You know the Pearsons.
Or at least you feel like you know the Pearsons. Unless you’ve been away from pop culture for the past few years, you’ve at least been aware of the family in the hit NBC show “This is Us.”
First, why the show itself so appealing? It’s the storyline. It’s the relatability of the characters. It’s the realness of the human struggles. Kevin has his addiction struggle. Kate has her weight struggle. Randall has his anxiety struggle. Dang, this really is “us.”
I believe another key ingredient is the show’s portrayal of its men vs. the ones we’ve seen on TV since before the era of Heathcliff Huxtable. We’re bumbling, selfish idiots, according to sitcom producers. Some of the worst examples are Homer Simpson, Al Bundy, and Peter Griffin. Sometimes it’s a little more subtle, but for the most part, the way men have been portrayed in much of the media is just sad… and that really grinds my gears.
So along come Jack, Randall, and Kevin.
What is it about them that we love? Number one is Jack: He is the consummate father. He’s faithful to one woman. He’s intelligent and well-spoken. He loves his family fiercely and unconditionally. In short, he’s the father that so many people wish they had.
He’s not without his demons, though. His struggle with alcoholism was painful to watch, but not portrayed in such a way as to rob him of his dignity. Rather, we felt Rebecca’s pain through it and ended up loving Jack all the more as he progressed and overcame it.
Randall is so many of us. Sure, most of us didn’t pay cash for a Mercedes, but his anxieties stemming from his identity crises are incredibly common. Regardless of how squared away someone appears, they’re just like the rest of us: Trying to figure things out. His love for his wife and daughters is inspiring and reminds us that masculinity can take different forms, including tenderness, intelligence, and understanding.
Finally, there’s Kevin. He’s got guilt. Guilt that he wasn’t there the night his dad died; guilt that he didn’t look out for his sister like he could have. And, of course, guilt over his substance abuse and failed marriage. We all have guilt because we all have all done things to feel guilty about. He’s been working hard to earn back the trust of those he hurt, and he’s maturing. We’re beginning to look at the man he’s becoming as opposed to the man he was.
In short, the appeal is that these men are broken and humbled, yet are never emasculated or condemned.
Likely unintentional is the way this lines up with how God sees us. We are broken and humbled, but loved by our Creator. He doesn’t trample our dignity because after all, we’re His children. And through Him, we are free of condemnation.