What 'This Is Us' Taught Me About Masculinity and FatherhoodApr 17, 2021 09:00AM ● By Anand Subramanian
Figure 1 - Dr.K and Jack Pearson. Source - Google Images
Both within and outside of our TV screens, we have witnessed examples of toxic masculinity which showcase invulnerability and dominance. With each passing generation, the toxicity has gotten more intense and continues to contribute to many long-term social issues. While many TV shows concentrate on male vulnerability on a large scale, Dan Fogelman's unapologetically brilliant This Is Us breaks down the big picture. Every fan has said, "This show makes me ugly cry" but we are not going to talk about how every scene of this masterpiece can make your eyes wet. Instead, let’s discuss how this show represented the honest picture of masculinity and the guidebook to fatherhood.
"You took the sourest lemon that life has to offer and turned it into something resembling lemonade.", is a simple monologue by Dr.K that resonates throughout the entire show and becomes the essence of reality in which the show’s protagonist, Jack Pearson, follows throughout his life and ultimately passes to his twins, Kevin and Kate, and to his adopted son, Randall. Beautifully crafted screenwriting allows the show to jump between different timelines, and a parallel is drawn between Jack, his wife Rebecca, and his children, who manifest his legacy into different spectrums.
Coming from an abusive father-son relationship, Jack promises himself that he will never be like his father. He makes sure he is present for every moment. This may sound like one of the simplest things in the world, but it is the most important aspect of fatherhood. When his daughter, Kate, is bullied for being overweight, Jack serves as her knight and shining armor. When his adopted son, Randall, has panic attacks, he holds his face and asks him to breathe, and when his biological son, Kevin, injures his leg, potentially ruining his football career, he is there by his side telling him, “You can be anything you want to be”.
Figure 3 -Kevin comforting Randall. Source - Google Images
Jack’s kindness was his legacy, which continued through his children, even after his demise. Throughout the show, we get glimpses into Jack’s Vietnam war trauma and alcohol abuse. In reality, men are taught to hide our traumas and weakness because society says a man shouldn’t be vulnerable. Jack expressing his vulnerability towards himself and his family is an important aspect that he passes on to his children, and is why Kevin leaves his performance to comfort Randall during his nervous breakdown, Kate overcomes her trauma and finds love, and Randall finds closure about his birth family while getting help for his anxiety.
Figure 4 - The Pearson Siblings
In a societal climate where being open about issues is portrayed as a sign of weakness, This is Us came as a subtle yet powerful blessing. It taught us that it’s okay to cry, it is okay to ask for help, it is okay to fight for love, and it’s okay to forgive. In the end, it is not about being a man or a woman, it is about being human and leaving a legacy of love and acceptance.
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