Sitting in my living room with my family, ranging from ages 15 to 84, all captivated by a show on television. Of course, none other than by the award-winning show “This is Us” produced by Dan Fogelman. The series illustrates a family known as the Pearsons, comprised of different races and ages, who overcome obstacles and coming of age. Fogelman portrays flashbacks from the 80’s as well as present time, which compares and contrasts the impact of time difference. The series incorporates a loving and close family, who at times has their own complications. The problems they face make the family appear realistic for its audience. The Pearson family consist of a protective mom, Rebecca and a fun loving dad, Jack. They have three caring but dramatic children who are all of the same age, except Kate and Kevin are twins and Randall is adopted. The audience immediately becomes emotionally hooked as they watch the kids portray themselves both at a young age and their current age. The storyline is driven by social issues that occurred over the past 50 years.
At the outset of the series, Fogelman illustrates the struggle of parenting beginning with Rebecca experiencing the heartache of losing a child at birth. Similarly, as the audience learns in a later episode, Rebecca’s daughter, Kate, had to deal with the heartbreak associated with the loss when she miscarries. However, in Rebecca’s situation, Jack introduces her to a newborn orphan, who they welcome into their family. They raise the three as if they are triplets, although the adopted boy is a different race. Randall deals with growing up not knowing his birth parents and living in a predominantly white community. Randall’s situation symbolizes the struggle of adoption and race. He is an African American living with a white family who must learn the responsibility and actions needed in raising a black child. For example, Rebecca learns that she has to have Randall make friends with children of African American families in order to make Randall feel less isolated. At that time period, racism was more of an issue in comparison to current society. For instance, at town pools, similar to the Pearson’s town pool, families were mostly segregated into different social groups (NY Times). It was not until Randall visited Howard University wherein the majority of the students were African American, that he finally felt like he fit in. Fogelman emphasizes the issue of segregation when on the way home from the college visit, Randall says to his dad, “You know how you felt at Howard, when you thought I hesitated to introduce you because you’re white? How you were kind of mad but couldn’t say exactly why? I feel that way all the time.” Rebecca and Jack never treat Randall any different than the twins. They always love all of their children equally and make sure to demonstrate that. For example, Rebecca says, “You’re adopted, and we don’t talk about that enough. Cause to me, you are every part my son. Maybe I don’t want you to feel like you stand out. But I need you to know something. I want you to stand out. I want all of you to be as different as you can possibly be. In all the best ways.” Ironically, Randall wound up living and raising his kids in a wealthy white neighborhood. Overall, the show successfully illustrates social issues of adoption and segregation through parenting.
Randall, in the present years, faces greater challenges when he meets his biological dad, William, for the first time. Unfortunately, William has an incurable type of cancer and eventually dies, but not until making an impact on Randall’s family and a character the audience grows to adore. Having to experience a loved one’s death or illness is a major teaching moment in life, from the moment one is made aware of the situation to having to cope with it. Randall meets William and becomes extremely close to him within a few months, despite Rebecca having kept William a secret from Randall for his life. Randall is a very ambitious, smart, and successful businessman, who is a part of a beautiful family. However, is also a perfectionist and cannot cope with William’s death, and has a nervous breakdown. His family helps him get through this tough time, which shows the value of family. Randall, in trying to make sense of the situation and make some good come out of it, decides with his wife to become foster parents and take in a troubled African American 12 year old girl named Deja. She is a tough girl raised in a poor neighborhood by a mom who is in and out of jail. Randall teaches her the values of family and life. As she lives in his home the audience watches her come of age. To be more specific, when she first comes to live with Randall she is ignorant and troubled, but one can tell she was scared. By the time she leaves to go back and live with her mother, she was more confident and mature and it is hard for her to say goodbye. Overall, Deja become more trusting and caring because she had a family. Family, blood-related or not, lifelong or a short relationship, can all have an extreme impact on one.
Fogelman also introduces the social issues of obesity and bullying. Kate deals with the social aspect of body insecurity and obesity. Growing up Kate has always been heavier than other kids at school. She looks up to her mother as a role model but also realizes how much thinner her mother is compared to herself. Eventually, Kate becomes resentful and distant towards her mother. Growing up Kate had a hard time making friends due to her obesity. Kate struggles with obesity and mean girls at the town pool when she wears a bathing suit like other girls her age. More specifically, when she was at the pool the girls give her a note saying she embarrasses them and they did not want to play with her. Kate’s heroic dad always comes in for comfort and this time gave her his ridiculous green frog t-shirt and told her it had magical powers since he met her mom in it. The strong bond between Kate and her dad is undeniable as he always tries to protect her and make her feel self-confident. Rebecca, as a mother figure, also attempts to make Kate feel better about herself but also make sure she watches what she eats. Kate deals with this social issue throughout her whole life. Like many women, Kate tries to lose weight but it is very difficult. However, for Kate it is not all heartbreaks, tears, and insecurity. She meets the love of her life and finally pursues her dream in singing. Kate has many downfalls and many motivations to get her to where she wants to be. Ultimately, Kate overcomes the social issue of obesity which teaches the audience to love their own body and how to cope with hypocrites.
All in all, throughout the two unforgettable seasons, Fogelman has impacted the audience with many heart-wrenching and bitter sweet moments. All the Actors portray very realistic characters that you fall in love with. The script is crafted in such a realistic manner that there are times when the audience cries with the characters. The value of family could not have been portrayed any other way through the struggles and lovable moments they share. The show received an outstanding rating of 92% on Rotten Tomatoes and has an audience ranging from every age group following every episode, waiting for the next traumatizing event or surprise.