An Open Letter to the Writers and Directors of "This is Us" 

An Open letter to the Writers and Directors of This is Us
by Assétou Xango

Spoiler Alert:
If you have not watched Season 3 Ep 9, put this down.

In the wake of your mid-season finale, I imagine you are experiencing an uproar regarding the hint of demise between Beth and Randall. At least, I hope I’m not the only one freaking out…. I am sure this looks to you like a very good sign. That means good ratings and a stronger fan based.

How can I fault you for this? There is nothing better than making an incredible work of art and having people invested in it. And you have, I hope you know by now, created an incredible work of art. It is the best show on modern television. You have finally made a drama that isn't focus on the "drama". A character doesn't die every episode, we are not put on an epic, unrealistic, journey every 20 seconds (Looking at you “Once Upon a Time”). You have made something real. Something that feels organic and honest and accessible. What you have created is magical and I am so grateful you did.

As a black, gender-queer woman living in the suburbs of Colorado, in terms seeing myself in those around me, the perspective is pretty bleak. I am also a gender-queer black woman growing up in America. Needless to say: bleak. To see a black, married, committed couple like Beth and Randall, means a little color on a dreary day. Here is a couple who has a rhythm. They know each other in a way only years of commitment and heartbreak can grant you. Their quips and wit and intentionality show that they are weathered. I am afraid you have created something so much greater than a television show, more than characters on a page. The closest term I can use to describe it is magic.

Without Beth and Randall, we're basically left with Empire and The Cosby show as our representations of black love. The former depicts a black couple whose "love" drives them to everything short of murdering each other (not for lack of attempts), and the latter stars Bill Cosby…nuf’ said.

The Pearsons are it. What I’ve learned since, about healthy couples, they are pretty covert in real life. Their relationships are rarely flashy or find a need to be public. They have very little to prove. Unless you grow up in their household, your chances of intimately seeing a seasoned relationship with two black people seems near impossible. I did not and do not. They are the only chance we have at seeing what I did not see in my youth. I have never met my father. Until I was old enough to expand my community, I did not even see black couples in my life. When my favorite black couple flash across the screen, my heart is filled with something…healing.

It’s not that I want to see the perfect black couple or gay couple or any marginalized representation all the time. It is not that I want my television to only reflect the underrepresented in a positive light. That is detrimental in its own sort of way. I just want to feel included in the television shows I watch, I want the shows that invest my time and recommendation in to also invest in me.

I don't want to tell you how to run your show. You have created something I look up to and will spend the rest of my career striving for the same level of excellence. I read up on the twist IMMEDIATELY after the flashforward sequence. I read about the integrity of your crew saying that you must show the ups and downs of marriage. That is honorable. I am down for their struggle. I understand that the second half of this season is to be a tumultuous time for them. I understand and I am along for the ride. But I must say, in no uncertain terms, if you have written or planned to write their relationship into separation: undo it.

Posted by svanholb@auroragov.org On 18 December, 2018 at 12:14 PM  

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