ones who have already dealt with the struggle of identity, probably want to revisit that stage as much as I want to go back to being a teenager. Again, I remember. No thank you.
So are the big three self involved? Yeah, but so are most people. Are we all not the main characters in our own story? How would our story look to someone on the outside looking in?
Thanks for reading.
"This is Us" is the property of NBC
"The Twilight Saga" is the property of Summit Entertainment and author Stephanie Meyer