As someone who found herself ending a difficult Tuesday with a large glass of wine and the latest episode of This Is Us, I'm happy to vouch for the fact that this show gives me life. It's emotional yet optimistic, dramatic yet real, and it doesn't side-step the everyday challenges that many of us face, but might not like speaking about. And though I knew this, it wasn't until I heard Milo Ventimiglia's comments about This Is Us' handling of difficult issues that I realized something pivotal: This Is Us is the right TV show for right now.
Speaking recently with reporters, including Bustle, Ventimiglia talked about how he and the writers of This Is Us don't "tip-toe around issues," but instead approach them "from a place of inclusion." And the rest of his statement regarding the various difficult issues dealt with on This Is Us, just as they are in real life, sounds just like a speech that Jack Pearson would make to his kids. Ventimiglia said,
I'm swooning so hard right now, you guys. So hard. Not only is what Ventimiglia saying here completely correct and heart-warming, but the sentiments of his statement could also be used to explain why This Is Us is such a satisfying show at this moment in time.
As a drama, it doesn't superficially deal in conflict, or "issues" — instead it actively deals with the people at the heart of such conflict, and how their lives are irrevocably shaped by such events. By building story lines that jump between different eras, and explore the concerns of multiple generations, we get to see how society has changed — and hasn't — in attitudes regarding race, gender, and sexuality.
At this current moment in time, all three of those issues are still prevalent concerns for U.S. citizens, and indeed people around the globe. And when This Is Us delves back into the past to remind viewers of issues pertaining to racism, sexism, or homophobia, it's also shining a light on contemporary attitudes toward those issues. While things may have improved in all three of these areas, much has also remained the same. But what hasn't changed is humanity itself, and This Is Us provides the most optimistic reminder of that fact.
Most episodes of the show manage to explore and showcase our capacity for unity as human beings, and the supreme power of love. The diverse make-up of the Pearson family provides the core structure for that within the show, but it also extends beyond it, in the connections that each family member makes with others. Every character in This Is Us faces some form of major personal struggle that they simply can't manage on their own, but we witness how the extended Pearson family works as a unit to soften those problems, cushion that hurt, and ultimately support each other for the better.
Though the characters from This Is Us may be highlighted by their differences, what the show ultimately fixates on is the common ground they find as people just vying for happiness. The poignancy of this is surely not lost on anyone who is fretting through the feeling that we're currently living in a world that feels more divided every day. And in this way, This Is Us feels vital.
Through all of the narratives, characters, and key takeaways that This Is Us offers, the most important one is something that Ventimiglia touched upon in his statement — that we may all be different, but as humans we all share that common desire for happiness and are all worthy of achieving it. And like the Pearson family, we need to all start working together to make that a reality.