Monday, May 08, 2006

six feet under

Maybe it's too soon to speak because I am only on Season Two of "Six Feet Under" (I realize I'm way behind from those who watched it while it was actually out - the series just ended). But it is stirring me in so many ways just from these first two seasons alone.

It is dark, macabre (what with the setting a funeral home and constant death the backdrop), gritty, intense, dealing with the toughest issues of life... and it is inspiring, hopeful, challenging, revealing, awakening.

I think that is the best word to describe the experience of watching it: it feels like an awakening. As the characters awaken from slumber, secrecy, silence, imprisonment in their own minds, so do you, the viewer. It explores dark, dusty areas, bringing them out into the light. It's like a wake-up call to impending death, appreciating all you have right now, examining how you want to live out your remaining days before they're gone. It inspires you to say things you haven't said to those closest to you (and thus often farthest from you). It illuminates the sincere desire of family members to connect and love each other and all the obstacles leaving them feeling misunderstood by one another. With the writer of the show authoring the screenplay for "American Beauty" (not my favorite but still thought-provoking - think that level of grittiness for the content of "Six Feet"), you can see parallels in the subject matter intensity and high level of honesty. No place is off limits and the show goes there: the afterlife, faith, religion, death, birth, love, sex, addiction, loneliness, secrets, release.

Francis Conroy is incredible as the mother... a bundle of conservatism, repression, denial and yet intense, passionate longing for love and connection, for openness with her adult children. In some ways, they see her attempts at becoming open as 'too little too late', or even as humorous. She invokes feelings of pity and compassion, while being completely relatable. A truly multi-layered, complex performance. She's heartbreaking and beautiful; you celebrate every moment of awakening with her, wanting her children to see her for who she is, yet understanding why they do not.

David's struggle with "coming out" as a homosexual, intense loneliness and a similar (to his mother) repression of feeling, anger, doubt and emotion, is like watching a constantly open wound, and is similarly awkward and painful. Sometimes you want to shake him awake as his movement is slow with as many (or more) steps back as forward. But there is empathy for his journey and some of the deepest inspiration of the show thus far in his moments of crying out to God. realizing how God sees him as opposed to the self-loathing with which he looks at himself. This makes his forays into meaningless sex and trying to cover his loneliness all the more pathetically sad. It's the most honest journey dealing with loneliness and homosexuality I've ever seen portrayed in film or TV by far.

My favorite has to be Nate. He is the (anti) hero, the solid rock, a bundle of passion and a carpe diem spirit. Of course, he's likewise flawed, volatile, angry and as of yet not revealing undealt with past issues... but he's in many ways the instigator of much of the awakening in the family. Their dad's death (in the pilot episode) is the initial instigator, though everyone but Nate 'deals' with it by denial and control of emotion. Though his outbursts are frequent, you can't help but feel it's healthier to feel what you feel as he does as opposed to the repression common in the Fisher family. Still, you see his own areas of hiddeness as time goes on. Everyone has their own secret world, even the most vocal. When Nate moves home, changes his life, committing to his family whom he was running away from before, it gave me this incredible sense of possibility and rebirth. I sense Nate cannot continue on as he is without reaching a breaking point.

Illeana Douglass expresses (in her wonderfully hilarious, poignant guest star appearance) that there is so much sadness in their home. It's buried deep and yet so is the potential for the truest love. I am rooting for a more full awakening for the Fishers, even as I do for my own family... and myself. I certainly relate to Nate as he must explode and live from his heart even when imperfect and his fervor is not reciprocated. Of course, I am also like him in that I have my own "secrets", not maybe literal secrets that I can name, but areas where my hidden 'demons' wrestle and fight, or my deepest passions bubble to the point of eruption. Places no one sees or can comfort.

The journey of this show is beautiful, heartbreaking, frustrating and hopeful. Like life. Like growing up. Like realizing the flaws and imperfections in your family and your favorite things. Like re-awakening from this disappointment to realize they are also as beautiful as you hoped. Like knowing that family are the people, the only people, who will always truly love you... no matter what.

May there be a way to break down walls one by one so that the purity of our hearts' desire leads the way, rather than our fears, shame and misunderstandings. May the barriers and secrecy that hold us back and keep us in bondage fall away, opening the floodgates. I don't feel this now but I am asking for it just the same. May Dan and I (our family), already characterized by pure openness, raw honesty and a profound tenderness, continue in truth and not veer from that path.

"When you grow up, you have to give yourself away. Sometimes you give your life all in a moment, but mostly you have to give yourself away laboring one minute at a time." Gaborn Val Orden