A “Problematic” Episode Of This Is Us

January 7, 2017

This Is Us BannerI don’t know how I feel about the word “problematic,” but hopefully it’s not bothersome up there in the post header.

Anyway, first off, *spoiler alert.*

Secondly, I don’t want to be the “big, mad media police.” I don’t want to be constantly critiquing people’s creative ideas and television shows and stuff… Like, I still want life to be fun and everything…

Also, I’m a fan of the show. Overall, I like it more and more as it goes on. (And Sterling K. Brown is a gift to television. I don’t know where he was before this, I just know I’m sorry I wasn’t there.)


The point is, even in the midst of all this love I have for the show, there was one episode that stood out as kind of upsetting to me…

There’s a couple on the show – Kate and Toby who are falling pretty quickly for each other. And there’s a scene where he asks her what she wants to do Sunday night. And she says she can’t hang out because Sunday night is when she watches football.

Then they do this whole back and forth. Of like, “I’ll watch with you.” “Oh, no thanks, I watch alone,” and then back and forth about why, or if that’s weird, etc.

They go back and forth of her declining to watch football with him four times.

Now, I see how maybe he thinks it’s a little odd that his significant other doesn’t want to watch football with him. I would think there was nothing at all wrong with him having questions (if she was willing to answer them).

We want to know the people in our lives. And we want things to make sense to us when we don’t understand them. I get that.

So, I’m not trying to say that I personally believe in the idea that if someone says they don’t want to do something (and that confuses you, or hurts your feelings), that you can’t at least just ask, “Okay, I respect that, but if you’re willing to share, may I ask why you don’t want to watch football with me?”

Nothing blaming. Nothing judgemental. Not starting a fight of angrily yelling, “Well, why the hell wouldn’t you want to watch football with me? You’re supposed to like me!”

Other people may feel differently than me – that a no is a no and you drop and move on… But to me, I think nos should be respected, but that in an attempt to better understand your partner (or to not have your feelings hurt thinking it’s something about you that makes them not want to watch football)… I personally think it’s fine to ask and understand…

But that’s not what happened.

They go back and forth of him trying to be cutesy about how boring it will be without him and how she should watch it. FOUR rounds. And on the last one, she was stern that “Hey, I watch football alone.” And she walked out of the room.

Okay, then, phew. Conversation over?


He wrote out this glittery invitation and had someone pass it to her during their meeting. (They’re in a support group together.) So, I think it was supposed to be very adorable, this whole handmade card (awwwww), and kind of reminiscent of this adorable middle school love (like, ooooh passing it in class, look at us).

So, he invites her to watch football at his house. And she looks up, not happy… It’s written all over her face, like, “Seriously? Did we not already talk about this?”

And then he mouths words begging her, like please or whatever.

At this point, I am hoping beyond hope she’s not gonna go over there. She’s been exceptionally clear. And she was annoyed at the gesture that was supposed to be “cute,” but was totally disrespectful…

So, Kate, please don’t go.

But of course she goes. (How can she not after all this, right?)

And then she has a terrible time (of course), and (respectfully) leaves early. Then when he sees her later, he is a little annoyed that she left. And when they’re talking about it he asks why she came if she didn’t want to be there.

And it’s like, “Are you kidding? Why did she go? Why did she go when you judged her decision so hard to watch alone? Why did she go when you *would not* give up on the idea that you wanted to watch with her? Why did she go when she felt like she’d be hurting the feelings of someone she cared about if she didn’t? She was backed into a corner. How does she not go?”

And *instead of* it becoming a nice conversation about boundaries and such, it becomes a conversation about how her dad had died, and she used to watch football with him… And in the very next act, we see her and this guy watching football together with her dad’s urn.

What did we learn from this? She had a silly boundary and a man came in and was able to fix it – in one episode. We do not talk about his total lack of respect for her very clear wishes.

And it just felt problematic to me because this is the kind of thing we are fed over and over and over and over. “Woman doesn’t want to do something? Man swoops in and saves her. She should definitely do that thing with him.” And he’s painted as the hero for ‘breaking down a wall’ or whatever, not the villain for disrespecting her wishes.

And I will say that there’s some nuance to this (as there is everything in life), in the sense that earlier in the show, he actually had kind of pushed her a little, and it seemed helpful to her… The way it *appeared* to me (but of course, I could be wrong), is that with this other stuff, she *wanted* to do it, but was afraid… She *wanted* to go to the Hollywood party, but she didn’t feel very confident, so it was more of a “okay, well, then grab my hand and let’s go together.” Whereas, with this, she was very clear she wanted to watch football alone.

To me, it kind of goes back to this idea of there being two different types of nervous. And, while I respect the people making This Is Us… I really think, in this scenario, they showed us (and normalized) the wrong one.

I'd love to hear from you! So whaddya say?