Monday, February 18, 2008

Some Thoughts on Brothers and Sisters

I think the reason my friends and I like Brothers and Sisters (see some full episodes on abc.com) so much is that we want.... oh my God. I was just going to say that it's because we can all find a character that we see ourselves in, or that we want our lives to resemble some aspect of, or that the themes hold universal truth....

Then I realized what an English teacher I will always be, and that all I was going to offer was an analysis of the show and why the story works... comments in the margin and an A at the top.

But still: A friend of mine asked if I thought the mother, Nora, was really that naive or whether she had just acted that way.

For those who don't want to click over to abc to research the show: Nora is suddenly widowed and left with her five adult children: Sarah, the now CEO of the family's produce company and mother of two small children, whose marriage is suffering because of the stay-at-home dad's restlessness and her go-go-go approach to life. Kitty (Katherine... and yes, the name makes me think of Anna Karenina), the family's black sheep Republican journalist who ends up romantically involved with her new boss--who happens to be running for President of the United States. Tommy, the runner-up businessman who breaks off from the family business to start a new branch of the same by opening a winery. Kevin, the gay lawyer who sucks at relationships as much as he sucks as being comfortable in his own skin, but whose liberal family loves him, though his father apparently couldn't quite stomach his son's homosexuality. Justin, the youngest boy who's been mothered by his whole family for so long that he escapes to Iraq in the Army (dad was an Army man too...) and, oops, did I mention also escapes right there in Pasadena with the help of narcotics.

If all that weren't enough, there's also Rebecca, dead William's illegitimate daughter who discovers her relationship to this family after having spent her 20 years living nearby yet never knowing any of them because her mother Holly managed to keep her 20 years as William's mistress under wraps. Upon William's death, the family discovers his infidelity and their new sister because William leaves a big chunk of land to Holly. Unfortunately, because he'd been embezzling from his own company it's about to go under, so when the kids find out about the land they want to sell it so they can save the company, but since they can't manage to trick savvy Holly she ends up owning part of the family business.

OK. So you see why I haven't been watching this show since its premiere on network television. Sounds like one big soap opera, doesn't it?

But, like Rebecca, once you discover this giant crazy family exists you want to be part of it. Always an outsider, she manages to endear herself to Nora, become Justin's best friend and become as much a part of the family as TV-writers with one foot in real life can manage.


And that's as small of a nutshell as I could manage for a synopsis. Now back to the question of Nora.

I do not think she fakes her naivety. She simply fully embraces her life as wife and mother, and with five children and a husband who is building from scratch what becomes a very large and successful business, I don't think she has time to look too far outside her world. I know women like her, celebrating her 60th birthday and still treating the people who throw her surprise party like her babies.

Who doesn't?

Nora has advice for everyone, in a doe-eyed but righteous, strong and determined way she pushes through her life and tries to protect all of her children from the dangers of that big scary world out there. All she wants is for her kids to be happy and safe, only then she will consider relaxing. She is five times more mother than any non-TV mother I've ever met. I think what viewers would like is to take whatever part of her they think was missing in their own mother from Nora and inject her into their lives. Nora is The Need-to-Know-All-the-Details Fixer, the Nag that all the kids hate, the Icon they love with utter devotion, the Apron Strings, Cookies and Milk, Hug they always know they can find when they let her in so she can listen to their problems and offer comfort and wisdom (sometimes found when distilled from ridiculous advice) before they go back out there. It's Nora's naivety that we want. Her wholly unconditional love that manifests itself too frequently in a just-checking-on-you phone call or surprise visit and an earful of opinion also settles into a quiet hug and the presence of motherly love that even if we want to think we've outgrown we never stop needing--or wanting.


Did I really just voluntarily write a crappy-first-draft of a character analysis for a TV show?

Oy vey.

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