I’ll Be Home at Last: What Schitt’s Creek Taught Me About Vulnerability

Source: TV Insider

 

Everybody loves a winner
So nobody loved me
‘”Lady Peaceful,” “Lady Happy”
That’s what I long to be
Well all the odds are—they’re in my favor
Something’s bound to begin
It’s got to happen, happen sometime
Maybe this time
Maybe this time, I’ll win…

I never thought it would be Stevie.

Moira Rose is the iconic one—the one who belongs in the pantheon with Ron Swanson, Michael Scott, Liz Lemon, Selina Meyer, and all the other 21st century comedic icons. Alexis has one of the best character arcs in TV comedy history. Johnny makes me cry more than any other character. Patrick is basically my dream man. And I’m more like David Rose—charred marshmallow heart and all—than I should probably admit.

But somehow, I keep coming back to Stevie Budd.

Schitt’s Creek has been a beacon of light and laughter for me and for so many others during the dark year that’s been 2020. And when things seem particularly dark, I’ve found myself watching one scene over and over.

It’s not “A Little Bit Alexis.”

It’s not Moira’s fruit wine commercial. (Although that one is definitely high up on my most-viewed list.)

It’s not even David and Patrick’s first kiss, proposal, or wedding.

It’s Stevie in the Season 5 finale, opening up to Moira backstage during “Cabaret” about how she feels stuck behind the desk while everyone else finds their person and their purpose. It’s Stevie, taking her first steps out from behind the desk and into the spotlight to sing “Maybe This Time.” It’s Stevie, basking in a standing ovation and gasping in overwhelmed surprise—at her chosen family’s reaction…and maybe at herself too.

“Maybe this time I’ll win…”

Schitt’s Creek has a sense of utopia about it. It’s a show where homophobia doesn’t exist, where people are accepted and nurtured and loved for who they are while still being guided to the best version of themselves. It’s a show where families reconnect, where broken hearts are healed, where people of all kinds get a second chance and a fresh start. One of the most beautiful things about this show is that every person watching it can find a different thing to inspire them, a different storyline or thematic element to give them hope.

For me, it’s all about vulnerability.

Schitt’s Creek is a show—and a place—where vulnerability is always rewarded. It’s a show where putting yourself out there, sharing your story, standing in your truth, and wearing your heart on your sleeve always leads to something good. When these characters take a chance and open themselves up to someone else, it works. It makes their lives better, and it inspires the people around them to open their hearts too. One act of emotional honesty leads to another, and this beautiful domino effect creates a better, happier world—a world where these characters, many of whom were painfully lonely for so long, feel less alone.

You can see it everywhere in this world. When Patrick takes a risk and gives David the receipt from Rose Apothecary’s first sale for his birthday, David takes a risk and kisses him in the car. That starts a relationship that’s built on sharing and opening up and making each other feel safe and accepted enough to be their truest selves.

It’s there in Alexis telling Ted that she loves him when she has nothing to gain from it except the peace that comes with sharing your truth. That moment, coupled with David’s openness about his own belief in the value of letting yourself be vulnerable enough to be loved, leads to Ted kissing Alexis and a love story that transforms both characters into the best versions of themselves.

And the beauty of Schitt’s Creek is that it’s not just about vulnerability and openness in romantic relationships. It’s about parents and their children saying “I love you” and siblings hugging each other and best friends telling each other that they’re best friends. And in maybe the show’s most poignant and memorable example of sharing your truth, it’s about a man who was afraid to tell his parents he’s in love with another man sitting in a booth with them and learning that their love for him will never change.

Schitt’s Creek is a place where a character can stand with their heart in their hands, and instead of it being seen as a weakness or an excuse for conflict or comedy, it’s seen as a gift by the character it’s being offered to—and, because we follow their lead, by the audience as a whole.

This show isn’t just about vulnerability in small, personal moments, either. It’s also about the bravery it takes to stand in front the world and share your truth. Patrick singing “Simply the Best,” David saying his wedding vows, Alexis giving her “Singles Week” speech about locks and keys, Moira singing to Alexis at her graduation, Johnny giving his pitch about the value of motels like the one he calls home—these are all moments where characters who have often been reluctant to share their truth take a deep breath and share it with the larger world.

And the larger world rewards them for it.

Which brings us to Stevie’s moment in the spotlight.

It actually begins before she even steps behind the microphone. It starts with her telling Moira the truth about what’s been bothering her—it’s not that her best friend is getting married; she’s happy for him. It’s just that she feels like she’s stuck watching it all from behind the desk.

“It feels like everyone’s growing up all around me…”

Who hasn’t felt that at some point in their life? Watching friends or family members date, get married, have babies, reach career milestones, better themselves in a billion ways—it fills you with a deep sense of joy and pride but also a nagging sense of standing still while the rest of the world moves in a dance around you that you never learned the choreography for.

Or maybe that’s just me.

That one line has captured the feeling at the heart of my specific brand of “pandemic ennui.” Like Stevie, I’ve found myself incredibly happy for those who are using this time to improve their lives, find things that bring them joy, get better at hobbies, get in better shape, or succeed in a myriad of other amazing ways every day. But like Stevie, I’ve also found myself questioning my path and wondering if I’m meant to just watch it all happen from behind the desk (or screen, in my case) because I can’t quite find my footing right now.

Which is why few things on Schitt’s Creek have meant more to me than Moira telling Stevie two simple words that sent Stevie onto the stage and sent me back to the keyboard:

“Use it.”

The way Stevie channels all of her pain, her hopes, and her desires into her performance of “Maybe This Time” speaks to me on a deeply personal level (and not just because the lyrics to that song were one of my AIM away messages during my senior year of high school back in 2006). This is a woman claiming her spotlight and using her art to show her truest self to a room full of people without knowing how they’ll respond. And at first, we feel her hesitation. Vulnerability is scary. But then the most amazing thing happens: We can feel and see her let go. We see her take ownership of her place and her voice. We see her throw her head back and lose sight of the crowd and leave her guts on that stage without the certainty that the people watching her will like it. All that matters in that glorious crescendo is that she’s finally letting the world see her without holding anything back.

And because this is Schitt’s Creek, her voice is heard, her story is appreciated, and her bravery is applauded—literally, in this case. Standing on that stage, seeing the love and support that she has from every corner of her world (even Moira has tears in her eyes!), Stevie gets her win—and what a triumphant win it is.

Like the song says, she’s home at last.

And maybe I can be too.

Maybe I can stop being afraid that my words aren’t perfect and my story is too messy and my truths aren’t as positive and shiny and nice as they were back when this place was at its height. Maybe I can stop being afraid that I’ll stand in front of the world (or at least my little corner of it) with my heart in my hands and no one will want it. Maybe I can stop being afraid to claim the spotlight in this pink-bordered part of the Internet that was once a haven for the kind of vulnerability I’ve been running away from for too long.

Maybe this time, I’ll win—not because of what the world thinks of my voice, but because I was brave enough to use it at all.

And maybe that’s how we can all make the world a little better, a little more accepting, and a little more like Schitt’s Creek.

6 thoughts on “I’ll Be Home at Last: What Schitt’s Creek Taught Me About Vulnerability

  1. Thank you for embracing vulnerability and bringing your perceptive, entertaining writing to me. Our worlds seem miles apart – for one I use kilometres and the metric system, but I value your in depth, well-considered takes primarily on television but a broader view as well. Your words help point out the bleeding obvious I appear to have missed as well as make me consider the subtler issues I am glad to take away to think about.

    I was blown away by your takes on Castle all those years ago and I continue to follow on Twitter because your account is so damn joyful and you seemingly full of positivity and love. Even if at times it doesn’t feel that way to you, there is a lack of cynicism in your posts and I need that lifeline lest I sink in the mire of misery. That is who you are to me.

    Keep on writing, you have a gift for analysis. Thank you.

    • I don’t even know where to start…

      Thank you. From the bottom of my heart, thank you. I went to bed last night feeling a little doubtful about the future of my writing and worrying that it wasn’t reaching anyone that way I’d hoped it would. Well apparently the universe heard my doubts and sent me you and this beautiful comment to remind of why I write and why I share things the way I do. I’m thrilled you stuck around since the glory days of Castle (time flies!) and that my constant Tweeting doesn’t drive you crazy! All I ever do is try to just be myself in this digital world, and to think that’s enough to help someone feel more positively is honestly a gift.

      I hope you know that I’ll be thinking of you and your kind words all day and for many days (and probably weeks and months!) in the future. Your kindness is its own kind of lifeline for me, and I’m eternally grateful that you took the time to reach out to say such supportive things.

  2. Katie! I am sad it took me a couple days to get a chance to read this lovely love letter to such a great show. Schitts Creek is one of those rare shows where while I dont dramatically identify with any one character specifically, I see a little bit of myself in all of them, and that makes it so easy to care about them and forgive them when they are being ridiculous. I love that you identified so strongly with Stevie, because like you said, she is not the obvious choice. I also love that in her journey after that moment of vulnerability, she was willing to try new things and fail, and ultimately find the right place for her. Even though in a way she came back where she started, it was with a new sense of purpose and pride. There is so much power in knowing you have a choice.

    “Schitt’s Creek is a show—and a place—where vulnerability is always rewarded. It’s a show where putting yourself out there, sharing your story, standing in your truth, and wearing your heart on your sleeve always leads to something good.” I love this summary of the show. Its a shame the real world isnt always so kind, but even more reason to have a show that gives us that guarantee.

    I hope you know that while the world is a big place, and its easy to feel lost in it, you have your own Schitt’s Creek where your voice is heard, your story is appreciated, and your bravery is always applauded – It’s this community here, and you built it with your own vulnerability. ❤

    • Shauna! I’m so glad you commented! I totally agree that Schitt’s Creek is the rare show where you can see bits of yourself in so many characters. Normally, I love shows where there’s one character I immediately kind of imprint on, but with this show, every character has little parts of them that I can relate to and parts that made me attach myself to them emotionally over the course of the show, and it’s made for such a satisfying viewing experience.

      I also have to say that “There is so much power in knowing you have a choice.” is also such a great summary of the show. So many of these characters gained power, confidence, and a stronger sense of self from learning that they had the power to choose their next steps.

      “…you have your own Schitt’s Creek…” – This made me tear up in the most beautiful way. This place is very much my Schitt’s Creek, and I always hope that it feels that way for everyone who visits it and especially those who share themselves in its comments. Thanks for the reminder that I have a place to go that will give me the same feeling Stevie felt—this community has always been my safe space, and I hope it continues to be that for as long as humanly possible. ❤

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