This Is Us and Me Too
Now that the first season of "This Is Us" is over, I need to talk about it. We've all been watching, right? If you haven't, I need you to do a couple of things. First, re-evaluate your life's priorities. Then head over to NBC.com and start watching from the beginning. You won't regret it. And then you can join us back here to unpack a few things. You can stay and read now, but I can't be held responsible for spoilers.
"This Is Us" had me hooked from the first trailer, even though it was so vague I didn't really know what the show was about. But it was enough to make me set a calendar reminder for the pilot, and it was a done deal after that. One of the things I love about this show is that it seems to have something for everyone. The overarching story is fantastic, but I think each of us has a little piece of the story arc with which we connect more personally. And I love that it's different for everyone. I'm sure parents can relate to Jack and Rebecca's story, or maybe even William's. Issues of race and complex family dynamics make Randall the star for some, and others may connect to Kevin's soul-searching, coming-of-age story. For me, it's Kate, played by the amazing Chrissy Metz.
Kate is a 36-year-old single woman making her way through life, finding her purpose, and navigating relationships with her family and her love interest Toby (Chris Sullivan). And...she's overweight. Like, not a little bit chubby. Not "she could afford to lose a few pounds" overweight. She's big. Like me. That's not something you see very often, so I immediately zeroed in on Kate's story.
I'm not used to seeing overweight women in leading roles, and I'm certainly not used to the issues of weight being explored in a way that I relate to so deeply. Kate is not there for comedic effect. She's not the butt of fat jokes. Her character has depth, and we get to see the ways that she struggles and triumphs while dealing with her weight. Throughout the season Kate's story, more often than not, has been like looking in a mirror.
However, I've seen some articles recently (like this one) that criticize the role of Kate's weight in her story. They believe Kate is too "stereotypical," and that the writers reduce her character to just the weight issue. They say it's not realistic.
Here's the thing. When you are fat---and have been your entire life---the issue of weight comes up. A lot. Are there overweight people who go about their daily lives without thinking about it? Perhaps, but I'm not one of them. I've been working really hard lately to change the way I view my own body (more on that later), and let me tell you, there's a lot to work through. Weight is not just a physical issue. Especially when you've struggled with it for so long, it's really a mental game. For many of us, there's a constant, nagging feeling that you NEED to lose weight. Or thinking that you'll finally be able to do or accomplish certain things if you could just get the weight off. Or wondering how your life might be different if you weren't fat. Trust me, for a lot of us, it's on our minds.
Because of that, being overweight can create insecurities that surface in ALL areas of your life, as we see played out in Kate's story. Her family life, her relationships, and even her career have all been affected by her weight (or how she feels about it), and that's completely legitimate. Seeing a character on television share so many of my experiences has been both refreshing and validating for me. So while critics may say that Kate's character is not realistic because there's too much focus on her weight, I say thank you to the writers and to Chrissy for giving us a character that exposes some of the often hidden issues that many people face.
One of my favorite parts of Kate's story is her relationship with Toby. (I call them Katoby. Feel free to steal that. Make it a thing.) For starters, I love that a character like Kate is for once given a legitimate love story. More than that, I love that Kate chooses to be with Toby. She's not with him because he's her only option (go away, Duke). She's not with him because she needs to be in a relationship. She's not even with him throughout the whole season. At one point, she chooses to do what is best for her---break up with Toby---rather than staying in a relationship that is not healthy for her (but I'm so glad they're back on now). Her relationship with Toby exists because she not only deserves love, but also chooses it on her own terms. That is important for women to see---especially women who struggle with insecurity for any reason.
Another thing that is important for us to see is that we're all a little crazy. I about died when Kate has a little bit of a meltdown when she realizes that Toby's ex-wife is hot. I don't know if it's a fat woman thing or just a woman thing, but that was SPOT ON. Though I'm not proud of it, I had a similar experience in my last relationship. After a little "investagramming" (you know, "investigating" via Instagram), I found out that my then-boyfriend's ex was SUPER attractive. And skinny. And I was not having it.
I mean, how dare he have dated a hot woman before I even knew he existed? If that was the kind of woman he wanted, why was he with me? What was the end game? Was I some kind of joke to him? Yes, those were my real thoughts. I knew it was crazy. That's why I never said it out loud to anyone. But I also thought I was probably the only crazy person who had ever felt like this. Seeing it portrayed on television was a moment of glory for me. I might have been crazy, but I wasn't alone. And sometimes that's all you need to know.
Maybe it's silly to dig so much into a fictional character, but whether it's in real life or on television, everyone needs a Kate. Everyone needs someone whose experiences mirror their own. Everyone needs to see a journey that looks like theirs. And everyone needs someone who makes it okay to you say your crazy things out loud. At this point, I'll take my "me too" wherever I can find it, and it's honestly pretty fun to find it on the best show on television. Now, if I could just find my Toby too, I'd be all set! (Let's just agree not to tell him about my investagramming, okay?)