This new show on HBO called Here and Now has received pretty bad reviews. As a Haitian, Black adoptee, I can give you my thoughts on why the reviews have been so bad. But that is not what I would like to focus on here. I want to focus on why it should actually be receiving raving reviews not just from the US, but from all around the world.
Adoption concepts, complexities, and a myriad of issues pervadesthis show like I have never seen before. It deals with VERY real issues adoptees face in general; and adoptees of color who are living in predominantly white homes will really be able to relate to how the adopted children in this show grapple, handle and deal with their pain, frustration, and very “loving” but ignorant white parents.
This is not a “feel good” show. After every episode, I found myself feeling very triggered. I felt triggered because I could relate to each adoptee’s story. I could relate to the white adoptive parent’s reactions to their kids. I could even strangely relate to the white biological child in the home.
So maybe we should be asking ourselves for whom this show was written. It was not written for random people looking for a “feel good” show to binge on. As a matter-of-fact, I DO NOT recommend binge-watching this show at all. If you are an adoptee, or an adoptive parent, you will understand what I am talking about. DO NOT binge-watch this show.
Unlike This Is Us, Here and Now starts with the very hard questions and only gets more complicated. Season one opens with a very messed up family who looks amazing on the outside but is completely falling apart on the inside.
Family character breakdown and thoughts from my point of view:
- Greg -the father. He asks the harder questions as he is a philosopher and realizes that what he wrote in his previous book that received so much love and attention is no longer what he believes. He is present with all of his kids but only physically. He considers the adoption of the children an “experiment”. Like Greg, I have evolved in my thinking and though I can’t really go back and change the content of my first writing pieces, I know my mindset has made evolutionary changes.
- Audrey– the mother. My a-mother to a “T”. Everything about this character haunts me and brings me back to when I was a child. She wants to be seen as more “liberal”, more “woke” and yet in doing things that make her more left, she hurts the adopted children in her home. She even sounds like my mother. I’d like to throw up. White liberals are the worst because they think they know the answers and they compare their suffering to people of color. What is really missing however, is the fact that they really have NO CLUE how a person of color is feeling or what they have gone through. White female liberals also tend to conveniently forget that the Women suffrage movement did not include people of color. It really should have been called White Women Suffrage.
- Kristen-the biological daughter. I can’t begin to tell you how much I could relate to this character mainly because I have 2 “siblings” who are biological to my Audrey. Her personality is one that feels “left out” because she is not Black, or Vietnamese, or Colombian. She is just plain ole white and sees herself as boring. She completely misses how wealthy her family is and how much white privilege follows her around. She searches to be someone special, she wants to be someone neat, and exotic, and exciting so badly, that she appropriates other people’s culture and religion to try to find a place to fit in. Yes! As much as I have a place in my heart with love for my siblings, I can’t forget the times they dressed in African, Haitian, and other garments attempting to look more exotic, taking on the character and personality of people of color just to be able to live vicariously through us, through me. Somehow to them my color, my race, my identity was a costume. The racism I received, they would never have to experience because they could always take off my race and culture at a second’s notice. I on the other hand….well, this is me! Kristen embodies the typical white child who grows up in a family with kids of color. They begin to feel lonely, and left out. The parents are given praise for “saving” the Black and Brown and Asian kids and the little white kid is just….the white kid. But instead of using this privilege for good, she decides to do what almost every white bio kid in a diverse family does; appropriate.
- Ashley-the female international adoptee from Liberia. She is black and beautiful like me. She is raised in a family composed of 2 white parents and a white sister (Kristen), and though she loves the family with all her heart she finds herself not being able to fit into her black community and struggles to truly love her husband who is white and does not understand her daily struggles as a black woman. Her relationship with her white sister is super rocky because they are many years apart and yet, though Ashley is older, her white sister is treated with more love and respect by family and also by society. One of her biggest fears is raising her little 4/5-year-old black daughter in a society that thinks her color is equated to dirty. Ashley grapples with the expectation white people put on her and how much she really does not know about her people group. Though her mother “tried” to show her who she was by dressing her in her cultural garb, she was never taught to be black, and black in America. She realizes throughout the show that white people really do not see color unless it has to do with uplifting their whiteness. I can relate to her character more than anyone else’s because I was and am Ashley and her family was/is the one I was raised in. There was “love” but it was always comparable and measured by the outside world first. As for me, I felt as though my color made me more of a “risk”. I remember going to Europe and the white girls got the privilege of being in charge of the finances….like I could not be trusted. Let’s sit with that.
- Malcolm-Ashley’s husband. He marries into this family not caring that Ashley is black and in not caring that she is black, he dismisses the every day frustrations and struggles of being a person of color. His privilege is on his sleeve and his blissful ignorance begins to create a reality for his 4/5-year-old daughter that will really hurt her in the near future. He senses there is something really off about Ashley’s family but does not consider that it may have to do with their adoptions.
- Duc-the international adoptee from Vietnam. This character is amazing. He reminds me of myself when I was younger. Though he was not the golden child, he strove to be perfect and to not repeat the mistakes of his biological mother. He sees the world as sort-of a competition because his family made it this way. I could strongly relate to this character because my upbringing was like a competition. Who could pray better, who could sing better, who could eat less, who could eat the most, who could read the best, who gave my Audrey the most attention, who volunteered to clean the most, who was less lazy; it was all a competition from the minute we woke up in the morning til we laid our heads down to go to sleep. For Duc, he feared not being good enough and falling into the role of his biological mother who was a prostitute. So he spent his life subconsciously mimicking his white philosopher dad and eventually becoming a writer like he was, and a motivational architect (I’m still not sure what that means). I always wanted to be like my a-mother and I think in some ways I am like her since she did indeed raise me. But I have found myself in the past 10 years running away from who she is because who she is, is never what I want to be, or even could be.
- Ramon-a gay white-passing international adoptee from Columbia. He is also viewed as the golden child. I love this character so much because not only is he an adoptee but he is also gay. And not only is he gay but he also has this thing called Porous Mind , a phenomenon that allows him to see and feel things that are truly there for him but can’t be seen by others. He is seen to have a Thin boundary in his mind as opposed to a thick boundary. He has lucid dreams, and frequent dream recall. His character taps into the supernatural and I could fully relate to this ability to tap into the other realms of life. I am able to do that ALL, The, Time and it is scary as FUCK. But he uses his pain and ability to see beyond what thick boundary would allow, to create video games that require the mind to contemplate and meditate. His personality can be seen as someone who may have ADHD and his adoptive parents want to just diagnose him because they fear the unknown. I feel my brother was similar to this character and instead of tapping into the trauma that he had gone through being separated from his biological family, they wanted to compare him to the “functioning” kids in the family. Instead of digging deeper into his separation, they wanted to give his supposed issue a name. So they settled with LD; learning Disabled. APs never want to see how adoption trauma shapes the adoptee. They believe that if you “love” the child enough, there will be less to no trauma. Ummm…nope! Never has worked and never will work.
There are many more characters in this show but I wanted to just focus on the family that is being highlighted. Other characters change the course of the show and I may or may not do a piece about them later.
Things I focused On as A Black Adoptee
This show does indeed have several flaws but doesn’t every show? What I really enjoyed about this show however, is the adoption component and how each character has to wrestle their own demons. Some receive help like Ramon, and others create their own help like Duc. Still, some of the other characters struggle to understand what form of help is necessary. I personally am still wrestling with my anger in adoption in general and how people are eager to take a child but not willing to support the family the child comes from. I am using the 21 Days to re-parenting, a guide that has helped me re-parent myself and get in touch with the “little” me. I have Tali Love, a Pretty Brown Nomad to thank for that.
With the different forms of help in mind I wanted to highlight certain sections of each episode that I would like anyone who has been “touched” by adoption to focus on. There are 10 episodes and each episodes carries with it so much depth that it is hard to not pause and rewind just to be able to hear and better comprehend the wisdom that is being dropped left and right.
There is a lot of intense dialogue throughout the entire show and because of this, so much can be missed. I decided to take a few minutes to focus on a few scene sections that stood out to me right off the bat.
Zoom in On these!
Episode 1: Eleven, Eleven
In this first episode we are introduced to the characters and Ramon’s character is immediately faced with some supernatural phenomenons. At about 19 minutes in, the adopted siblings get together at a restaurant. Focus on the scene where the adopted kids and Ashley’s model are talking about how their adoption is seen as “saving”, as if they were all in need of a savior. Look at the way the adoptees react to the model. The model says “must be cool, having siblings from these exotic places.” There is also the scene where the father gives a speech and is basically saying that the life he and his wife created was an experiment. Focus on the expressions the kids have on their faces.
Stay tuned for Scenes to focus on for Episode 2.