Saving Grace - Schitt’s Creek and the power of positive media

TESSA MARSDEN | REPEAT OFFENDERS



“This town might just be your saving grace..."


At the end of March 2020, I found myself in a rut. I was in my third year of my law degree studying online, living with my parents, and upset with my current circumstances. I wished for a life a little bigger than it was. As much as I understood that the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdown was something the whole world was going through, I couldn’t help the bitter message in my heart that I was being ‘robbed’ of all the fun, the ‘twenty-something’ experiences I had so craved. My outlook on life, usually sunny and positive, had dipped hugely. I was lonely and scared. I felt disconnected from my friends, unfulfilled in my work, unsuccessful in my love life — with no end to the hum-drum in sight. I felt like my life was on ‘pause.’ As I scrolled through Netflix looking for something other than my Business Organisations lectures to watch, I stumbled across a weird show with a crude name — Schitt’s Creek. This was the antidote to my negativity.


Following the life of the formerly wealthy Rose family, Schitt’s Creek is a fish-out-of-water story of love, joy, family, and accepting the cards which you’ve been dealt. After their business manager embezzles all their money, the Rose family relocates to Schitt’s Creek — a small Canadian town they purchased many years ago as a joke. Johnny and Moira (played by Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara) and their adult children David (played by Eugene’s son — Dan), and Alexis (played by Annie Murphy), need to adapt to the life they have found themselves in. Ultimately, the show sings a strong message of love, acceptance and goodness. When money, parties, alcohol and fame are stripped away, what do we have left but love for one another?


Through the show’s six seasons, the family grow and develop from wretched, unlikeable villains to a foursome who have taken what they’ve been dealt and worked with it. As co-creator of the show Dan Levy has discussed, Schitt’s Creek shows how the love, acceptance and happiness we invite in is often the catalyst for external change. Johnny’s purchase of the motel in which the family live shows audiences how the skills we learn in our lives are adaptable and malleable to our circumstances. Moira’s history in soap opera television and the off-Broadway stage provide her with an avenue in which to find joy in music and theatrics for herself, rather than the enjoyment of others who may exploit her. David’s cold and reserved mannerisms begin to melt away as he finds true love in the form of his mid-range denim wearing business partner and his true passion and purpose in the creation of his own business. University drop-outs find solace in Alexis, whose ideas about what others may perceive her as are stopped when she gains the strength to (finally and in her mid-thirties) graduate high school and pursue a career in public relations. The four Rose family members, along with a cast of loveable townies, show the audiences that love is the key ingredient in our lives. In order to find joy and comfort in our personal circumstances and accept our lives for what they are, we must be accepting of the changes, trials and tribulations that come our way.


A fan-favourite plotline in the later seasons is the romance between David Rose and his new clean-cut business partner, Patrick. Seemingly straight and cute as a button, Patrick enters Schitt’s Creek, having the same perspective of the town as the viewer — an average guy witnessing the dramatic and over-the-top antics of the Rose family within this small country town. The pair’s relationship holds all the hallmarks of a good on-screen romance; the initial courting and the ‘will-they-won’t-they’ stages, matching serenades to Tina Turner bops, a tear-jerking proposal, and ending with the wedding that makes up the finale of the show. For queer viewers, consuming queer media often comes with a sense of anxiety. With the stories of our peers so often ending in disaster, it can be difficult to stomach our favourite characters going through horrific scenarios. Will Patrick’s parents be angry that their son didn’t come out to them for 30 years? Will David become the victim of a hate crime walking the streets of Schitt’s Creek?


Dan Levy has expressly discussed the absence of homophobia in the series, showing only love and tolerance; ‘We’ve watched the growth and comfort of people who outwardly live their lives and aren’t being feared of being targeted. And it has a ripple effect into people’s homes and lives.” It can be difficult as a queer person to absorb media that can be so destructive and disheartening to my community. Schitt’s Creek has been heralded as a ‘celebration of inclusivity, a castigation of homophobia, and a declaration of the power of love.’ The series has been celebrated as a beacon of queer joy and light in a world where gay stories are so often tragic, dark and upsetting for viewers. Schitt’s Creek shows how being queer and in love can be an experience filled with joy and happiness. Many see the show’s broadcasting of happy queer stories as an invitation to do better. Why battle homophobia in the media when we can live in a world where it simply does not exist?


Media that is happy, positive and funny is surprisingly difficult to come by. I think the reason the audiences connect so much with shows like Schitt’s Creek is that we are all desperate for a little more light in our lives. Whilst some of us may enjoy consuming media that is gritty and dark, full of twists and turns, and blood and gore, I personally rarely see the appeal. In a world that has not been terribly kind as of late, and when our screens are filled with bad news, a twenty-two-minute episode about character growth, love and self-acceptance, fills the gaps in my heart left by negativity. Recent studies in media psychology have shown that uplifting and happy media can affect our outlook on life. Rather than simply seeing media as a negative influence to rein in, we’re beginning to understand its potential to spread goodness on a wide scale.


Schitt’s Creek’s first episode of the first season is titled ‘Our Cup Runneth Over,’ a quotation from the Hebrew Bible that means ‘we have more than enough for our needs.’ This quote sums up the whole series for me. It’s a beacon of hope in media; it’s paving the way for more positive queer representation, eliminating homophobia, and softening the hearts of those who aren’t informed. As it highlights the transformational effects of love and acceptance, Schitt’s Creek has taught me that no matter what is thrown my way, the love I have for my family and friends, and for myself, is more than enough for my needs.


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