Schitt’s Creek- On Love, Acceptance, Family, and Wine
Updated: Nov 28, 2020
A little over a month ago, after a long phone call with one of my best friends, I crept inside my blanket and into my Netflix account on my phone. Over the last 7 months, TV shows had become my safe space, allowing me to feel something other than the anxiety that the state of our world was giving me. They suggested ‘Schitt’s Creek’, and having vaguely heard of it, I decided to give it a chance.
What was initially a casual recommendation gradually became a daily source of love, light, joy, and lessons in growth, and belongingness. At the heart of it, Schitt’s Creek is just a sitcom, but when you delve deeper, it is so much more than that.
The pilot of Schitt’s Creek takes off with the stinking-rich Rose family finding out they’ve gone entirely bankrupt. After losing their video store fortune to the government because their business manager hasn’t been paying their taxes, they’re posed with only two solutions- to live on the streets or move to the town of ‘Schitt’s Creek’, a town they bought as a gag gift for their son but barely remembered it exists. 4 minutes into the show and you already get a sense of what each character is like- John (Eugene Levy) trying to take in what’s happening and holding it together, Moira (Catherine O’Hara) trying her best to be in denial about the situation, David (Daniel Levy), and Alexis (Annie Murphy), wanting to help their parents, but also in a nonchalant reluctance to do so for they were in ‘shock’.
While talking to Daniel about why he chose the riches-to-rags approach to establish the sitcom, Daniel Levy told Assignment X “We’ve used a fish out of water scenario to help dramatize that story, forcing them into a motel room, examining what it means to be a family and what relationships are, having the time to concentrate and focus on who they are to each other and what they mean to each other.” And throughout the 6 beautifully-written seasons of the show, Schitt’s Creek delivers. So many stories have explored the rags-to-riches plotline, and here you have a show with an inverted pyramid- a family moving from an exclusive fancy mansion to a motel room. They stick out like a sore thumb in the town, but the beauty of the show is in the Roses’ journey of finding themselves belonging to it in their own way.
Schitt’s Creek’s detailing of each character makes it an extremely personal journey. Each character is written with the utmost attention and care, and the actors bring these characters to life in a very heartwarming way.
For instance, Catherine O’Hara’s unforgettable character, Moira Rose, stands out with her larger than life personality. Her eccentric, snazzy, and loud fashion (inspired by Daphne Guinness) extravagant collection of wigs, uppity accent, and the theatricality of hiding in the closet when something goes wrong, make her who she is. Not to mention her unique vocabulary and lexicon. And while all of this remains central to Moira’s character, her accent particularly (‘bebe’) has the audience in splits. In a lot of ways, these little things are representative of Roses' loss of wealth and extravaganza. Moira might come off as a little odd in the first few episodes, but her wit, acceptance of people without mockery, and her habit of being unabashedly herself makes you root for her eventually.
Moira’s husband Johnny is an optimist and constantly attempts to restore hope in the family. Always trying to get the Roses together, Johnny’s sincerity, affection, and respect for his wife and his children make him an admirable and likable character. One of the many strengths of Schitt’s Creek is the subversive and strong marriage between Moira and Johnny. They are not hellbent on conforming to the typical gendered tropes and portraying conflicts between heterosexual marriages and that is refreshing to watch. Their faith and respect for each other transcend to their children, with Johnny and Moira accepting their children for who they are. They respect their boundaries and individuality, allowing them to explore themselves, which in turn only warms you to the dynamics in the Rose family.
Alexis is a fascinating character. With her unbelievable stories of travel and lose romantic connections from a wealthier past to her naivety and innocence in a humbling unfamiliar town, I think of her character arc as one of the most outstanding aspects of the show. The same Alexis who looked for measly hookups to drown and wallow in the pain of break-ups, slowly gains an emotional depth over the first 5 seasons, morphing into a mature, loving, and vulnerable person. In a town completely new to her, Alexis finds her ground- completing college and getting a degree, all while truly allowing herself to grow. When she meets Ted for the first time, you see her infidelity and her confusion, but when all of that slowly makes way for her true feelings to show, you realize Daniel Levy’s genius writing at full display.
The hallmark of their relationship isn’t just their relationship, but for the lack of a better word, the end of it. Watching Alexis prioritize herself and respect Ted’s dreams, watching her prepare gracefully for their last date, and calling herself a ‘woman’, not a ‘girl’, makes you shed so many tears. While talking about the filming of their last scene together, Dustin (Ted) and Annie (Alexis) often recall how the entire set was bawling, not only because it made so much sense, but also because it was so heartbreaking at the same time. Then again, there’s never a day where I don’t think about Alexis’s hilariously bold ‘La la Alexis.’ Annie Murphy has done unbelievable justice to Alexis’s role, and she has a special place in my heart forever.
What makes Schitt’s even more special is the classic sibling banter between David and Alexis. It is evident that they care for each other, but their relationship seems incomplete without Alexis’s “Ew, David'', and David’s familial annoyance at her. David’s uncanny persona in the first few episodes slowly fades away as you start to see him for the vulnerable and honest person he is. His struggle in his romantic relationships, his insecurity, and the need for an honest loving relationship slowly make him the character you can relate to. Stevie and David’s friendship thus becomes a significant part of his emotional journey.
Of the several things that Schitt’s Creek is applauded for, it’s the representation of the LGBTQIA+ that has garnered immense love from people all over the globe, and rightfully so. On explaining his pansexuality to Stevie, David says, “I do drink red wine, but I also drink white wine, and I’ve been known to sample the occasional rosé, and a couple of summers back I tried a Merlot that used to be a Chardonnay,” He sums it up by saying, “I like the wine and not the label.”, which again, is a very carefully written and a wonderful analogy. Things change for him when the emotionally stunted David meets a soft and considerate Patrick. Patrick’s sexuality remains ambiguous for the first few episodes, although he obviously has eyes for David. When they start to develop feelings for each other, you see both of them opening up, and for the first time, you see David’s emotional barrel flooding.
What is really intriguing to watch in David and Patrick’s love story is their distinct language of love. Patrick is established as a natural care-taker and it is then no surprise that he goes out of his way to make David comfortable. But my favorite shift in the show is David finally opening up to express his love for Patrick- how he lets Patrick in. In accepting Patrick’s kindness, compassion, and love, Patrick grounds David. They respect each other’s journeys and individual lives. There is no tinge of jealousy, hatred, or homophobia at all. While talking about the portrayal of queer relationships on Schitt’s, Levy says that from the very beginning, he wanted this to be a place where homophobia simply does not exist. He goes on to say that in showing Patrick and David’s relationship, he didn’t want to create a political statement, nor make it a distracting or an exaggerated story. Rather, he wanted to show this as a way of life. To let two gay men fall in love and get their happy ending without putting a struggle in their journeys, or putting too much emphasis on their love story. And in doing so, he created a Utopian narrative and a story that has changed many people's perception of what the world can be.
Conventionally, romantic relationships in the media have always had unnecessary contaminants; there’s hate and anger and jealousy and toxicity. Schitt’s Creek has created a benchmark in its representation of healthy and mutually supportive relationships. It has turned a family of rich misfits lovable. It shows us that when a family like the Roses loses everything of material importance and moves to a small town where there’s belongingness, acceptance, and love without superficial judgment, they become better versions of themselves. And the journey that the show takes you on, right from the start is grounded in the plot, “who doesn’t like to laugh at the rich finding their way in a normal society?”. It shows us that the community you’re surrounded with has the potential to change you. Characters like Stevie, Twyla, Roland, Ronnie, Jocelyn, Bob, Ray- only reinforce the warmth and beauty of the people of the town. They are the people audience is supposed to relate to. No character falls behind accidentally, they all have a purpose and a personality.
It has shown us that love begets love, and kindness begets kindness. And while it has reaffirmed and taught us so many things, it has remained unfailingly funny and charming. When it ends, it leaves you with a bubble of warmth and acceptance. A full heart. Inspiration and gratitude. Hope and goodness. An empty tissue box. A snotty, runny nose and a stained inner collar. It has everything- a mind-blowing cast, incredible dialogues, beautiful characters, an engaging plot, an insanely well-written script- a perfectly, thoughtfully, and craftily put together a package that you never get over once you’ve opened it. In simple words, it’s a delight.
Source: The Guardian
Schitt's Creek created history with its 7 Emmy wins and the appreciation and recognition that this show has been getting make you realize the power of art. Referring to the #SchittsSweep, Twitter user Sarah McGonagall wrote, "Schitts Creek made a point to make viewers feel safe by showcasing women without harassment, queer love without trauma, sexual fluidity without shame, economic disparity without mockery, and creativity without limitation. What they built is just so special. They deserve it all."
In the last episode, when Johnny says, “We’re ready, driver”, you realize you’re not. You’re not ready for it to end, even if it ends exactly the way it must. You’re not yet ready to say goodbye. It’s simply the best. Better than all the rest.
But oh Schitt, I guess it’s life.
- Tanvi Kulkarni
Tanvi is an almost 20-year-old writer, dancer, art-enthusiast, and a huge fan of hugs. Her primary motive in life is to create safe spaces where people can talk about mental health, art, culture, politics, identities, and all the things that make us who we are. As an intersectional-feminist-in-progress, she is always trying to learn and talk about what is important and what isn’t heard. And when she is not frantically and excitedly documenting parts of her life, you will probably find her reading something, watching a tv show, or trying to find the right words to talk about her feelings.