Don’t laugh, but watching The Brady Bunch as a kid offered one of my first insights that there might be something wrong with my family. You see, in spite of all the Marsha envy and Peter ruining the song with his pubescent voice, they actually seemed to like each other. They talked to each other. They fought, but they weren’t punished for expressing themselves, and they actually apologized to each other. That was completely foreign to me.
Then, The Simpsons came along. At home, my own bumbling, drunk father and my mumbling, hand-wringing mother were far from funny, but I found solace in a show that featured a smart, sensitive, woke child named Lisa, who tried her best to manage the chaos around her. I understood the irony of The Simpsons, and the emphasis on the witty humor in spite of the pain made me feel less alone. Someone, on some level, understood my family.
Fast forward to today, where TV dramas are full of complex anti-heroes and psychotic, abusive, crazed, broken dynamics. Now I can’t get away from seeing my family on TV. The relationship between Norman Bates, and and his mother Norma is so grossly similar to my mother and brother, it makes me physically ill to watch. It’s the same exact copedendent dynamic in which the mental illness and personality disorder feed off each other. If you’ve seen the show, or the watched the movie Psycho, you know why I’m haunted.
In Better Call Saul, Jimmy’s brother reminds me of my brother. Insanely jealous, yet void of empathy. He refuses to acknowledge his own mental illness, yet he puts all his energy into destroying Jimmy. Jimmy, who just wants to connect with the only family he has left, is patient and kind to his own downfall. Man, can I relate.
On the comedy side, Jared’s one liners on Silicon Valley are so relatable to me. Sometimes I feel like I am the quiet, nice kid in khaki’s who, out of nowhere, drops a truth bomb full of dark shit. The other day, there was a conversation in which some people were talking about how long they sponged off their parents during the college years, and I casually mentioned how I was homeless my senior year, and how my mother kept my student loan money for herself. I laughed. Uncomfortable silence ensued. Yeah, I get Jared.
I love stories, but as someone in recovery, I have to limit what I can take in. On my stronger days, I can sit through a violent or a psychotic scene, and on other days, I simply can’t. As much as I would like to get on the Game of Thrones bandwagon, graphic sexual assault is not entertaining to me. Other shows, like Breaking Bad, which is extremely violent but deeply moral, I could watch. Sometimes, it’s not so much the content, but the context. Overall, I’m glad that there are so many disordered characters in the zeitgeist right now. TV writers are educating the public about the monsters that so many of us have already witnessed in real life, and collectively we are better off for it.