It’s no secret that I am a super-fan of the NBC television show, This Is Us. It sucked me in starting in Season One, with the complex family story, which included threads about everything from drug and alcohol abuse, weight shaming, obesity, fierce sibling rivalry, adoption, and so much more. The masterful storytelling kept me coming back with all the surprises, clever and well-placed flashbacks, and shocking plot-twisting endings to almost all of the episodes. What’s not to love! The characters are so real . . . so honest . . . so flawed.
The Season Five premiere earlier this week confirmed that the show wasn’t going to shy away from the reality of current times. In the first few minutes of the show, the challenges of the coronavirus were incorporated seamlessly, with Beth’s revelation that “Tom Hanks has it,” and Kevin and Madison’s pregnancy reveal to Kate and Toby at a safe distance. The current Black Lives Matter movement also played into the storyline, especially for Randall’s immediate family. The scene where Randall, Beth and the girls were watching the news about the death of George Floyd was especially heart wrenching. Randall insists he’s not having a breakdown. He’s just “really, really sad.”
Some viewers didn’t like the inclusion of COVID and the racial tension in the storyline, saying that they watch television to escape reality. That doesn’t work for me. I generally don’t enjoy watching or reading something that is obviously not rooted in reality. This is why I’m not a fan of books, movies, or television shows with the genre or theme of science fiction, fantasy or superhero fiction. To each his own.
Let’s get back to Randall. Most adult adoptees in real life know about The Fog. For those not familiar, for adoptees, the phrase “coming out of the fog” refers to adoptees coming to terms with feelings–often supressed emotions–and realizations about adoption and their adoption experience. It is an awareness that evolves, or comes on slowly, that the reality of the adoption experience may not fit the mold society or adoptive families have constructed for adoptees. You are immersed in The Fog if you are an adoptee who believes that relinquishment and adoption are completely positive events and have no effect on your life or your emotions at all. Adoptees living in The Fog are mostly grateful and may believe that they were “saved” by their adoptive parents from a sad life of being an orphan, or being raised in poverty, or worse. These ideas are often instilled in the adoptee by his or her adoptive parents. Adoptees are often told they were “chosen” and are “special.” Adoptive parents may mean well by telling these stories, but for an adoptee, the reality will hit at some point.
The reality is: biology does matter. Being separated from your mother at birth or even later causes trauma. This trauma can affect the development of a child on many levels, including physiologically, socially, and emotionally. Identity confusion is common for adoptees. As the realization of this trauma comes to light for an adoptee and evolves, the feelings and emotions start to flow: rejection, grief, confusion, mourning, denial, anger, bargaining, and, hopefully, acceptance. This is coming out of The Fog.
Truly, what I’m writing here is such a simplified version of what adoptees may go through when coming out of The Fog. Libraries are full of research articles by experts and books written on the subject. It’s a real thing. And I believe that Randall is just starting to come out of The Fog.
Randall has been under an enormous amount of stress since the beginning of Season One. He’s a people-pleaser. He’s an over-acheiver. He didn’t think that his stress had anything to do with his adoption, but it obviously did. During the first season, he searched for and found his biological father! We all grew to love William during their ‘reunion,’ but there is no denying that this event confused Randall, and challenged much of what he believed about himself. Also revealed to viewers were the secrets that his adoptive mom, Rebecca, had kept from him. The secrets, on top of all of the other stress, force Randall to face his demons. He goes to counseling.
I actually wrote a post after Randall lost it last season (remember when he chased down the purse snatcher and beat the crap out of him?). I think this was the start of Randall coming out of The Fog.
Now he’s facing the racial issues of the current social climate as a black man who had been raised in a white family. His identity is being challenged even further by his emotion and the reactions and feelings of those closest to him. He realizes that they (Kate and Kevin) are not able to fully understand what he is going through. Again, all of this is pushing him out of The Fog even more.
I’m looking forward to seeing how Randall’s story evolves. There must be an adoptee or two on the writing staff or consulting with the writers because, in my opinion, they seem to get the adoption storyline right every time. And it’s only going to get more interesting now that we know (SPOILER ALERT) that Randall’s birth mother didn’t die after she gave birth.
Interested in another adoptee story? My book is on sale at Amazon!