I Finally Tried To Watch 'This Is Us' And I Shouldn't Have (Season 1 Spoilers)
Ever since it’s debut last year “This Is Us” has been making white people cry every week. Now, I had never heard of this show until I worked an event where the cast was speaking on a panel. While I was intrigued at the casting, my gut told me I wouldn’t like the show. The only people I ever heard from who just love this show are white people, adoptive parents and people of color who are not adopted. All red flags telling me people who actually live these experiences would not like watching this show. I should have listened to my gut because she’s always correct. Yesterday, I decided to sit down and see what all the fuss was about and, when I tell you I was immediately turned all the way off...YIKES! As a transracial adoptee myself, this storyline of Randall is just so unrealistic and over-dramatized it made me physically uncomfortable watching it.
In the first episode, Randall finds his birth father—cool. I thought <ok, we're going to follow an adoptee on their journey with reconnecting>...NOPE! Randall shows up at his birth father's house, immediately has a mental breakdown, gives a giant “fuck you” speech, followed by inviting this man he just met 30 seconds ago, to come live with his wife and daughters.
Y’all, I wish I had a photo of my face when I was watching it. I was staring mouth open, in the fetal position, watching this play out. What is going on? What adoptee on earth does this? The writers of this show completely missed the mark on what it actually means to meet your biological family. What kind of terrifying and traumatizing experience it is. Even if you’re on “good terms” with your bio parents, it is VERY unlikely, you’re inviting them to come live with you, especially the same day you meet them. What?
Side note: Randall's wife, Beth has the attitude and caution that Randall SHOULD have as a reconnecting adoptee. Why is Beth the only one asking questions around the house? Why is she the only one cautious and wondering wtf is going on here?
The next episode, where we get more of a backstory on Randall’s adoption.
Side note #2: The format of this show was super confusing as well. It mixes the past and the present together. I was SO lost on how Mandy Moore was the mother of all these grown ass kids when she looks 27. Then they put her in that terrible Benjamin Button ass wig and makeup to make her look older and...I can’t.
Anyways, so the very end of the first episode and into the next episode, we learn a little more about how Randall was left at the fire station and adopted by Jack and Rebecca. This also bothered me greatly. This adoption purely a white savior adoption. Just straight up. Adoption was never on their mind, they never spoke about it prior, it was nowhere on the horizon. Rebecca was pregnant with triplets and lost one during the delivery, leaving her with two children and a gaping hole of white guilt. So, of course, they see this abandoned black baby who just happened to be dropped off at that exact moment and decided he will complete their family. Literally, what is this? I’m so tired of this white savior narrative that surrounds transracial adoption. WE ARE NOT YOUR CHARITY CASE!
It would have been a way better and accurate storyline had they actually discussed adoption and showed how difficult the process actually is for everyone involved. FYI, if you didn’t know—you don’t just get to take babies home from hospitals. The adoption process takes months, and more commonly YEARS. FOH with that bullshit.
I made it to I believe episode four, it’s called “The Pool”. The current storyline continues with Randall and his biological father living with them. We find out a few things over the previous episode and this one. We find out Randall’s birth father is dying of stomach cancer, that Rebecca (the AP) actually met William (BF), another stupid story addition. She was dealing with the loss of her child so for some reason she tracked down this black man by asking for a black drug addict on the bus and just conveniently finds William and they have a very stupid conversation about why he was given up for adoption and Rebecca complaining about how she doesn’t connect with this black baby, which in the end she decides to re-name, like a doll because—white people. I won't re-do my rant on white people changing adoptee names, but you can read that here.
So fast forward to this episode and we’re at the pool. As soon as I saw the title, I knew this was about to be some shit. They bring the 3 kids to a public pool and like kids do, they all run off. However, Randall is found hanging out with other black kids at the pool and Rebecca goes all white woman, and loses her shit. I’m still confused by this. How are you mad that your black child saw other people who look like him and decided to go over and say hello? Meanwhile, your white kids are running around like maniacs and you don’t scream at them. Why does the black child have to get yelled and the black women who were doing a better job watching him than you were? There’s also some off-hand comment about if black people need to wear sunscreen and how to cut black hair that was supposed to be cute and funny but really were just so awkward. In the end, she apologizes to the black woman and they all laugh about it.
In the current timeline, there is also this weird addressing of racism. Where Randall and William experience racism when William goes for a walk and the white neighbors call the police. But the way it's handled is so unrealistic. Randall comes to the rescue by pandering to white people, talking over William and basically telling him to choose his battles, then furthers this by taking him shopping for proper white clothes. Look I get it, we do have to choose our battles, and yes many times we have to let racism slide for our own sanity—but I did not like how they completely dismissed that reacting to racism is valid and that we should just be submissive. They should have shown that both reactions are valid, but they just completely wrote off William as an oversensitive old black man when he started asking the cop why he needs to see an ID for walking.
This is where I stopped. People keep telling me it gets better but I’m not convinced. It shouldn’t need beyond four episodes to get this shit fixed. The only reason I took a risk against my gut, was because I heard Angela Tucker, a fellow transracial adoptee and founder of The Adopted Life, had consulted on the show, so I hoped it would be better than this. I don’t know if she consulted on this first season or maybe she started in the later episodes, or maybe they just didn’t listen to her at all, but my gawd, this was a lot to get through and I don’t know what y’all love about it so much. On one positive note, I did like that we finally see a black transracial adoptee actually married to another black person. We rarely see that in media or real life, so that was a relief.
I guess overall, I can see where there could be a good show underneath all this, but much like Grown-ish, it just misses the mark on so many important things and ultimately it just feels like it is made to make white people cry and feel good about themselves.
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