Monday, February 25, 2013

I’ll Be Right Here - Part IV

Parenthood Season 4, Episode 6 – “I’ll Be Right Here” [Original air date: Oct. 23, 2012]
Part IV

I hope you have enjoyed my ‘live’-blogging. Here is my fourth and final post for this episode:

Why do we do the things we do? Our decisions don’t just affect us, but affect everyone around us. Sometimes we forget that our actions can have consequences beyond those just seen by the decision maker. Sarah forces Drew to move (again), and this time to Mark’s place. When she decided to move up the moving date she really didn’t take Drew’s feelings or thoughts into consideration, making him move in the middle of his senior year of high school, and not discussing it with him beforehand. While Mark tries really hard to reach out and connect with Drew, Drew fails to understand that ‘what Drew does doesn’t just affect Drew.’ In a way Drew is a hypocrite, complaining about the very thing he is also taking part in, but this is rather a realistic concept many families deal with and it’s a situation which causes great personal development. Crosby, a secular individual, immerses himself in the act of prayer with Jasper. Crosby wants to better connect with Jasper, and whether you like or dislike what someone does it is always a good idea to respect and try to understand another person’s decisions. In this case Jasper is more religious and Crosby is a tad intrigued to know how “the whole talking to God thing works.” Similar to the role reversal we saw earlier with Amber and Ryan, we see another role reversal here: Father and son practically switch places – the teacher becomes the student and the student becomes the teacher. And like many non-religious folks out there, Crosby shows that he’s not sure who to turn to during a time of crisis when he has little to no control over the outcome (i.e. sickness). Even though our actions could be wrong, are we doing the right things if we have the good of others as our driving force? Adam and Kristina basically lied to Haddie when they told her Kristina was now cancer-free. Parents are constantly looking out for their children’s future, keeping their children’s best interest at heart. I’m a believer in education and think staying in school is a good idea – it appears Adam and Kristina agree. They did what they did because they want Haddie to stay in school, but once you tell little white lie it could become easier to tell larger lies down the road.

I’ll Be Right Here - Part III

Parenthood Season 4, Episode 6 – “I’ll Be Right Here” [Original air date: Oct. 23, 2012]
Part III
My ‘live’-blogging for this episode continues. Here is post three of four:

Amber and Ryan have become the new ‘it’ couple. Sure, they aren’t officially a couple yet, but it appears they are on their way to becoming one. Call me a helpless romantic, and a sucker for Hollywood love stories and Disneyesqu storylines, but the relationship I see budding between these two lovebirds makes me feel a little giddy. The awkwardness between Amber and Ryan brings me back to my middle school years, but also stands as a reminder to viewers that this awkward time period at the start of almost all relationships is practically inevitable so we should embrace it. Ryan is super nervous to ask Amber out on a date and Amber is sweet and shocked, almost taking on the role of the wallflower (interesting, because actress Mea Whitman was in Stephen Chbosky's 'The Perks of Being a Wallflower'). Ryan tells us that life isn’t about winning or losing, but about the journey (Cliché? Maybe. But true? Without a doubt.). This fits in nicely with a phrase Adam told Sarah earlier in this episode: “You should do what feels good; life is short.” For Ryan, what feels good is the getting to know Amber, and taking things slow. While people often rush into things, Ryan shows us that it is alright to take some time to make sure you get it right. It’s as if Amber and Ryan reversed gender roles from what Hollywood and society tell us is the “normal” way of doing things. While Amber may have wanted to physically dive right in, Ryan looks to take the old-school approach to dating and explore his sensitive and emotional side. All guys could probably learn something from how Ryan acts in this episode.

I’ll Be Right Here - part II

Parenthood Season 4, Episode 6 – “I’ll Be Right Here” [Original air date: Oct. 23, 2012]
Part II

I am ‘live’-blogging while watching this episode for the first time. Here is post two of four:

Max Braverman’s view on Asperger’s: “Some people say that having Asperger’s can be a bad thing, but I’m glad I have it, because I think it’s my greatest strength.” Max’s student council presidency speech was truly inspiring, showing charisma, courage, and family love. Whether Max knew it or not, it was in this moment where Haddie felt that she was fulfilling her older sibling duty, knowing she was where she belonged and that she had a purpose, at least for a short while. Finding purpose in life can be one of the most difficult things to do (The writers of the musical Avenue Q made it a main theme of their show, and even titled one of the show’s musical numbers “Purpose.”). It was during Max’s speech where viewers were able to get inside Max’s head for a brief minute and really get a taste of what it is like to be living with Asperger’s Syndrome. Though this show is scripted, an actor shows great skill when he is able to not just recite the memorized words and fulfill his job of being an actor playing a character, but rather becoming that character and taking on the difficult task of being a truth-teller. As Max told us, those with Asperger’s have a difficult time saying hello and looking people in the eye, but they are smart, have great memories, and always keep their promises. Max’s presidential race was rooted in the concept of bringing back the vending machines to Cedar Knoll Middle School, not unlike the way William Henry Harrison’s (hero at the Battle of Tippecanoe) and John Tyler’s political platform in the 1840 United States Presidential Election: “Tippecanoe and Tyler Too.” Yet with Max, we learned all about tenacity and the positive aspects which come with it.

I’ll Be Right Here - Part I

Parenthood Season 4, Episode 6 – “I’ll Be Right Here” [Original air date: Oct. 23, 2012]
Part I

For this particular episode I’ll be ‘live’-blogging over the course of about an hour as I watch the episode for the first time. Here is post one of four:

The way people emotionally and physically react to the situations life throws at them can say a great deal about their character. Still, reactions are often like reflexes and therefore there is little we can do to stop or alter them sometimes. We cannot help ourselves when we are overcome with a certain amount of adrenaline which our body chooses to expend in ways others may have a difficult time dealing with. Our innate reactions to want o help someone through hard times, though it can be bothersome at first, is most certainly appreciated at the end of the day. The desire to assist in any way possible shows a sense of love and caring. In this episode everyone wants to help Adam and Kristina to the point where it almost creates some comic relief for the viewer: Haddie gets caught up in the moment she starts talking about taking a semester or year off from college, Julia crates a spreadsheet with two-hour time blocks to schedule hospital visiting time for individual family members, and Crosby is assigned to take Otis to the dog park and to pick up dinner; you can almost sense something is bound to go wrong.

Monday, February 18, 2013

There’s Something I Need to Tell You…

Parenthood Season 4, Episode 5 – “There’s Something I Need to Tell You…” [Original air date: Oct. 9, 2012]

Somewhere someone is doing something right when it comes to the show Parenthood. I
squealed with excitement, muttered the word “What?” under my breath with shock, smiled with happiness, and cried my eyes out with uncontrollable emotion, all during this single 44-minute episode. Not sure if I should thank Patrick Norris who directed this particular episode, Jason Katims who wrote it, or the cast who brought the story alive; perhaps it was a collective effort. Regardless, this episode of Parenthood is bold, and appears to be both a turning point for the show’s storyline, as well as a major steppingstone for character development among many of the Braverman family members.

Finding a work life-family life balance is nearly impossible, and viewers get a glimpse here at how work can interfere with some of our other priorities. Work can be overwhelming to the point where you literally feel as if you’re being pushed over the edge, causing yourself to reach your breaking point. This seems to be the case with Julia and her job at the law firm. No one is superhuman, though many of us may try to be. Julia’s quest for perfection, along with her “I can do it all” mentality, becomes too much; a feeling many can probably relate to. She misses Sydeny’s recital, leaves Victor’s baseball game early, and hasn’t been able to fully tell Joel what’s been bothering her. Julia’s struggle is a great example of how work can cause us to worry: If I mess up I can lose my job, I need to please “the man,” I have deadlines which must be met, my mistakes could cause this company to fail, I could be the reason this company gets sued, I can’t focus on family because I need to do these assignments for work, etc. Julia’s struggle is also an example of how you have the power to change your own life: if you’re unhappy you can – and should – do something about it.

Work provides us with financial stability. However, when our family life changes our work paychecks don’t always change in the same fashion. Keeping a family together and raising children costs a whole lot of “cheddar,” and making that cheddar or asking for more can be difficult. Crosby understands, like many working individuals, that no one wants to have to live paycheck-to-paycheck. Work can also change our romantic relationships, as seen in Sarah’s ordeal with co-worker/boss Hank. When other options knock at your door, particularly options which may intrigue you, you might second guess personal decisions. Vulnerability is seen throughout this episode, and though many people may fear being vulnerable, it is sometimes when we learn the most about ourselves and those around us.

It has been said that “distance makes the heart grow fonder,” but sometimes distance is too much to handle. Haddie, much like Julia, cannot focus on her work because of what is happening at home. In Haddie’s case, it is learning her mother has cancer and feeling helpless because she I so far away from home. Ryan just came back from Afghanistan – he was removed from reality, physically and mentally, and is now struggling to readjust after being distant for some time: “I’m sick of people looking at me like I’m a veteran, like there’s something wrong with me, like its broken or something. I don’t want to be a veteran, I’m just Ryan.” No one is alone in this world, no matter how alone we may feel at times. Parenthood reminds us about caring and love, and how important it is to show you care about and love those who matter most in your life. Whether it is because these people are part of your family or because you want to be there to help these individuals through tough times, everyone deserves to have some kind of support system. Zeek takes Ryan under his wing, and the Braverman family comes together for Victor during his baseball game. The theme of caring through love comes full-circle when Kristina shares about her cancer diagnosis. It is so easy to let other things like work get in the way of being there for your family. Perhaps we just need to practice being present and remind ourselves to say “I love you” a little more often. We are only human, but we cannot lose track of what we value most.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Talk

Parenthood Season 4, Episode 4 – “The Talk” [Original air date: Oct. 2, 2012]

Communication is the key to a successful relationship. When we have trouble properly communicating, or if we fail to effectively communicate – not sharing how we feel, purposely withholding information – relationships which otherwise would flourish, or relationships with great potential, suddenly hit a rough patch. Communication is based off understanding, awareness, and connection. Unless two people are on the same page, they are unlikely to fully understand each other. If one person in a relationship is more or less aware of the other in the relationship, it shows that the two parties are bringing varying levels of effort to the table. No relationship is perfect, because if it were life experience would never allow those in the relationship to learn and grow. Therefore it takes personal desire and natural chemistry to connect two people in a bond that may at times feel like perfection. When understanding, awareness, and connection are aligned communication is a given, but as we see in this episode of Parenthood, finding this alignment is far from easy, especially when trying to communicate with those of a different age level.

The world is quite different today from when our parents grew up, yet a great deal is similar even if people do not always see it this way. Joel and Julia desperately want their son Victor to get out and do something fun and physical where he meets and interacts with others kids, as Victor is quite stubborn, not fully adapted since being adopted, and basically plays videogames all day long, perhaps because he feels very much in his comfort zone while doing so. Technology is a barrier parents all over have to deal with when trying to communicate with their children, and parents may never understand the videogame craze of this generation – Radio City Music Hall’s Christmas Spectacular even added a technology and videogame component to its famous holiday show this past Christmas season. Joel tries to find common ground with Victor by introducing him to a hobby he grew up loving: baseball. But nothing comes easy, especially when trying something new. Parenthood shows the struggle a child faces while being the odd-ball-out, and it sheds light on the often hard to deal with situation of raising a child which isn’t biologically yours. The line “You’re not my real Dad” is never something a stepfather, foster father, or adoptive father wants to hear, but the reality he probably will hear it as both kids and parents have a hard time finding where they belong and how they define “family.” Until it is realized that family does not have to mean blood-related, tension is bound to get in the way of allowing relationships to fully blossom.

We all know people who constantly put others before themselves. This is great, but these people often lose out and fail to take care of themselves. Physical and mental health is extremely important, and it is not selfish to put yourself first every now and then. Kristina is forever putting her family before herself, as many parents do. However, what good are you to your family and kids if you are no longer there? We are not the Energizer Bunny, and we will eventually breakdown if we do not give ourselves a break and treat ourselves once in a while. Kristina wants to be there for her son Max. Adam is concerned though, as Kristina puts dealing with Max’s Asperger’s in front of trying to beat her breast cancer. As a parent though, there is really only so much you can do before you give up your life and stop fully living. Max needed 25 signatures in order to be eligible to run for student council. What is challenging for one person may seem like nothing to someone else. Max got 25 “signatures,” yet some students didn’t actually sign their name, but wrote inappropriate or offensive slurs instead. One student wrote “Retard” on the signature line, making fun of Max’s handicap. Parenthood arguably joins the “R-Word” Campaign in the episode, and the pledge to Spread the Word to End the Word. Adam and Kristina really can’t talk to Max about this, as he won’t understand, but they struggle to decide on whether or not Max should still run for student council. Getting those signatures, whether they were actual signatures or not, was a huge effort on Max’s part. Would Adam and Kristina be setting their son up for failure by letting him run? Is it wrong to let kids learn to lose? When do we let go of their hands and allow them to fail on their own? Do the answers to these questions change if the child in question has a mental disability? Many questions are raised here. Max’s teacher advises against letting him run, telling Kristina that it’s hard for a “kid like Max,” implying that it’s hard or someone with a disability to be like the other kids, to do what they other kids do, and to be accepted as normal.

Crosby is white and Jasmine is back, making their son Jabbar biracial. This episode of Parenthood dives into the loaded topic of race, the differences between whites and blacks, and playing the race-card. Do blacks and whites not understand each other? Will they, or can they ever understand each other? How we think and speak about race legally versus socially is like oil and vinegar. The conversation of race is brought up thanks to music. Music, especially in today’s world, uses all types of violet, foul, and offensive language. Though this may not be the most ideal way of a child being exposed to these topics, sometimes this is how our children are exposed to more “adult” language. Perhaps we can think of foul language, and the definitions of words, to be like the topic of “sex” – if kids are old enough to ask about it, they are probably old enough to know a little about it. Would this be shattering our children’s innocents? Maybe. But as Jasmines sees it, she’d rather have her kid hear it from her first, before he hears it from someone else. Today’s world almost leads itself to forcing children into growing up faster and leaving their childhoods behind (rather opposite of the Peter Pan and Never Neverland teachings), and it isn’t until later in life where we wish we could get back your carefree childhood mentalities.

Parents cannot possibly understand and relate to everything their children are going to experience. Because of things like race, gender, ability, background, and age differences, no two people are the same. We are all different, and may all feel helpless at times. Crosby mentions that he felt “invisible” when Jasmine spoke to Jabbar about the N-word, saying he could not relate and was scared he would not be able to relate to other aspects of his son’s life in the future. We learn of this after Crosby tells Jasmine he had nothing to add to Jasmine’s talk to Jabbar. This is not unlike Adam’s situation where he had a hard time telling Kristina he didn’t want her to push back her operation; through these two storylines we see the importance of communication in a relationship. Though it is a relationship outside the Braverman family, Hank has to deal with trying to connect with his daughter Ruby even though he and Ruby’s mother are separated. Divorce puts a great deal of strain on a family, and all relationships related to that family. With the help of Sarah, Hank is able to reconnect with Ruby, even if Ruby is entering her teenage years, feeling she needs more independence, and thinking she wants less parental guidance. Not forcing your children to do anything they don’t want to do, and letting them be themselves is a strong message from Joel in this episode of Parenthood. Doing things you’ve never done before takes a sense of courage and bravery; no one likes being “the new kid.” Victor’s baseball storyline and Max’s run for student council president are very similar in this sense. We all strive to be normal, but what is normal anyways? We all look to assimilate in order to fit in and feel accepted. But as Parenthood brings to our attention: maybe we can be something different; something new.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Everything Is Not Okay

Parenthood Season 4, Episode 3 – “Everything Is Not Okay” [Original air date: Sept. 25, 2012

Nothing is forever and life is not fair. These two ideas seem to be an overarching theme in this particular episode of Parenthood. In the midst of unfair lives and coming to terms with the fact the things change over time and unexpectedly come and go, we can all do ourselves a favor if we practice open communication with those around us. “I’m going to be alright – then again, you never know what’s going to happen,” Zeek says to Adam in regards to his newly diagnosed heart condition. Adam’s reply: “I guess not.” We have no control over most things in life, yet it seems we spend the majority of our lives fussing over the aspects of life we cannot change. Sure, we can make certain decisions now which should theoretically set us up for a better, less stressful, more lucrative, happier, and fulfilling life down the road, but it is impossible to know what the future holds since nothing is guaranteed and anything can change at any given moment. As seen with the Braverman family, realizing all of this can be an emotional rollercoaster ride. This realization is not supposed to cause us to give up and leave life completely in the hands of fate, but to make life a little more manageable.

Cancer doesn’t discriminate, your boss at work may take his/her anger out on you even though you have nothing to do with the problem, and vending machines at school can be removed and not replaced no matter how upset you become. Kristina is scared, and rightfully so. She has no idea what the future of her cancer diagnosis may bring, and it takes a lot of effort to tell Adam that she does not want him being so positive all the time. Positive thoughts can only go so far, as sometimes we are forced to face reality. The average breast cancer survival rate is five to ten years; Adam and Kristina help viewers realize that there is no need to sugarcoat our lives. We often fail to see how good we have it until “it” is threatened to be taken away, and then suddenly we’re hit with the rude awakening that we haven’t been living life to the fullest.

Adam is hard on Amber at the recording studio, similar to the way Mark is condescending towards Sarah at the photography shop. Adam and Mark appear to misplace their anger, directing their emotions from their personal lives onto the wrong people: work colleagues. These misplaced emotions come off as rather real and not at all fabricated. Amber and Sarah provide us with different, yet fairly genuine ways of overcoming being caught in such situations. Max seems to have a new obsession each episode (last episode it was about getting a dog, this episode it’s regarding the lack of a vending machine at school), perhaps the way the writers of Parenthood looked to portray Asperger’s Syndrome to viewers. It becomes obvious that those who haven’t been exposed to Asperger's do not know how to respond to someone who has such a condition who often has outbursts others do not understand; Kudos to the Parenthood creative team for shedding light on such a difficult topic.

From family Intervention where the Braverman siblings sit and talk to Zeek about his expired drivers license and “reckless” driving which got him arrested (what looked like an age versus authority issue), to the brief idea that compromise and taking turns can lead to a more fulfilling friendship (as seen with Max and Micah), this episode of Parenthood is flooded with real-life scenarios we often overlook in our everyday lives. This brings us back to the notion of open communication mentioned above, as open communication is importance in every relationship. Kristina’s doctor could learn to be more personable, Zeek and Camille could learn to not hide health issues from their children, and both Adam and Mark could learn to be a little more honest with their coworkers. However, open communication is often based on timing. When is it the right time to share with family members that you have cancer? Perhaps being up front and sharing such devastating news right away is the proper approach, or maybe it’s alright to keep this information to ourselves because it really isn’t anyone else’s business. Once our secret starts getting in the way of other aspects of our life, it might be time to open up and communicate – especially to those who love us the most.