Between the Lines: Stepping Away from the Fray

A sub-clause of being born in the 21st century is that we are, whether we like it or not, constantly bombarded with tragedy on a large scale. Massacres, bigotry, and radical injustice are tweeted past our eyes every hour of every day, and we rarely have a minute to breathe before the next Big Thing bloodies itself onto our screens. We are expected to be empathetic, politically involved, fair and just every minute of every taxing day. There rarely feels as though there is any escape, and it can become exhausting to try to survive the plenteous political potholes of the decade.

There’s rarely anywhere to go that isn’t also plagued by some kind of pain. It feels as though there is never any escape. We can’t unplug – not for excusable periods of time, and well, how many of us can afford frequent weekend getaways?

But you know, sometimes you need to run away. There’s, however, a degree of stigma attached to feel-good media, the notion that we shouldn’t be throwing ourselves into fictional worlds to cope with this one, and whatnot. I won’t say that it’s an absolutely ridiculous thing to say. Media escapism can be tricky, but we encourage it here. We encourage it because we know how hard it can get to be available all the time, and how difficult it can be to be well, optimistic. So here’s a list of five funny, feel good TV shows that just feel good.

  1. One Day at a Time: A story about three generations of Latina women negotiating the topsy-turvy life they’re leading? Open discussions about post-traumatic stress disorder, sexuality, religion and adolescence? A lovable main cast, religious diversity, character growth, hilarity and tears? Yes. One Day at a Time has it all, and more importantly, it’s not pretentious in how it sets itself forth. The show is funny, warm, and caring without ever being preachy, exhausting or dragged out. The characters are multi-dimensional, self-aware, hilarious and lovable in the best way.
  2. Brooklyn Nine-Nine: Politically aware cops! Hilarious, self-aware dialogue! Slow-burn and a healthy relationship! Humour! Captain Holt! The breaking of stereotypes by letting POC and women take up the space they deserve in a conversation! The white men not being the centre of attention! Conversations about female friendship! Conversations about family! The precinct actually being just a whole big family! I have a lot of feelings about this show, partially because it got me through my second semester at college, but also because I relate deeply to all these characters and Andy Samberg is an amazing gem of a human.
  3. Jane the Virgin: Oh, I have so much to say about how happy this show makes me. The self-conscious parody, the involved narration, the family, the culture, the struggling with religion. Jane reminds you that a show doesn’t have to be free of flaws or drama to be feel-good, but it’s in the knowing that everything is going to come together in the end. That Xo and Jane and Abuela will find themselves back on that couch, watching a telenovela and eating ice-cream out of the tub, that Jane will get a happy ending, that Rogelio and Xo will always find their way back to each other. It’s just about knowing that there’s gonna be a happy ending.
  4. Gilmore Girls: I may be too emotional about Gilmore. I watched this show (all seven seasons) in a three weeks through the worst summer of my life. I’m gonna go out on a limb here and just say that I know this show had its flaws, especially towards the later seasons, but God, can anything invalidate the absolute joy you get from the family dynamics, the witty dialogue, the caffeinated rambling and just the reality of it all? Not likely. This show will always be the show I come back to on sad nights, bad nights, and overwhelmed nights.
  5. Harry Potter: Okay, you got me. This isn’t a show, and this isn’t always feel good in terms of plots, but just going back to the Wizarding World is a feel-good experience racked with nostalgia and the tingling feeling that something magical is about to happen. Harry and the rest have kept us transfixed for years, and it’s always worth going back to. Both the books and the movies.

What strikes me, going through this list, is that what makes these stories interesting is that they don’t downplay the importance of representation. They might not cover it all, but they make an attempt. Between the POC in the first three shows and the dynamic female characters in Harry Potter and Gilmore Girls, it’s feel good media because it doesn’t come at the expense of people. It attempts, if not succeeds, in being inclusive.

The world isn’t being so good to itself right now, but it’s nice to be able to return to stories where it tries, where kindness wins wars, where families come back together, where you will end up with the love of your life, and where things have some kind of conclusion. It’s a nice feeling.

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