Tag: drama

Books

Grove City College put on A Doll’s House and I Have Opinions

A Doll’s House is available to read on Project Gutenberg’s website.

Trigger Warning: This play is primarily about a toxic marriage and emotional abuse by a husband to his wife. It includes continuous yelling that comes out of nowhere and occurs for several minutes, gaslighting, and other forms of emotional abuse.

I recently saw A Doll’s House for the first time at Grove City College. This is a well-written play and I would highly recommend watching it. The actors at Grove City College were phenomenal and they really captured the drama and characters well. I am including spoilers for the play in my review, so if you don’t want to know, well, almost everything, I would stop reading after this paragraph.

Now, onto the review.

Before I went to see this play, I looked it up to see what it was about, and I was slightly surprised that Grove City College chose to cover a story about a Norwegian woman struggling in her marriage and a male-dominated society. Considering the ending, I was even more surprised that they chose to put it on.

The ending my college chose also is not the remade ending, but some details were changed. For example, there are no child actors in this play, likely because we are college students, and the couple’s children are only referenced. But other than that, the play is pretty much the same show that was and still is extremely controversial.

I read the director’s note, which was written by director and professor Dr. Betsy Craig, and I realized that my assumption was completely wrong. This play is more connected to Grove City College than I thought was possible. The author, Henrik Ibsen and A Doll’s House are drawn and written on the stained glass windows, among other famous intellectual figures, in Crawford auditorium. Ibsen is considered the father of modern drama, so it makes sense that he is included in this list.

I also learned by reading the director’s note that Ibsen did not intentionally write a feminist play. He was invited to a meeting with his wife for the Norwegian League for Women’s Rights, but he told them didn’t know what the women’s rights movement was even about. Craig says Ibsen said that the problem meant to address in A Doll’s House was: “True enough, it is desirable to solve the women problem, along with all others; but that has not been my whole purpose. My task has been the description of humanity.”

Typical of a man, I think, to reduce half of the populations lack of rights and ability to make important decisions for themselves into the phrase “the women problem.” But of course, his point proves that the troubles of women are universal and necessary for us to acknowledge, as members of the human race. Isben didn’t address the women’s suffrage movement, but his play this play broke barriers, nevertheless. Some audiences were outraged, and alternative endings and rewrites were required.

Ibsen perhaps unintentionally tells us the message that we need to hear. That women’s rights are the rights of the humanity. He sees Nora’s plight not just as a “woman’s problem”, that only concerns the “feminists”, but a problem that humanity as a core holds, and that problem too, should be addressed and put on center stage.

Nora’s feeling of entrapment is attributed to the patriarchy, and her concerns are validated. The play shows the brokenness of a system that desperately needs mending and it doesn’t end with complete brokenness. Dr. Craig even notes in the director’s note that the play ends on a hopeful note.

There is hope for the audience–for us to listen to Nora, Torvald, and the people around them and to empathize and understand them. There is hope for us to learn to listen to others and understand what they’re going through rather than assume.

I’ll say now that I can’t completely hate Torvald. His actions are inexcusable. He insults, objectifies, and treats his wife, Nora, terribly. His shift from anger and blame to begging for forgiveness is shocking. He is self-centered and doesn’t attempt to understand anyone around him. But no one has told him that he needs to understand anyone else. Torvald is a man with power and he feels like his wife should serve his every need.

He is part a product of a time where men and women lived in different spheres. He is allowed to diminish Nora and call her a “songbird” and “a child.” Such terms are romanticized and celebrated. Torvald is considered what is called a successful man. The culture was fine with reducing your spouse to a child and creature that exists to give you joy and music.

Money and forgery

Nora’s forgery is a dumb mistake that drives the plot. It is also a result of not educating women on finance. Nora’s decision to forge her father’s signature on a loan, and then accidentally dating it after he already died, is what drives the conflict in the story. But the problem goes deeper than that.

At the beginning of the story, Torvald berates her for not managing money well, but he doesn’t know she’s paying off a loan that saved his life. As a woman, she can’t even take out a loan without a man’s signature according to the law. She is also forced to keep this a secret, because her husband doesn’t want to take out loans. Dude, your life is at stake, let down your pride for a second…man…

The major obstacle is the patriarchal society that refuses to allow women to manage their own money. Nora is utterly unable to manage money herself, and if she could, none of this would have happened in the first place.

I want to talk about Mrs. Linde for a moment.

Mrs. Kristine Linde

Mrs. Linde is a fascinating character. I think without her, much of the message of this play could be lost. She too is a woman living in a world where women are treated as secondary.

She often tells Nora that she is older, that she has had life experience that Nora hasn’t had yet. She has worked her entire life. She never got to be a wife supported by her husband, who she married to pay to take care of her mother instead of love, and she has no family. Her husband ended up dying and leaving her a poor widow. When she returns to see Nora, it has been ten years since the two have stayed in touch.

Mrs. Linde isn’t the idealized working woman. Nora tells Mrs. Linde that must be so much better than Nora’s, but Kristine responds:

“No, indeed; I only feel my life unspeakably empty. No one to live for anymore.”

She has been doing manual work and hopes for an office job. She has few friends and family. I think it is important to note that we can’t exist on work alone, we need people, desperately, in our lives. Life is not filled by financial autonomy, although I’m sure Kristine appreciates that she will no longer have to worry about money.

But when we look at the ending, it is unclear whether or not Kristine will stay in touch with Nora. We don’t know if she has any friends to spend time with and survive her.

I suppose this leads me to wonder, does Mrs. Linde love Nils Krogstad? She initially talks with him to help distract him from Nora, and then she decides she wants to be with him because she’s loathes being alone. I can’t help but wonder if she really does want to be with him romantically. Does she, or is she terrified of feeling empty and he is there? I’m not sure.

As much as I question, I do hope they found a way to be happy together.

Dr. Rank

I’m not sure what else to say about Dr. Rank except that I feel sorry for him. I wonder what would have happened if he had lived or if Nora had fallen in love with him instead. It was sweet of him to admit that he would make sacrifices for her before he died. It shows she has options too, that Nora has options, that care for her isn’t reduced to Torvald. He also shows how unfair the world is and how in different circumstances it could be better. His story ends unfairly; Mr. Rank, a kind person, dies while Torvald lives.

II wonder about Nora’s ending. She decides to leave and start a new life, but she has no one. Her children are left behind, and she doesn’t have anyone who cares for her. I’m going to dive into the children in a bit, but I’m going to look at Nora’s speech first. One interesting thing I noticed was the religion and religious language in the play.

Religion and religious language in the play

A doll’s house touches on religion, Christianity, and relates to it as a moral system. The story interestingly takes place during Christmas. Nora also keeps a lie for three days, a notable number in the Bible. I’m not sure if this was intentional or not. But, while the characters decorate the tree and dance around, there are no, at least outwardly devout, Christians in this play. Torvald accuses Nora of a lack of religion when she is leaving him, saying that she has “no religion, no morality, no sense of duty.”

Nora’s father was a Christian, but she personally never claims to follow his faith. Torvald doesn’t mention his own faith, so it is unclear whether he is a practicing Christian or not. It doesn’t seem like it. Also, Torvald is betraying his duties as a husband to love his wife as himself. So, he’s not one to talk–at all.

But he does, idiotically, use her father’s Christian faith to argue for Nora’s place in the home while doing nothing to acknowledge his own failure as a husband.

“Can you not understand your place in your own home? Have you not a reliable guide in such matters as that?—have you no religion?”

Christianity is used justify the wife’s place in the home and judge Nora’s decision to leave, but little else. Nora it seems also does not know much about religion, she says she was told things by a clergyman, but she feels little to have any personal connection to his statements.

She says that she wants to think it out for herself, when she is alone. Nora’s arguments show her reasoning out how she understands the world for herself. She is also humble, she admits that she does not understand the world fully and that she plans to learn in the future. All while she processes this, Torvald insists she doesn’t know anything and is being a child. But he’s wrong. She is growing in understanding and self-awareness. She is realizing what it means to be an adult and can make moral and ethical judgements for herself. Her husband fails to recognize his own problematic behavior and goes on to invalidate her feelings.

Nora leaves because life with him is always a life under a man’s thumb. She is being suffocated under his objectification of her. This argument erupts into the truth about Nora. That she as an individual has a complex life, a spiritual, emotional, and political life that deserves to develop and grow without just extending from the men around her.

Now, if she were a married woman without children, the story might be simpler. Marital counseling also was not common at the time, and even then, I’m not sure if her husband would agree to go.

I’ll also note that this story supports marriage as an institution, Nora says that her relationship to her husband would be “real wedlock” if he changed. The part where she leaves her children is a part I do struggle with, but it is necessary for us to remember that neither of these characters are perfect. I don’t see Nora’s decision as a call for all mothers who feel like Nora to leave their kids behind in search for financial success and independence. If there is a husband who is capable of change, marriage can be made right. But this isn’t Nora’s situation.

Nora’s Decision to Leave her Husband and Children Behind

Nora made a decision to leave a toxic marriage, and she leaves knowing that the children would be in good hands. She doesn’t not care about her kids at all.

For example, in the script, which I found on Project Gutenberg, there is a scene where Nora sees her children. Nora talks to them after they have played outside:

“How fresh and well you look! Such red cheeks like apples and roses. [The children all talk at once while she speaks to them.] Have you had great fun? That’s splendid! What, you pulled both Emmy and Bob along on the sledge? —both at once?—that was good. You are a clever boy, Ivar. Let me take her for a little, Anne. My sweet little baby doll!”

Nora clearly loves her kids, and cares about them. The play I watched didn’t include the children as characters. Either way, I don’t think that Nora wanted to leave her children.

One argument that I thought of, admittedly before I actually watched the play, was that Nora could take her children with her and leave them Torvald behind. Looking at the play now, this is not an option, considering that first, Torvald would never to allow Nora to take their children from him. Second, if Nora chose to take them with her, she would be desolate and would be putting innocent kids into poverty.

Torvald has the money and resources (and nannies) to provide for the children financially at the very least.. The situation can be awful in any case. It sounds like Nora is unlikely to return to them, but we don’t know. I’m not saying that this completely justifies her decision, but it explains her reasoning.

If she were to try to make it work with Torvald, he would have to be open to really listening to her and treat her not just an object, but a human being with feelings and emotions as complex as his own. I’m not a marriage counselor, but I’m not sure if they could have worked it out on their own. Perhaps if a real marriage counselor were available at the time perhaps they could make it work or perhaps they would separate anyway. Considering the way Torvald insults to her at the end, I am leaning toward the latter.

He never appreciates her as a person or her abilities. After all, she took a huge risk to save her life.

When Nora tells Torvald that she is leaving him, she says that there will be freedom on both sides when she leaves him. Neither have any obligation to the other. She needs to cut ties because she knows he will try to rope her back the moment he even gives her an inch. She also knows that her children will be taken care of in this house.

You could say she’s being irresponsible, that she is thinking for herself alone. I’m not sure we have to agree with her choice, and we also have to remember that Nora is a victim of emotional abuse and she is escaping a this situation and intense pressure in the only way she knows how.

I also don’t think Nora will experience self-actualization and a perfect life outside of her marriage. Mrs. Linde, after all, works for herself but has no one. Nora’s decision, while perhaps preferable, is not ideal. Nora faces isolation and the same emptiness that Mrs. Linde feels by deciding to walk away. Perhaps she will find happiness and community somewhere, but that’s not the main point of the story. Nora’s decision is objectively risky, but she still feels like she cannot make any other choice.

In a society where women are objects without rights, Nora rebels. The system crushes her and she abandons responsibility to a world that belittles and refuses her dignity as a person. In all honesty, the ending is uncomfortable, but I’m not just uncomfortable with a mother, who has been shown to love her children, leaving them indefinitely.

I’m uncomfortable with her husband’s objectification of her, and his dismissal of her individuality, growth, and personhood. I’m uncomfortable with a patriarchal society that reduces women to their physical appearance, and their purpose to serving men and their needs. I’m uncomfortable with a world that only offers men the ability to grow as individuals, provide financially for themselves, and understand the world and their place in it. I’m uncomfortable with a society that only expects them to be mothers and wives and expects them to always comply without receiving any respect.

This is an amazing play. The dialogue is great and it is full of emotional depth. Henrik Ibsen is the father of modern drama for a reason, and I’m glad I saw his work in person.

Today, the message is still relevant and it is important to remember. A Doll’s House inspires empathy, for Nora, Dr. Rank, Mrs. Kristie, and Torvald. It reminds us of the necessity understanding each other and realizing that our view of the world is not universal and that just because we are happy with the way things are doesn’t mean they are right. We understand Torvald’s position without defending him. Maybe we even see ourselves in his viewpoint, in his complacency, in his unwillingness to listen.

Perhaps most importantly, Nora express that she is not happy with the male-dominated society, her expected role in it, and the man that she’s supposed to love. I don’t expect Nora to be perfect, and I appreciate her watching the play and really listening to what she says, we give her the same right that everyone deserves, the right that her husband and society deny her. The right to make choices, to think for herself, to share a different perspective, and ultimately, the right to be human.

I think, that is why I’m glad to have seen this play and to see A Doll’s House and Henrik Ibsen on the Crawford windows.

Have you seen or read A Doll’s House? Let me know your thoughts down in the comments below!

Shows

My Reflections On The Tear-Jerking Family Drama This Is Us Before The Series Finale

I am going to talk about a show that I have been watching for quite a while. I watch the show with my mom and my grandma also watches it. If you’re reading this: hi Mom! I’m going to review this show that has been a part of my life for nearly six years.

So what is This is Us about? Well, I wouldn’t say this story has a beginning exactly, but to sum it up would be to sum up the whole of human history, and to ask the meaning of time itself. That sounds like a lot, so I’ll narrow the scope a bit. To sum it up, every episode of This is Us is part of an ongoing story of the Pearson family, and when we think of how we talk about our families and our family stories it is difficult to find a true beginning. I could begin like this: Jack Pearson (Milo Ventimiglia) saw Rebecca Malone (Mandy Moore) when she was singing at a local bar and he realized that he had to get to know her. After a while, he asks her out on a date to the amusement park. This all sounds great, but he is also nearly broke and the date goes horribly.

Or it could begin when a young, widowed father leaves his son at the fire station because he doesn’t know what else to do. A white couple, who just lost their newborn son, one of triplets, decide to adopt the boy.

This is Us is a mixture of flashbacks and memories and blasts from the past. Their timeline matches up with real time, starting in 2016, and begins when the Pearson triplets turn thirty. The Pearson family story spans multiple generations from Jack’s childhood to the adulthood of the triplets’ children and–presumably–the death of Rebecca Pearson.

Each episode contains has 1-2 flashbacks and a few storylines that take place in the present. There are a few episodes that focus mostly on the backstory of a certain person connected to the Pearson family. I say connected because spouses, friends, and often strangers get a story of their own. Usually, the strangers’ arcs last an episode, unless they turn out to be connected to someone in the family. For example, we see the man who delivered the triplets several times throughout the series. Life is in interconnected web in this show, and every person’s life is a unique story with happiness and tragedy.

To sum it up, This is Us is a story about multiple generations navigating life. We see them at the grocery store, making dinner, tucking their kids to bed. All the scenes are rather significant moments in the Pearsons’ lives for one reason or another. Both small and big moments are significant and make a difference. Whether or not everyone there remembers the experience, it has shaped them into the person that they are today. Experiences makes up the fabric of the world around them and connect the family together. The family is so close, and often has so many difficulties, because they have been through so much together. We see each of the Pearson triplets navigating adulthood differently. But it isn’t easy for any of them. The family bonds are a huge part of this show. Each relationship is unique and complicated in its own way. We see Jack spending time with Kate as a kid and we learn more about the both of them. Life felt like smooth sailing with them, Kate and Rebecca are another story.

Overall, memory in the show is a good thing, but there is some unreliable narration. Memories are often flawed because of a character’s failure to consider the perspective of another. Failure to communicate or understand another’s perspective is a major source of conflict within the show. Many times, seemingly good intentions rot. Randall is a good example of a man with the best intentions.

Randall Pearson (Sterling K. Brown)

Randall was adopted by Jack and Rebecca Pearson when his biological father left him at the fire station. He never got to know his birth father as a child, so much of his life has been wondering “what if.” Randall also often felt like an outsider as a Black man in a white family and community. The Pearsons were loving parents, but they were obviously flawed. Randall is the golden child, we learn he works as a weather commodities trader, and does well. He is marries Beth and they have wonderful daughters. He is a perfectionist and struggles with anxiety. His anxiety is realistically depicted on the show, and was formed during his childhood. Randall also has a bit of a savior complex. He is a incredibly compassionate and kind person, but the harsh reality of life sometimes doesn’t mesh with his desire to do good.

Kate (Chrissy Metz)

Kate feels like a middle child. She hasn’t succeeded financially like her brothers and she wants to be a singer. She is talented, but she feels like she is in her mother’s shadow. Her father’s death was the hardest on her, and she struggles with body image, eating habits, and self-esteem.

Kevin (Justin Hartley)

Kevin is the popular older brother. He played football in high school, but was unable to continue in college because he sprained his ankle. He married his high school sweetheart, but that didn’t quite work out. He becomes an actor, but life isn’t perfect for him. Kevin also has issues with self-worth, is an alcoholic, and falls into unhealthy cycles.

They all can be selfish, refuse to listen to each other, and just plain annoying sometimes. The triplets are also funny, caring, and love each other deep down. I love how the This is Us writers are not afraid to make their cast flawed. We also learn that everyone acts the way they do based on past experience. For example, since Kevin felt like his parents favored his siblings growing up, so he became an actor to receive validation and praise.

This is Us also shows that family life–even in the closest families–is not perfect. Not even Jack, the triplets’ perfect father, is without flaws. He and Rebecca get into huge fights, but they stick through. No one fights quite the same way either. Each relationship is unique and comes with its own challenges. but we, usually, understand where everyone is coming form. Seeing the family fight with each other can be heartbreaking, but it also feels real. There is enough backstory to explain every hurt, and the plotlines rarely feel contrived.

I’m going to talk here about a few points that stuck out to me that make This Is Us a wonderful story. I have three things I love. Spoilers below!

1. This is Us Rejects self-actualization and the happily ever after

Characters in This Is Us get their dream jobs, marry the love of their lives, and settle down, but they are never 100% happy and life doesn’t stop changing from there. There are times when families fight and forgive each other and reunite. People die, they lie to each other. No one ever becomes amazing at fixing all their deep-seated flaws. Randall still wants to help the man who robbed him, and maintains his idealism. Kate is figuring out her career and finds a job she likes, but her and Toby are struggling to communicate again. Kevin still isn’t sure what he thinks of himself or what he wants in life.

2. Beautiful Cinematography <eets Excellent Storytelling

The cinematography is gorgeous. One of my favorite episodes is about Randall’s birth mother, Laurel. We see Randall in the lake and it just feels refreshing. The stories also connect so well. Sometimes I wonder why they included a random stranger, but they always tie their story back to the major themes of the episode. The episodes also make you feel warm. The writing, dialogue, and pacing just feels right.

3. Honest look at the Experience of Black Americans

This Is Us has an interesting premise. The show hired 3 Black writers and Sterling talks to the creators about how he wants his character to be portrayed. Randall grew up raised by white parents, and his life experience was different than his siblings. The show has 3 Black writers (out of 10) and Sterling K. Brown often consults the writers about his character. The experiences of Randall’s family and his adopted daughter also are a major part of the show.

Reflections

This Is Us is full of great love stories, marriages, and babies. Romance in This is Us is generally really well done. Jack and Rebecca and Randall and Beth are two of my favorite love stories on the show. Relationships, all kinds, are hard. They all enconter different challenges based over the years, and after hurdles are jumped over (for instance, Rebecca’s father doesn’t like Jack) more challenges come. There is no happily ever after, there are good times and bad times. Romantic love is portrayed as a wonderful and beautiful experience. We see the couples at their best, at their worst, and we want them to stay together because of all they’ve conquered together.

Randall and Beth are my favorite couple on the show. Both are ambitious and intelligent, and they balance each other out. Beth is calm while Randall deals with anxiety. Beth can be too strict sometimes, and Randall is very altruistic. They are hilarious, dorky, and just love each other so much years after marriage, and I love them. They feel realisticly married. Jack and Rebecca have a great love story too.

Out of the other characters, their stories are good too. My third favorite couple is probably Kate and Toby, but it seems like they get divorced and Kate marries her music teacher. He is kinda mean to her, so I’m not sure if if it’ll be an enemies to lovers type thing or he’ll just be a character we love to hate. I don’t mind enemies to lovers if it is done well, but I’m not sure if it will be with the limited time the show has left.

I’ve come to care for all the Pearson family and I want them the be happy. Even if their endings aren’t perfect, I have just become so attatched. Kate was in an abusive relationship in the past, after her father died, so she could enter one again. I can see her falling into a bad cycle, but I hope it doesn’t happen to her. The fact that they divorce makes me sad, especially since I love Toby, but it is realistic. Whenever shows end with a bunch of happy married couples, it feels to simplistic, like everyone is paired off.

So, that brings us to Kevin. Kevin has had a complicated relationship with love. He married his high school sweetheart, Sophie, but they got a divorce soon after. His marriage to Sophie seemed impulsive, a desire for security in the midst of the unknown. His father died, and Kevin wanted one person to be in his life forever. That I get.

I also noticed that the show refuses to make love a solution to someone’s problems or a clutch. Characters rarely fall in love with the idea of a person and then magically have everything work out.

That brings me to singleness. Kevin is most enjoyable as a character when he is with the people he loves like family, rather than romantically. The relationship between Kevin and Randall, Kevin and Kate, and Kevin and Randall’s daughters are more compelling and sweet than his romantic relationships. As to Madison, I’m not sure how I feel about them as a couple. Another love story could be nice, but it could also be nice to see Kevin happily single and happily co-parenting with Madison.

I can see this happening. After all, the show notes and uses other lifestyle options adoption and IVF and Zoe–who didn’t want kids– why not include parents who aren’t romantically involved?

Especially after we learn that Edie and Nicky fall in love, is there really room for another love story? And does Kevin need a partner to be happy– of course not.

As much as I love the couples in this show, This is Us clearly shows that other forms of love, between parent and child, between friends, and between sibilings is just as beautiful. The show can take this point a step further, not everyone needs to end up in a romance to be happy. It would be nice to see Kevin, Kate, or someone else end up single and enjoy a single lifestyle. Even if they are romantic, romance does not have to be their story. There are plenty of them that aren’t told.

It is worth noting that This is Us includes not just heterosexual, but LGBT characters as well. Romance between men and women dominates the Pearson family story, but it is not the entire story. The triplets see Jack and Rebecca as part of a great love story and they expect their children to fall into the same. Randall is a bit shocked when he hears that his birth father William, is bisexual and had a long-term boyfriend named Jessie. His teenage daughter, Tess, later comes out to her family as gay and she starts dating non-binary classmate. This is Us mostly shows sexuality as a part of life, which felt refreshing.

I also like how the show really rejects the happily ever after and shows the intense beauty and pain of life. I feel uplifted when I watch the show. The relationship between the family is honest, caring, and just plain heartwarming, but they aren’t living in a perfect world. Like, the Pearsons have been though hell after their father died. The kids were only eighteen. His death impacted them all years in the future, and they are all grappling with tragedy to this day.

We see death not as an end, but a part of a circle of life. Just because we die does not mean we are forgotten. It is no wonder that Rebecca appears to be dying in the finale and we see her memory fading. But her family will remember her, and they will tell her stories to their children as they create their own. I’m including the scene because it sums up the show pretty well. Kevin shows Tess and Annie a picture:

“What is we’re all in the painting everywhere. What if we’re in the painting before we’re born. What if we’re in it after we die. And what if these colors we keep adding on top of each other until they’re not colors anymore? Wer’re just one thing. One painting.”

“And this wild, sloppy, magical thing, this right here. I think it’s us.”

This is Us shows our lives, our memories, or relationships as part of an interconnected web. The show doesn’t answer any or ask questions about what happens to the person after death. But it doesn’t feel sad to lose someone and no longer see them. Still, we realize death doesn’t define us. In life we part of something greater than ourselves, a history and we lose ourselves in the painting. Kevin notes this. The view of history in the show isn’t quite linear, it doesn’t necessarily achieve perfection or fall apart…it just is. It is not quite a circle either. New experiences and choices change the painting. The triplets children, for example, have not followed the paths of their parents completely. But they don’t have to. All of our experiences are wonderful and unique, but they come together in a great painting. The who picture and image reminds me of the cosmos. Take a look at the stars and how large they are and you realize that we’re part of a greater world and story than ourselves. But our story is there, it doesn’t go away like some stars.

Kevin realizes he has to talk about death in his painting. He initially apologizes, but then realizes as he tells the story that death is part of life. But dying doesn’t mean we’re gone and we disappear. The people we lose are still part of the painting. No matter what we do, no matter what lives we live or where we come from, we are all part of it.

When I listened to Kevin’s speech, I felt wonder and awe. The painting also feels full of unknowns, and there is no pressure to figure it all out. We are all interconnected, through the fact that we exist. Life can be messy, and sad and imperfect, but the connections we have with others, family, friends, and people we’ve never met or will never remember are still present in this web. The picture isn’t one one person can make and it is a web that just can’t be untangled, In this painting, we are more than just ourselves. The past, present, and future, mistakes and errors make the painting, rather than ruin it. But we can choose to care about the people around us, because doing that makes those beautiful pictures. From grandparents to grandchildren, we are all part of this together and that is what makes life so wonderful.

Have you seen This Is Us? I can’t wait for the finale. How do you feel about the show ending? Let me know down in the comments below!

Shows

BoJack Horseman argues Parenthood Should Be A Choice

A horrible mother, a strong-willed woman, a horrible person, a debutante, and the one who never asked to be a mother– all those phrases describe Beatrice Horseman. BoJack, her son, the only living person to remember her says:

“Beatrice Horseman was born in 1938, and she died in 2018, and I have no idea… what she wanted.”


Beatrice’s big tragedy is that she never got a chance to go after what she wanted. She never even had time to evaluate and figure out where she wanted to go in life. She was raised into a life where no one asked.

Who is Beatrice Horseman and why does she so trapped? It all began when she was a child, and her problems began far before she could fully understand them.

Beatrice had a brother Crackerjack who died in the war. Her mother broke down, and her father lobotomized her mother Honey when Beatrice was a young girl. She warned her daughter to never love others as much as she loved her son because he died. Her father, Joseph Sugarman, was emotionally abusive. Beatrice then turns into an abusive mother.

If we look back, her present behavior comes from her upbringing. We see later that Beatrice is mad at BoJack for what giving birth to him did to her body. Beatrice was a little chubby as a kid, as many kids are, and her father was overly critical of her weight. He even went so much to prevent his daughter from eating ice cream, he said eating sugar and lemon was a better snack for girls.

When she gets Scarlett Fever, her dad says he’s glad that she lost weight from the fever. He’s outlandish, sexist, overly rude, and selfish. He also has no moral backing for his actions. He holds onto gender roles and rejects emotions for no foreseeable reason; he is a two-dimensional character. We can only assume that his father was terrible as well, and he makes a terrifying villain. None of this excuses his actions. However, we don’t understand why he does the things he does. He also blames his wife for not knowing that her daughter has Scarlett Fever and for not protecting her. The role of a woman is to be a good mother, he says, but he is ironically a terrible father. He says weird things like this:

“Now, stop making books your friends. Reading does nothing for young women but build their brains taking valuable resources away from their breasts and hips.”

She also makes the wrong choice, unintentionally, the first chance she has to break away from her parents. She attends a debutante party and chats with party crasher Butterscotch Horseman. He scorns the life she is born into and is different and attractive, and they have a one-night stand. Then she gets pregnant.

Beatrice marries Butterscotch and plans to raise BoJack with him because she thinks they can have a life together. She bases this on a romanticized picture that Butterscotch paints for her. The time her father burned a favorite doll haunts her, so she decides to have and raise the child out of fear and fantasy.


She never thinks about what she really wants out of life. She has passions, but her parents present marriage into a wealthy family as the only option. Therefore, she never gets to consider putting her career or other interests over finding a man. Things seem black and white to Beatrice. There are two groups: the high society that her parents live under and the rebels. She rejects the societal choice: ice cream businessman Corbin Creemerman. Beatrice chooses the rugged Kerouac-loving stallion instead thinking he’ll give her the a viable alternative to her father’s choices. But she is wrong. She learns that Corbin wanted to challenge his father’s ideas and do his business his way. He also had passion and talent. But pregnancy means that things are too late for her. That one night now determined her future. Butterscotch talked the talk, but his words came out horse crap.

The show stresses that we cannot run away from our problems. We have to look for solutions based on what we want. Beatrice is a perfect example. Running away from her emotionally abusive father led her to another abusive man. Butterscotch’s abuse is not Beatice’s fault. The mentality her father ingrained in her kept her from seeing other options as viable.

BoJack Horseman constantly reminds us that we can’t run away from our problems, and Beatrice models that ideal like she’s working for Cosmo. She learns that running away from her emotionally abusive father led her to another abusive man. She gave up her dreams for a man, so when she meets a woman with dreams to become a nurse, she encourages her to choose her career.


When Butterscotch gets the maid pregnant, he begs Beatrice to talk to her.

“Don’t throw away your dreams for this child. Don’t let that man poison your life the way he did mine. You are going to finish your schooling and become a nurse. You’ll meet a man, a good man and you’ll have a family, but please believe me you don’t want this. Please, Henrietta, you have to believe me. Please, don’t do it I did.”


Beatrice went to Columbia College. Her father wanted her to find a husband there. We do not know what Beatrice studied, but we do know she was passionate about civil rights, justice, and lessening economic disparities. She was critical of the social class she grew up in and of her father’s business.

She reminds me a lot of Diane, they both have the same passions, but Beatrice got stuck in a life she never wanted. When she decides to marry Butterscotch, she follows is a romanticized idea of marriage and a family and is thus stuck there.

Time’s Arrow challenges the idea that things happen for a–presumably good–reason. Beatrice and Butterscotch actually wanted different things out of life, but they din’t get a chance to end their relationship. Beatrice accepted the consequences of her choices, and her acceptance of the life she chose limited her for the rest of her life.

Beatrice says that later in life Henrietta will meet a good man and have a family. Is Beatrice projecting here?

She chose not to think about if she wanted to be a stay-at-home mom because Butterscotch told her life would be idyllic and she wanted to believe him. She never made a conscious decision to be a parent, let alone a good one. She didn’t see her child as a living creature who deserved love. She was never taught about loving another person. Instead, she saw BoJack as something that ruined her life. It is fortunate that her son never becomes a father.


At the end of the series, Herb says BoJack is a:

“Husband to no-one, father to no one (that we know of) Standup comedian, actor, crippling alcoholic, a talented charmer, a stupid piece of shit.”


It is joked about that BoJack paid for several women to get abortions. The horse certainly spread his seed, and he could have gotten a woman pregnant who ended up either raising or putting up a child for adoption. It is no surprise when Hollyhock tells him that he might be her daddy. Hollyhock forces BoJack to become responsible for another human, and as we see in Stupid Piece of Sh*t, he uses this to fuel his self-hatred further. He ditches her to get drunk. So, fatherly responsibility isn’t going to fix BoJack.


His lie that the voice in her head goes away would probably come back to haunt her when she realized her father suffered the same way. He is relieved when he realizes that Hollyhock is his sister instead. Once he realizes he has no obligation to be a parent, their relationship actually improves. The show never argues that parenthood makes anyone a better or less selfish person. It is clear BoJack makes a terrible parent.
BoJack’s experiences with children are rarely good. He gives four-year-old Sarah Lynn that harrowing speech not to stop dancing. But that doesn’t stop his desires or curiosity about having children.

But he dreams of an alternate world of marrying Charlotte and having a daughter. It is a beautiful image of what could have been. We don’t know if it could’ve been that good. The idealist in me wants to believe that, though it wouldn’t have been all sunshine and rainbows, it would be better for him. If BoJack thought about it and decided to leave LA, he could have been happier. But when he meets Charlotte’s family and real daughter, Penny, he gives her teenage friends alcohol, leaves an overdosed teen at the hospital unaided. He then agrees to and almost has sex with Charlotte’s daughter after Charlotte rejects him. I could go on, but BoJack takes horrible care of himself and even worse care of others.


Diane and Mr. Peanutbutter are other characters who deal with children. Diane has an abortion and the two seem just not to want kids. Their relationship as a couple has been tumultuous, but they also have good times. Oddly enough, I would argue that the episode where Diane has an abortion is the best the two have gotten along and the healthiest day we see of their relationship. We also see that their lack of interest in having kids is completely unrelated to the state of their marriage or their desire for love. They both marry and remarry a couple of times in the show and put effort into their marriage when they’re together. Being in a loving and stable relationship and having a partner to lean on and live life with is important for both of them. Having children is something that neither of them wants out of life.
Diane does end up marrying Guy, who has a teenage stepson. It was fun watching them bond. Sonny is a pretty well-adjusted teen, and she doesn’t have to parent him. That is all Guy.

Diane also has a heart for helping kids, and people who are struggling. She cares for a boy in Cordovia only for him to die. She worries about her neglectful parents and wants to use her trauma for good and to help others in similar situations. Diane ends up writing a middle-grade mystery series about a Vietnamese American girl named Ivy Tran because she enjoys it. She says she wishes that she could have read a novel like this growing up. It could have helped her. Although she doesn’t help children through motherhood, Diane helps kids in ways she didn’t expect. BoJack Horseman shows that you don’t have to give up your passions to be happy. She helps others by doing things that she loves rather than sacrificing what she wants. By realizing her passions, Diane can help kids around the world. Kids can look up to her and have hope for the future. Ivy Trans is a gift that keeps giving, she creates a world that she wishes she had as a kid.


Instead, she watched BoJack’s Horsin’ Around as a kid, a show that simplified life’s problems into 30-minute segments. The show put real kids on set for hours a day, performing for an audience of people who do not care about them. A good parent could have helped Sarah Lynn realize her passions and encouraged her in her dream to become an architect. Instead, she was raised by money-driven parents and negligent producers who contributed to her low-self worth and addiction. Sarah Lynn deserved so much better.


This show would be pretty skeptical of all parents if it weren’t for Princess Carolyn. She is the one major character who desperately wants a baby. She famously says:

I compulsively take care of other people because I can’t take care of myself.”

Out of all the characters, surface-level Princess Carolyn would not want kids. Women in fiction who focus on their careers usually lack a desire for children. Work and children are two separate areas of life where one can succeed. A woman chooses one or the other. Princess Carolyn cares about her career more than anyone else. She works long hours, does almost everything for the job.

When we look at Diane, she works hard when she is passionate about something, but she cares much more for the social impact of her work and gets little of her value from the work itself if it is not meaningful. She also spends a considerable portion of her time on her romantic relationships.


For BoJack, the work is the means to an end too. BoJack puts a decent bit of his self-worth into work. He is willing to put effort into work if it makes him feel good about himself, gives his life purpose, and makes him look good, but he gives up if it doesn’t serve him. His work never fully fulfills him, because each project ends and then he has to do something new. He keeps looking for a meaningful role, but he doesn’t find what he’s looking for. Work can’t make him feel better about himself, which is why he also spends a significant amount of his time trying to feel better about himself and numb the pain through drugs, alcohol, and sex. Mr. Peanutbutter and Todd put their effort into wacky hijinks and work seems to just happen to them.

Princess Carolyn, in contrast, spends the majority of her time working. She rarely dates or puts effort into romantic relationships, even though she wants to have a child. She is good at her job, so she puts all her time and energy into work.


It is only when Princess Carolyn leaves an environment that promotes working hard and selling anything that she is challenged. This is when she visits a pregnant woman named Sadie who lives in the same rural town she grew up in. Her hometown was a place where she she started out, and it humbled her even when she doesn’t want to be humbled.

Princess Carolyn tries to impress Sadie, but she learns that outside of Hollywoo, people aren’t flattered easily. Sadie calls Princess Carolyn out. Princess Carolyn insists that Sadie does what she wants and doesn’t decide based on her boyfriend or the baby. Princess Carolyn insists that she knows best, and though she has good intentions. The reality is that Sadie could give her child a good life if she wanted to be a mother. There isn’t a better way of life or one right way to be a parent, but you have to want and choose to care about your kids and put them first.

“I just want to give your baby a better life”

“Better than what. Better than a sky for of stars?”

Princess Carolyn and Sadie

Princess Carolyn has to let go of her ego. She treats taking care of a kid like a business deal, but Sadie doesn’t fall for her tricks, just like a child wouldn’t. Princess Carolyn is called out for her flaws, before adopting a child, and I found this important. Princess Carolyn is one of my favorite characters, and she is certainly tenacious, but I did wonder if she’d be a good mother. She ends up spending a lot of time on her career after adopting Ruthie and she ends up marrying Judah, who is just as job-focused as she is. Her acceptance of Sadie, and realizing that what she wants might not be best for Sadie. She has to understand someone else’s needs and put them first.

I felt hopeful after that scene, if her daughter is different from her if she doesn’t have that work-loving ambition, Princess Carolyn will love her all the same. Unlike her mother, she can accept someone’s dream is not hers. Her child will grow up and become an individual and find purpose in a lifestyle that might be different from her mother.


By recognizing that her child won’t always do what she wants, Princess Carolyn will be a better mother than hers was. I found that role models help. Beatrice Horseman lost everything that she loved, but she had no role model. Princess Carolyn is inspired by Amelia Airheart to pursue her dreams, and she always worked for what she wanted. She knew what she wanted, which can be rare, but she always made the best of a bad situation. It is how she grew up. She will raise Ruthie and pass her values into her. I like to think that Princess Carolyn became a good mother.


Still, her self-reliance is a trademark of her character, she pushes a loving boyfriend away. She’s also been through a lot, she knows that she wants a baby and is willing to go through anything to get there. In the episode Ruthie, Princess Carolyn imagines her great-great-great-granddaughter telling her class about a day in her life. It is revealed in “Ruthie” that she had five miscarriages. She isn’t longing for an idealized fantasy, she wants something and goes after it. She does enjoy the work she does and she names a tv show Philibert after a baby she lost. The show becomes a pseudo child for her. It becomes clear though, that the show isn’t what Princess Carolyn wants. She wants a real child, a real person to love and to carry on her legacy. It is only when her work baby dies–Philbert gets canceled–that Princess Carolyn finally gets her real baby. Princess Carolyn chooses to have a baby because it is what she wants, and she makes sacrifices to get there. Princess Carolyn and her goals are amazing, but the show makes it clear that not everyone should follow her example. When BoJack contemplates his life in a dreamlike state in “The View From Halfway Down” he talks about sacrifice with the important people in his life.

BoJack: “When we grow up in a house that does that we internalize this idea that being happy is a selfish act, but sacrifice doesn’t mean anything.”

Sarah Lynn: “Yes it does.”

BoJack: “Sacrifice? In the service of something greater, maybe, but just in and of itself? What’s the good in that?”

Beatrice was convinced that she was giving up herself, sacrificing her happiness for a husband and child. She feels that marrying Butterscotch and raising BoJack was her sacrifice to life, but this notion limits her. In reality, she does not give anything to BoJack. She emotionally abuses him and makes him feel small and worthless. She clings to the societal convention that people shouldn’t divorce, but there is no heart behind that conviction. Her father burned her doll as a child when she gets sick, and he tells her it is a good thing. Giving up the good things is never the answer. Beatrice made a sacrifice raising BoJack, but she never wanted to be a mother of Butterscotch’s child. He doesn’t want BoJack either, and they are both miserable. Her mentality about sacrifice isn’t good for anyone.


There is never a message that there is a greater cause that makes sacrifice worth it. Beatrice’s father’s misogyny is shallow. He only cares about money and surface-level appearances. Beatrice continues this cycle and remains miserable because it is the only thing she knows. She feels unable to love BoJack because she feels like her ability to love is gone, like her doll in the fire.

If we look at Diane, she never gave up her passion for anything else. She ended her marriage with Mr. Peanutbutter because she didn’t want to live always squinting to see what makes her happy. She wanted to be happy and to be the best version of herself. By following what she is good at (writing) and what she enjoys, Diane helps others in a brilliant but unexpected way. The same is to be said for BoJack. He never becomes a father in the traditional sense, but he helps coach young actors at Wesleyan and later actors in prison. He turns out to be a great coach, and he gives to something bigger than himself. His acting is no longer just something to boost his ego, and he doesn’t have to put hours into something he hates for the sake of doing good. He genuinely loves helping people and uses his experience to his advantage. BoJack also has made the decision to change and do good by the people around him.


When Princess Carolyn finally adopts Ruthie, life becomes busier, but she is in a good place to have a child. Soon afterward, Judah tells her that he loves her and they get married. Before her marriage, her friend Todd also helped her out and babysat. She can handle this and she wants a baby. Although things might not always be the same, Princess Carolyn trusts her past self made the right choice.


Choice doesn’t necessarily make things better in BoJack’s world–people often make terrible ones–but the central message is that you have to both accept and embrace the decisions you make. When Beatrice makes Henrietta give up her daughter, it is easy to see her as cruel. We know Hollyhock was raised by loving parents, but we don’t know if giving up the baby was the right decision. Henrietta wanted her baby more than Beatrice ever did, but she also wanted a baby for perhaps the wrong reasons. She still cared for Butterscotch and hoped he would be a good father and romantic partner. Beatrice knew the truth.

So, when it comes to decisions and sacrifice, the series affirms that thoughtful and careful consideration are important. People who are unable to receive the facts are at a disadvantage. Beatrice is here when she decides to marry Butterscotch. It is important to take what we know and work with it.

We can’t predict the future, but we can learn about our situation now and decide on those factors. At one point, BoJack asks Princess Carolyn why she is an agent and she says that she is good at it. She keeps working and finds she wants to be a manager, a similar role, instead. We should look at what makes us happy, our strengths, and think about what makes us happy in real-life rather than grasping for ideals or our imagination. At the end of the series, BoJack responds to Carolyn’s concern about doubting herself. What if her marriage to Judah doesn’t work out? Well, that’s just life–we make choices and figure things out.

” No, but you’re here because at some point, Princess Carolyn thought this was a really good idea, and I think we oughtta listen to her because she’s the smartest woman I know”

Have you watched BoJack Horseman? What did you think? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.