A song, a television show, and two thoughts.

Terra Naomi’s “Say It’s Possible,” a powerful song inspired by Vice President Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, has captured my fascination since first hearing it in 2007. You can watch it here. Lyrics are here.

Of all the lyrics I find the following most powerful and very unique. 

I’m not alright
I’m not alright
I’m not alright
I’m not alright

Think how rarely someone voices not being alright. Our society doesn’t make it easy to say such: We’re supposed to be content, be passive, be quiet. I absolutely love that this song for subverting the normative! And it narrates the cultural rhetoric of global warming most effectively.

Dan Fogelman’s This Is Us is another powerful cultural text. Two years old, this highly-popular, highly-rated, highly-viewed television drama follows a family and what happens to them by jumping forward and backward through time. The show is excellent in terms of acting and originality. This Is Us grabs viewers emotionally. All-around lots of strong points, except…

The show is entirely too heteronormative and patriarchal. Everything in the series centers around or relates to the family’s White patriarch, Jack Pearson (Milo Ventimiglia). Jack Pearson is an almost-perfect character. This Is Us creates and celebrates an ideal (male) friend, son, brother, husband, and father. The cliché “wouldn’t even hurt a fly” applies to This Is Us‘s patriarch. History–big H and little h–begins with Jack Pearson. No such attention is given–thus far–to Jack Pearson’s wife, Rebecca. 

Within the context of an increasingly queered society, This Is Us serves as something of a push back toward change and diversity and equality. 

Within the context of Trumpism, This Is Us serves to convince people patriarchs are (overall?) good and hold society together.

These thoughts will be continued, but analyzing such cultural productions and their place in larger society is necessary.

Dr. Andrew Joseph Pegoda 

Categories: Thoughts and Perspectives

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4 replies

  1. I have to agree with you although I haven’t seen the show. I am acutely aware of how little diversity is shown on TV, despite the great inroads Hispanic, Asian, African Americans, women, autistic, LGBTQ, & mentally challenged people have made into the sitcoms and drama shows. I keep looking for the changes needed. The reality shows are also still majority white, male, & privileged. In fact, when you look at the diversity now seen on TV, it is quite amazing for its progress since the 1960s. It is far more diverse than I could have dreamed back then. But the premise of white, male, patriarchal, is still by far the predominant character.

    But as one reviewer put it, in reference to ‘Good Times,’ poverty doesn’t sell products, which are the mainstay of commercial TV. That is why the show was cancelled, despite its popularity. I guess you have to look to PBS to fill in the less privileged part (I think of the profound effect of ‘Victorian Slum House’ this past summer). The wealthy still think the poor have more options than they actually have. Each socioeconomic class is truly clueless about the other classes. Environment has such an effect on brain development that it is sad when we realize how many assumptions higher income earners make about what their poorer counterparts can do. The differences are not what so many jump to conclusions about. They think the poor are just “dumber,” don’t understand what they need to learn to be successful (e.g. STEM) when the poor recognize how much the wealthier do not need to think about surviving until the next day. Plan for the future? Only if you have some reasonable expectation that there is one.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I love the show and wouldn’t miss it.

    Liked by 1 person

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