Hollywood High

Hollywood High

Everything we were preemptively taught about high school is a lie. A lot of unsuspecting middle-schoolers got their information from Blair Waldorf and Cher Horowitz. Top shows like Gossip Girl, practically a celebration of exclusivity, centers around the idea that high school is a battlefield of impenetrable social order. Television led us to believe that hallways were always dominated by a handful of Cool Kids who commanded reverence daily.

That belief has spurred countless variations of the same idea on television. The only differential is which end of the social pyramid the perspective comes from. Bottom up, the outcasts often believe that they are wholly authentic while presenting the popular crowd as fake. It’s the very basis of Daria, Freaks and Geeks and My So-Called Life. On the other hand, when the Cool Kids drive the narrative, they position themselves as misunderstood and complex, while still occupying every archetypal trope of a simpleton. Whether you identify with them or loathe their existences, One Tree Hill’s Peyton Sawyer and The O.C’s Marissa Cooper gave backbone to the typical Popular Girl. This doesn’t make them fit any less into the Manic Pixie Popular Dream Girl archetype that continues to dominate teen-targeted shows and movies. People have proven to like a little edge to their plastic.  


Formulaic devices work; those are two of my favourite characters on two of my favourite adolescent shows. But, this dichotomous world where the Cool Kids reign and the geeks always remain on the outside doesn’t actually exist in most high schools. There are cliques, people who you definitely know but who only sort of know you, claimed hangout spots and inevitably, the kids counting down the days until graduation, dreaming of better days in college. But, when you’re in high school, nothing is unchangeable. We all know that one girl who became hot overnight and shot straight up into the inner circle. The one best friend group that broke up. The popular kid who became a social pariah. It’s the natural order of the adolescent universe.

In fact, the only place where the televised static of adolescence actually exists is in Hollywood, among a group of once-unsuspecting, simple folk who just wanted to pursue their art. Otherwise known as the A-list, Tinsel town elite.


Hollywood, the ultimate Cool Kid’s Club, is made up of a select group of what is promised to be the most beautiful, talented and incredibly lucky of all humans. There is arguably no group whose social membership is more exclusive.

Of course, there will inevitably be a few anomalies that happen to slip in from time to time but not unlike Saved by the Bell’s vanishing character Tori Scott, they are usually destined to be temporary and disappear without even deserving a Where Are They Now? episode.

Though the structure of the inner circle is mirrored almost identically in Hollywood and fictional high schools, there lies a key difference. On TV, the Cool Kids control everything and everyone. But in Hollywood, we, the common folk, the street plebs, the consumers of this neo-intrusive culture we’ve created, so incredibly on the outside, have become the dictators of the Ultimate Cool Kids. This is not to say that celebrity culture has no hold on us. They may govern our behaviours, obsessions, inspirations, idealizations and essentially how we consume humans as products, but we tell them how to dress, what roles to take, what parts of their lives are fabricated (and what fabrications we indulge in), how much of their lives are actually theirs, not to mention who is popular when. While some may argue that there is something wrong with this relationship, most have indulged too much to have any footing in an anti-celebrity culture debate.

We do ask a lot of celebrities. We ask that they be “on” all the time; that they be versions of themselves we’ve pushed onto them. We ask them to make performing a round-the-clock career.  Their sound bites, interviews, characters, scandals, tabloid headlines, tweets and instagrams give us bits and pieces of people that we’ve convinced ourselves we know. We’re very enthralled with these small glimpses, mistaking them for the whole thing.

Essentially, we’ve required them to behave like fictitious characters while still demanding that they portray an “authentic” self to allow the aforementioned plebs – us –  an opportunity to identify. But when they actually do derive from banality, offering us a version of themselves that isn’t solely manufactured by public relations agents or anyone controlling their image, we question them, reject them, demonize them or hyper-consume their idiosyncrasies in anticipation of a mental illness.

We’re making constructs out of people and hoping that they fit into those nice little boxes we’ve mapped out for them. While the idea of celebrity and the individuals themselves may differ in meaning to different people, there is an inarguable grand importance to the way we interact with Hollywood. We are obsessed with both our disdain and our admiration.

The goal of celebrity is to be liked. People make entire careers on the bet that they will be liked by a mass amount of people for a number of years through many different projects. We’ve turned an art into a business where the currency is acceptance.

This, coupled with the high school-esque structure of Hollywood, has positioned the celebrities with the most mass appeal similarly to the head cheerleaders of the TV hallways. For celebrity to work, you need to want to be them, whether outwardly or subconsciously.

We’ve placed a moratorium on authenticity where, not entirely of their own fault, celebrities are required to adopt these personas that give them the best chance for longevity of being liked.

The easiest formula for this is to emulate the structure that has continuously proven itself, at least on TV. Celebrities well over 30 play high school teenagers, and we let them, because they are so used to adopting that persona in the first place. No one is presented as more admired than the typical TV head cheerleader.

When celebrities stray from this persona, it makes it hard for us to believe that this is really them. This is true of all oddball celebrities (or child star-turned pizza enthusiasts) like Macaulay Culkin, Shia LaBeouf, Joaquin Phoenix, Michael Cera, Kristen Stewart and other Hollywood weirdos who fail to perform the singular trope of celebrity we’ve craftily created.


It’s not hard to imagine that these weirdo celebrities were once weirdo high school kids with awkward smiles and big dreams. While I’m not arguing that Kristen Stewart is the Urkle of Hollywood, there does exist a handful of celebrities who remind us more of One Tree Hill’s Marvin “Mouth” McFadden than Beverly Hills, 90210’s Brandon Walsh. They represent the same sentiment reproduced in shows, the idea that life does get better after high school. The season three One Tree Hill quote from *that* episode even says that “the artists, and the scientists, and the poets…none of them fit in at seventeen. You’re supposed to get past it.”

It’s not hard to imagine that most of Hollywood ruled the hallways with an iron fist, or at least were not without a date on Friday nights. The popular kids became popular celebrities. This has made our version of Hollywood look a singular way. We keep recreating this idea of the Hollywood celebrity. Usually white, usually fit, always gorgeous. We position them similarly to the high school narrative: blonde, complex women or dark, brooding men.  

If Hollywood is high school, the awards shows are prom. In the rarity that an off-brand Hollywood celebrity manages to squeak through to nomination, we coin them the “underdog,” like with Jesse Eisenberg’s 2011 nom for The Social Network.

The “underdogs” are mostly celebrities that give us the most candid snippets of who they really are. An awkward interview here, self-depreciating joke there, and instantly, they undermine everything we know about the Hollywood structure.

Perhaps this is why it’s so easy for us to believe that Michael Cera is a jerk, Kristen Stewart is being fake when she’s awkward or Shia Labeouf is trying too hard. Sure, they actually might be those things, but it’s much easier for us to assume that they are or that they’re playing a part because they belong to a social class they were never supposed to. But sometimes, kids who eat paste just become well-adjusted albeit still awkward adults who used to eat paste. Weird kids grow up to have families, full-time jobs, responsibilities, and sometimes, celebrity.

The weirdo celebrities fit in almost neatly into television’s, and also film’s, idea of the outcast. They are awkward, off-beat and sometimes just really strange. If Kristen Stewart was the star of a 90s high school movie, she would constantly teeter on the edge of tripping in front of her crush and the glasses-off-hair-down makeover that would alert the entire high school body that weird girls, can indeed, be pretty. But instead, they are heroines and main characters, attending red carpet events and getting (or trying to get) the girl/guy/goal in every project.


This trend has resulted in a reverence for inauthenticity and “spin.” This doesn’t mean that celebrities are being fake all the time; rather, that they are always conscious of what their brand has to be.

Brad Pitt might be more marketable than Joaquin Phoenix and Shailene Woodley might have talked about homemade deodorant one too many times but the freaks, geeks, weirdos, nerds and dorks are needed in order to achieve equilibrium. They may be the most authentic part of Hollywood, even if our initial reaction is to doubt this. The slight Tinsel Town outliers are a nod to the impermanence of social status. They remind us that celebrities, They’re Just Like Us.


Review: ANTI – Rihanna

Review: ANTI – Rihanna

This piece was previously published in The Silhouette

There is nothing conventional about Robyn Rihanna Fenty. It only takes a few notes on her newest album Anti for that reminder to set in. “I got to do things my own way,” Rihanna warns in the opening song “Consideration.” This has always been her legacy. More than anything else, Rihanna has consistently come across as real. On Instagram, she positioned herself as a self-governing force with an affinity for blunts and middle fingers. This is the version of Rihanna we came to know — the one who played by her own rules and did so with endless bravado and confidence.

At the same time, she became a hit-making algorithm pumping out songs for neon lights and sweaty last calls. And we danced to it, because it was good. We spent our Friday and Saturday nights with Rihanna bumping to one of her 13 number-one singles. She became the pop star we wanted her to be because she did it brilliantly.

But until now it just didn’t completely feel like the Rihanna we had been shown. Anti, Rihanna’s eighth studio album, feels more like the artist behind the hitmaker, the authentic Rihanna.

It’s not what we expected. If her last seven albums were flashing lights and booze-soaked adventures, Anti is a solo Friday at home with a bottle of wine. It works, because it’s good. With the possible exception of “Work” featuring Drake, this album is devoid of any club bangers. Those songs were for us. Anti is for Rihanna.


Floating between soul, rock, r&b, and pop, Anti never fully commits to one genre. The grainy, blues adjacent “Higher” sounds like a drunken plea from a scrubbed Rihanna. Each note of “Desperado” drips with the fuck-you attitude she has worked to perfection. The likely hit of the album, “Kiss It Better,” shows introspection absent in past songs. But the most obvious example is Rihanna’s cover of Tame Impala’s “New Person, Same Old Mistakes.” Rihanna lends her voice to a genre not usually belonging to her, echoing instead of re-imagining the song completely.

With the exception of “Work” featuring Drake, this album is devoid of any club bangers. Those songs were for us. Anti is for Rihanna.

While always present on some level, this version of Rihanna hasn’t fully been exposed. There is a confidence in self, an underlying Bad Gal quality to the album that seems more like the yacht partying and blunts in bathrobes versions of her. These are the type of songs that couldn’t have been written for anyone else.

The Rihanna who tweeted “I’m crazy, and I don’t pretend to be anything else” seems very present singing “Tryna fix your inner issues with a bad bitch / Didn’t they tell you that I was a savage / Fuck your white horse and a carriage,” on “Needed Me.”

This album feels like a glimpse at the inner workings of Rihanna’s brain. The off-camera version. From front to back, Anti tells the story of self-exploration, growing up, and coming full circle. With the album already platinum, the understated Anti is Rihanna’s biggest statement yet.

Free the nipple and your gender politics

Free the nipple and your gender politics

In addition to pay gap, catcalling, and general gender discrimination, women-identified folks often have to deal with body policing. From the minute we step out into public, we must be conscious of our body presentation. Are we wearing too much? Are we not wearing enough? Is anything see-through? Are we asking for it? Do we even know what “it” is?

Although fashion is meant to be an extension of identity, women are far too often forced to reconcile the difference between their private and public selves, often choosing to look “presentable” instead of feeling comfortable. The remark “you look comfy” used to make me scrutinize my outfit choice and wonder if it was appropriate for public – as if style and comfort should not go hand in hand. Even though I find myself shopping more frequently in the “male” section of clothing stores, my gender expression can range from overtly feminine, in the normative sense, to androgynous. The complexities between gender, identity, and fashion have forced me to reevaluate my standards of body presentation and wonder why I care about society’s discomfort.

I rarely wear a bra; in fact, the only times that I find myself choosing to put on the cotton equivalent of boob jail is for professionalism or when I feel uncomfortable not wearing one. I’ve also not held a razor to my armpits or my legs since the summer, mainly because I can’t be bothered, somewhat because I’m trying to stick it to “the man”. These actions first resulted either accidentally or out of laziness, but now, my active rebellion and abstention from these societal mandates have resulted in me feeling more in tune with my femininity and less gendered simultaneously.

While societal pressures result in some people getting up hours early to perfect their look, I prefer to sleep until the last possible minute, get up, get ready, and get out the door. Of course, there is nothing wrong with wanting to put time into your appearance, but I wasn’t getting any satisfaction from robotically doing what I felt like I needed to in order to feel desirable according to society’s standards. The first time I went without a bra, a result of a late wake-up and me still being half asleep, I felt exhilarated. After I spent the first half of the day walking like The Hunchback of Notre Dame, I relaxed and even felt pride walking.

Through my adventures in gendered rebellion, I realized that feeling proud and being able to walk tall despite the stares was what I had been aiming for since middle school. Deciding to go razor free and braless had less to do with me wanting to appear as a wild feminist, which I am, and more with comfort I found with my body. Once I decided to make like Rage Against the Machine and take the power back, I felt pride in being an owner of cleavage (kind of), areolas, and nipples. I recognize the small-boob privilege in being able to walk without a bra and only illicit a few stares, but this is the problem with society. Breasts are arguably the single most policed body part. Society says when, how, whose, how much, and in what contexts cleavage, areolas, and nipples should be shown. As long as they are small and perky, noticeable nipples are fine but anything bigger should be covered up. Mentalities like this are rooted in shame of the female body, a form that was once highly celebrated in art, literature, and society.

This journey has been constant self-exploration and a test in pushing boundaries. I started off wearing sweaters without a bra, which quickly changed to thick shirts, and now I’ve been known to swear chiffon shirts, both opaque and translucent, without a bra. I went from hiding unshaven legs under pants to wearing a floor-length dress with a high slit and shorts with my hairy legs.

Everyone has a different body, and yet, we are given standards of maintenance that are universal among genders. I love making people uncomfortable; hopefully it allows for self-reflection as to the reason for the discomfort. I have been able to appreciate my body in its natural cisgender female-identified state, which I recognize is not the case for everyone, but I have also been able to transcend gender norms that require me to identify as one, and only one, gender.

The fluidity in gender is mirrored in my disdain for standards that require extra effort or discomfort. I can show off my pride for being an owner of breasts, but I can also wear “men’s” shirts without feeling like my body wasn’t made for them. Not shaving my legs has saved me a ton of money and time, made me feel like a badass body-positive feminist, but it has allowed me to closely align myself to the male form, if I so choose. The expectation in society is that men are to have body hair, thus, this allows me to feel like I’m a part of the boys’ club. Like at any given time, I can lift up my pants and compare my leg hair with the guy next to me.

From undergarments, hair care preferences, and clothing choices, I have decided to value my comfort and choose my own standards of presentation. I realized that I don’t have to do anything I don’t want to do and no one is going to feel the discomfort but me. Sometimes I want to wear dresses and lift my arms up on the dance floor, sometimes I want to wear bow ties and feel ruggedly hairy. But in both these situations, the most important factor is the “I want.” If I’m walking down the street and you notice my bralessness or hairy armpits/legs, try not to stare. What you’re seeing is a sometimes girl/sometimes boy/sometimes both/sometimes neither enjoying the freedom of comfort. My public self is not dictated by normative standards but by my own values of body expression. Fuck it.

Wentworth Gets Real

Wentworth Gets Real

This article was previously published on Indiewire

Imagine a world where none of the rules apply. Justice is delivered via steam press, morality determined by motive, babies and inmates cohabit. That is the world of “Wentworth,” the Australian prison-drama — available on Netflix — stepping up to fill the Litchfield-sized void left after binge-watching “Orange is the New Black.”

On the surface, the similarities between “Orange” and “Wentworth” run deep. Both shows are set in a women’s prison, feature a tough brunette lesbian, a pregnant inmate, smuggling schemes, mother and daughter inmates, a character nicknamed Red, a transgender inmate, and a diverse cast, among other things.

“Wentworth” differs in its portrayal of female inmates and femininity, amplifying the many kinds of female badassery. Where “Orange” shows us that hope can linger despite incarceration, “Wentworth” is a far darker depiction of cynicism masked as realism. Both shows grapple with the ideas of motherhood, circumstances, and the search for purpose. However, the optimism of “Orange” is lost on “Wentworth’s” delineation of what happens when the search for meaning weighs down on a psyche.

For a show populated by women, “Wentworth” is unlike anything we’ve ever seen. It’s gripping, graphic and savage. Women on television are seldom portrayed as violent; mostly billed as tame and maternal, or bitter and bitchy. The women in “Wentworth” are manipulative and vindictive , sometimes to the point of sociopathy. A surge of power is usually accompanied by a breakdown. There is a constant struggle between brutal emotionlessness and compassionate humanity within their prison-addled consciences and warped ethics.

The dedication to vivid storytelling is amplified through the fights, murders, plays for “top dog”, overdoses, blood, vomit, flesh-burning, and other cruel forms of punishment. It’s all shown in pornographic detail. “Wentworth” may have dance parties and close friendships, but there are also hands being smashed by machine weights and stabbings in the shower.

These women challenge every notion of the way women “should” look and act. “Wentworth” delivers a powerful feminist message. This is not a pedantic characterization of women as tameable victims. No one is apologizing for their actions and it is acknowledged that actions cannot be undone. The on-going power struggle is a highly intelligent game, wherein every move is an active, thought-out decision and every takedown is calculated.

“Wentworth” is mainly the story of Bea Smith (Danielle Cormack), a domestically-abused wife who tries to kill her husband by choking his lungs with carbon monoxide, but changes her mind at the last minute. The series follows the meek and broken-down Bea as she tries to survive — inevitably forced to step into an entirely new persona. The only choice in prison is to survive, at any cost. It would be easy to position Bea’s transformation as a corruption, but the irreverent Bea is much more respectable than the once-shaky housewife. Sometimes the lamb has to become the lion in wolf’s clothing.

Read more on Indiewire.com

The 6 God is Redefining Masculinity

The 6 God is Redefining Masculinity

This post was previously published on The Silhouette

It’s not quite clear whether our love for Drake is ironic, some sort of patriotic obligation, or if a Canadian, mixed-race, emotional, TV star-turned-rapper simply beat the odds, rose to the top of the charts and became, in his mind anyway, a legend. Regardless of what you think about his latest feat If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, it’s hard to deny that since his first album, Drake has been subverting stereotypes about masculinity without even trying.

Drake has made himself a successful real-life meme with a loyal fan base by rapping about his feelings.He raps like he finally worked up the nerve to challenge his Forest Hill bully to a freestyle battle, but he drops bangers. Aside from the rare critic who claims that Drake is too “soft,” the hyper-masculine culture of hip-hop has welcomed his r&b/hip-hop hybridity.

While previously, rappers like DMX were saying “Pull out the machete, hack off the limbs/ Bag up the pieces, wipe off the Timbs, Drake is saying “I’m scared that every girl I care for/ Will find a better man and end up happier in the long run.” There’s something refreshing about music that appeals to everyone’s emotions in a way that seems almost brave. He may be the punch line of a lot of jokes, but album sales don’t lie. If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late sold 495,000 copies in three days and debuted at the top of Billboard 200. Drake has proven he doesn’t have to conform to what the rap game has always been. He’s proud to be himself while also showing vulnerability that prevents him from coming across as conceited as Kanye.

It’s hard to categorize Drake as r&b when he is very clearly rapping with hip-hop beats, but our previous disassociation between hip-hop and emotionality makes everyone want to classify Drake in the same genre as Boyz II Men or Usher. Although like Usher, Drake uses his songs as his diary. Hip-hop has always been emotional, but tears came from rapping about past socio-economic struggles, family members, or fallen homies. Now, Drake is rapping about broken hearts and hurt egos.

Drake either has a huge ego or a tiny one. He’s always quick to laugh at himself and is always cool with being the butt of any joke. You can always expect to see an abundance of Drake memes whenever you are on Twitter but increasingly people are using Drake screenshots and quotes to describe their current emotional state. Although a lot of these jokes are posted ironically, the truth in them is obvious. A lot of teenage boys will post jokes about crying and Drake without feeling a shame to admitting the truth in their post. Those posts are a way of acknowledging that men have emotions without making it a huge deal to say so.

It’s such as easy concept but one rarely addressed in pop culture. Men have feelings. There’s a factualness that exists in song writing; you know that Drake is writing from personal experiences, not just from made-up exaggerations that can never be as interpreted as the truth, like in film.

Drake is the one-size-fits-all-artist. He’s appropriate for pre-club turning up, for laid back nights, or for crying and binge-eating after a break up. We’ve gotten to a point where we can take Drake semi-seriously, while still acknowledging that his music gives us the feels. Some could even say that Drake is the male Taylor Swift. If you hurt him, you can be sure he’s going to put it in a song.

The vulnerability of Drake has changed the game of hip-hop and also redefined what it means to be masculine in the hyper-aggressive culture of hip-hop. Emotional storytelling used to only exist in r&b but rappers like Drake make way for a new generation of people who don’t equate masculinity with detachment from emotions.

The verdict is still out on Drake’s likeability, but he does represent something great. Drake just wants to run through the six with his woes, and we’ve come to the place where we can agree that we really do know how that shit go.

Where Art Meets Competition

Where Art Meets Competition

This article was previously published on The Silhouette

The relationship between film and TV is pretty complicated. It’s like that cousin you don’t really get along with but who shares same family members and goes to the same school and has the same friends.

There has always been this overarching need to establish film as an unchanging, cultural phenomenon, even though it doesn’t reflect the cultural or political state of the world. On the television side, there’s a rush to define every decade since the development on TV as the “Golden Age,” or even the “Second Golden Age.”

Don’t get me wrong, this is the Golden Age of television. The Sopranos and The Wire changed the way we watch television completely now, and in the future. Tony Soprano was television’s first unlikeable protagonist, the anti-hero. Of course, a popular phenomenon repurposed into shows like Breaking Bad, Mad Men, and in my opinion, Shameless and The Good Wife as well. In a way that film hasn’t yet grasped, television borrows techniques, styles, and archetypes from other shows but does so with an originality that inevitably results in success. Television is just getting smarter, with shows like FOX’s breakthrough hit Empire and CW’s latina comedy Jane the Virgin proving so.

Television is each piece as a whole while film is the entire whole. To me, film recognizes the art of cinematography in a way that television lacks, and allows you to appreciate the small details that are picked from a concise story. Television is real time—it feels like it’s happening to you. A year is really a year, Christmas is really Christmas; film takes you to the past and future simultaneously, but it never feels present. This isn’t a bad thing; in fact, it’s what makes film so successful as a tool for escapism.

Film is coming off a fantastic year, although some would disagree and the lack of inclusivity was a definite downfall. Last year biopics like The Theory of Everything showed us the details behind prominent figures with a little bit of creative license, with sharp satires like Chris Rock’s Top Five aiming to make social commentary hilarious, and well-written comedies like 22 Jump Street proving that blockbuster comedies could still be funny.

The films that premiered at the 2015 Sundance Festival in January make me excited to love film again. The talent that occupied Park City, UT for the week-long festival lent a hand to making 2015-2016 an unreal film season. Intricate stories, beautiful cinematography, established characters—all the necessities for film to appeal to the public again. That, and social consciousness and intersectionality. Even though 35 percent of films at this year’s Sundance were directed by women, Sundance Institute still recruted Kristin Wiig, Mindy Kaling, Lena Dunham, and Jenji Kohan to fill their Serious Ladies panel celebrating women in comedy. All have written for TV, and with the exception of Wiig, all have a hit show right now –  The Mindy Project,  Girls, and Orange is the New Black, respectively.

It’s clear that television is the more progressive medium, giving well-formulated plotlines to women, people of colour, LGBTQ people, trans* women, and other marginalized identities, while film continues to underrepresent and celebrate privilege. Television mirrors culture, while film idealizes it.

These aren’t arguments trying to prove which is better artistically. The truth is film and television are just different, and it’s a grave injustice to art to try and compare the two. We don’t judge paintings in comparison to sculpture, nor do we judge jazz in comparison to spoken word poetry, yet we judge film in relation to television constantly. As communications students constantly learn, the medium is the message. Film and television have developed their own messages that work to impact everyone differently.

Where Joss Whedon proved a cult following could thrive on TV with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Lars von Trier does cult films like it’s his second nature. Jenji Kohan created a popular, funny, dramatic show by women about women with different kinds of women, while Richard Linklater made history with his 12-year film Boyhood.

Shonda Rhimes’ How to Get Away with Murder is a spin on the crime-mystery genre and shows a dark-skinned woman in her natural hair, but Francis Ford Coppolla changed crime films with The Godfather.

There is no sense in competing; we should really just be grateful that this we live in an age where different kinds of art exist, and celebrate that we’ve gotten to the place where sitting in your living room with pizza enthralled by the TV can be considered art.

The End of Parenthood

The End of Parenthood

This article was previously published on The Silhouette

To me, the highest form of art is being able to make people feel enough that they want to continue engaging for years. In this art form, Jason Katims is one of the greats. From the highly-underrated yet critically-acclaimed Friday Night Lights to one of the best shows I have ever had the pleasure of watching, Parenthood. After six beautiful seasons, Parenthood wrapped up its last ever episode on Jan. 29, 2015. It took an entirety of five minutes for the waterworks to start and they literally continued until the end of the episode.

It’s not necessarily difficult to follow a show through six seasons; it is, however, to remain emotionally invested in one. It’s Katims’ ability to analyze the subtleties in human relationships and accurately portray those intricacies in delicate but true-to-life moments that made Parenthood so watchable. Without being too “after-school special,” it revealed what is of most importance in life: love, relationships, forgiveness, openness and family. Each episode served as a reminder of what appreciation feels like without coming across as if it was selling something. After each episode I had an overwhelming urge to call my parents, just to talk.

sarah amber

The secret behind Parenthood was its ability to stay small-scale and capture the intimate moments behind human interaction instead of trying to say too much. It was honest storytelling based around characters who felt as the best written versions of themselves. T to the writers, the Bravermans were a real family. Single parenthood, PTSD, military relationships, autism, breast cancer, adoption, adultery, divorce, separation and other typical drama storylines were all present in Parenthood but it wasn’t just interested in presenting a cookie-cutter version. There is a moment in the series where Julia Braverman reveals she doesn’t feel love towards her adopted son yet. This statement, although most likely felt by a lot of new adoptive parents, has rarely been expressed in television. Instead, adoption is usually portrayed as an instant click and a immediate sense of certainty.

Parenthood is easy to dismiss, solely based on the premise. Family dramas, especially ensemble dramas, have the habit of skimming the surface of half-baked conflicts that never reflect the gravity of the same problem in real-life. Of course, when looking at the show critically, it’s important to recognize that the Bravermans were not the “every-family” – they were white, upper-middle class and Berkeley liberal – but the show still felt so personal because it replicated the moments that actually define relationships. Anyone with a close relationship whether friendly or familial knows that it’s not when having a perfect night with spot-on life advice that you realize how much you love your dysfunctional group, it’s when you find yourself fighting about decade old irrelevancies or doing the funky chicken with your siblings after a few bottles of wine. Not every family has to be as large or as close or as present as the Bravermans; sometimes your family is biological and sometimes your family is chosen, but they always represent your purest experience of love.

parenthood dance

Despite having all the markers of an ABC Family drama, Parenthood dodged the holier-than-thou moral absolutism that tends to litter family dramas. Occasionally young people smoked, occasionally middle-aged parents smoked and no one had the worst night of their lives because they got a little high. In fact, no one was scolded, reprimanded or given a lecture about the dangers of marijuana or for having an abortion, or for any of the other things that just happen with life. You learn and you grow and you make decisions based on your own world outlook and Parenthood respected this fact over and over again.

One key feature of Parenthood is its sentimentality that’s due to remembering the beauty in the emotions of a certain situation and that is a true rarity. It had the wit, the cinematography, the character development and most importantly, the feels, to be the potential game-changer. Shows like Brothers and Sisters, not based around people doing something or around a specific plot line, shows that just exist to show how people feel in large, encompassing facets of life like family, are dwindling.

There’s no narrative hook in family dramas, and perhaps society’s diminishing attention span and growing restlessness has resulted in a need for more action, or at least potential for action. The end of Parenthood arguably marks the end of family dramas.

There’s lies a real gap in this type of programming. ABC Family is perhaps the last network to do this, with The Fosters, which I think has the potential to be up there in the family drama Hall of Fame, but lacks an edge to each storyline. It’s heart-warming but perhaps a little naïve, most likely due to the lack of adult storylines other than Stef, Mike and Lena. But even The Fosters have a (much-needed) hook of an interracial lesbian couple raising a mixed houseful of adopted, biological and foster children.

Parenthood might just be the last ensemble drama that we ever see, most definitely the last we see with actual substance. But, why?  It had the potential to save NBC in a time where they were desperately in need but it failed. Perhaps it was because of the crappy time slots it was always given – always pitted behind two awful shows and having to contend with Shondaland Thursdays – or maybe it was just the sheer cost of having a large, marketable cast. Despite a loyal fan base, decent ratings and better writing – much better than some shows that continued to get renewed without improvement (thinking of you New Girl) —  Parenthood was continuously stuck in renewal purgatory after every season.

NBC was once at the top of its game, with shows like Cheers, Seinfeld, Friends and 30 Rock, so Parenthood seemed like an absolute knockout. Just looking at what happened to Community, a show loved by anyone who ever watched it, it’s easy to understand NBC’s tumultuous relationship with good but under-appreciated television.

I don’t know if it’s possible to have another ensemble show where every actor can hold their own, especially one as well-written as Parenthood. Indiewire noted that TV is moving from sincerity to sarcasm and this is definitely true. TV is also favouring the anti-hero and the superhero over families. Shows like Mad Men, The Good Wife and Breaking Bad repeatedly clean(ed) up at the awards but despite being left out of the big award shows repeatedly, albeit deservedly. Parenthood held its own despite being left out of the awards conversation, the only exception being Monica Potter’s 2014 Golden Globe and Jason Ritter’s Emmy nominations.

Ensemble dramas that center around a grand theme instead of twists and turns have no place in television anymore. As sad as this may be, it doesn’t mean that there is a lack of great television available. In fact, there is arguably more amazing television now than ever before, it’s just different. So, in celebration of Katims’ six-season run and The Bravermans’ last call, pour one out for shows like Brothers and Sisters,Gilmore Girls, Friday Night Lights, and the now-controversial 7th Heaven (minus Stephen Collins, because ew). We’ll always be Team Braverman forever.

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