By now, you surely know of my unabashed love for the television show, Parenthood and the Braverman family. It’s a little sad, really, that I continually fall into this cycle with fictional characters—they become my people and pretty soon I start praying for them (on accident) at night.
So no one should be surprised that when one of the show’s most stable couples (Joel and Julia) started having marriage trouble, I went a little off the deep end and started live-tweeting like I was watching a basketball game. Tweeting Joel and Julia’s every move, I set off on a mission to interact with the characters because WHAT IS EVEN HAPPENING RIGHT NOW.
And as much as I truly hate this story—the narrative here is a little more realistic than I care to admit. In my fantasy world, couples discuss every issue and no stone is left unturned. But because we are broken people, the real stories are different. In our everyday marriages and relationships, we ignore and shoot past the things that actually grieve us and keep us up for hours at night.
Because I love a good (slow) story, I went back and watched a few episodes from Season 1. (This is the precise moment you back away slowly as you realize I’m a little insane.) And dang it, these problems we see billowing over now have been there since the beginning. Quiet and subservient Joel has been pretending to be content and supportive for years, but the whole story is he hasn’t actually been telling the truth. He continued silently supporting his family while letting Julia unknowingly live a selfish tale. He failed to lovingly tell her the hard truth about herself, and ignored the things that made him feel disrespected and betrayed until it was too late.
But now he’s too tired to fight, and that’s what we’re seeing. If anything, this story is a bit too true, which is what I’ve loved about Parenthood since the beginning. The characters move slowly, like all of us do. We all have things that sluggishly grow beneath the surface, and Joel’s bitterness has been expanding like mold.
So I love this story for being honest, but I hate it, too. I wish Joel would stay at the table and say something. I wish Julia would look within instead of blame others. I wish they would both apologize and sit across from one another in the cold counseling office and cry until there’s nothing but forgiveness left. So bravo once again, Parenthood, you’ve created a heartbreaking, gradual story about the way people actually lose each other. It’s an alarm for all of us—even the Joels and Julias of the world.
I hope to write a different narrative in my journey. I pray that I’m willing to do the hard, slow, painful, and beautiful work of redeeming what’s been broken and putting back together what’s been lost.
Also, I really need to stop getting so involved in fictional characters’ lives.