Family relationships saturate the media. From the Kardashians, to Thor and Loki, to the family-centered TV show Schitt’s Creek, families have taken over popular imagination. This is because such relationships are a key part of all of our lives. The effect and significance of family relationships vary dramatically from person to person, but ultimately we all know what it is to have a family, and we all understand the trials and tribulations that come with it.
Growing up with people is difficult. History is hard. My sister has seen me through my worst teenage years, and I’ve seen her through hers. We’ve done things to each other that we don’t like to speak about: we’ve been our worst selves and made more than our fair share of mistakes. These mistakes often hurt, and there are scars that may never heal, topics that might always be taboo. Despite this, my sister is one of the few people who really know me.
I, along with a lot of other people, can be hard to get to know. In no way does this make me special. But, the history and the intimacy that my sister and I share bypass this barrier. It’s impossible to put up walls when she’s been there through thick and thin, and at my core, I love my sister more than anything.
What I’m trying to say is that family relationships are, to a certain extent, inescapable. I will advocate forever for the ability of all of us to choose our own families. I will never be the person who assumes that sharing blood is what brings people together. But I will say that it’s nice to have someone who knows you. And, purely because of timing, it’s family (whether chosen or genetic) who really, truly knows who you are.
Family relationships are universal. They are fraught with tension, they are multi-faceted and nuanced, but they are simultaneously eternally relatable. We all have families, and deciding to have someone in your life for a long time inherently involves drama.
This universality is what prompts the saturation of families in the media. Harry Potter is basically adopted by the Weasleys, Moira fights with Alexis and David on Schitt’s Creek, Thor and Loki are consistently entertaining and unpredictable.
Beneath all of these relationships is one core idea: family is making someone a permanent fixture in your life. It’s about allowing them to know you, and it’s about being there even when it’s hard, even when it doesn’t suit, even when people aren’t necessarily their best selves. This kind of long-term relationship necessarily involves drama, and will always be applicable and relatable to the masses. It’s why their depictions are so popular in the media, and all we can hope for from them are nuanced, multi-dimensional, and diverse representations of family in the media.
Really, all anyone ever wants is to see things that they’ve gone through reflected on screen. The best characters are those we can relate to, not because of magic hammers, but because of who they are. And families are an important part of that. We are forged in the fire of family: I sure as hell don’t know who I’d be without mine.