TV Reviews

What "This Is Us" Got Right: The Brutality of Family

No one can traumatize you like family.

Season four of This Is Us managed to provide what few series accomplish: a satisfying finale.

Show creator Dan Fogelman has built a great American mythology surrounding the Pearsons, using a formula of unexpected time jumps and parallel storylines that's kept the series fortunately more creative than its title. Somehow, the show avoids (for the most part) the melodramatic pitfalls of many family dramas. With a team of 10 writers (at least three of which are of color), This Is Us has tried to have "a bigger voice in [race-related] stories" by exploring Randall's (Sterling K. Brown) adoption as a black man into a white family, as well as body image and eating issues through Kate's (Chrissy Metz) struggles, and addiction issues through Kevin's (Justin Hartley) alcohol and substance abuse. With a roster of such heavy themes, it's a good thing the writers are funny. Sterling K. Brown can switch from emotional monologues to self-aware apologies for quoting Oprah ("sorry, I was raised by white people"). Meanwhile, Mandy Moore has proven that she is an ageless creature from another realm, as she's delivered immersive performances while age-sliding from a young twenty-something year old to a seventy-something-year-old.

And so, the most impressive part of the season four finale, by far, was watching two of these beloved characters absolutely decimate each other in a family fight that make this video of baby sharks eating other in the womb seem like a fun screensaver.

(SPOILERS BELOW)

The team of This Is Us writers managed to tease out several suspenseful questions throughout the season. At last, the finale's bombshell reveals included the mother of Kevin's child (confirming one popular fan theory), the fate of Toby and Kate's family, and, of course, the reason why Randall and Kevin stop speaking by their 40th birthday (although, one under-appreciated detail is the fact that Uncle Nicki, the detached loner and Vietnam vet with PTSD, ends up married, judging by the wedding ring on his finger in a scene that jumps to the future–Congrats, Uncle Nicki!).

Kevin confronts Randall about emotionally manipulating their mother into changing her mind about entering a clinical trial for Alzheimer's instead of spending her remaining time with family. Their fight–which takes place on the front lawn, where all the best family fights take place–spirals into attacks about their family's deepest traumas and unspoken issues. From Randall's interracial adoption after the death of the Pearsons' third biological triplet to Kevin trying so desperately (sometimes eerily) to follow in his father's footsteps as a real-life prince charming, the most glaring flaws in these two characters are weaponized against each other.

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CULTURE

Nazi-Chic: The Aesthetics of Fascism

Let's take a look at Nazi-inspired fashion.

Villains always have the best outfits.

From Darth Vader's polished black space armor to The Joker's snazzy purple suit, bad guys always seem to show up their protagonists in the fashion department.

Way more handsome than Batman. static.giantbomb.com

But could there possibly be a real world equivalent to the type of over-the-top villain fashion often found in fiction? It would have to be sleek and imposing, austere and dangerous. Probably black.

Maybe it's him. Maybe it's fascist ideology.

Oh, right.

Let's call a spade a spade. From an aesthetic standpoint, the Nazi SS outfit is very well-designed. The long coat tied around the waist with a buckle portrays a slim, sturdy visage. The leather boots and matching cap look harsh and powerful. The emblem placements on the lapel naturally suggest rank and authority. And the red armband lends a splash of color to what would otherwise be a dark monotone. If the Nazi uniform wasn't so closely tied with the atrocities they committed during WWII, it wouldn't seem out of place at Fashion Week. Perhaps not too surprising, considering many of the uniforms were made by Hugo Boss.

Pictured: A real thing Hugo Boss did. i.imgur.com

Of course, today, Nazi uniform aesthetics are inseparable from the human suffering doled out by their wearers. In most circles of civilized society, that's more than enough reason to avoid the garb in any and all fashion choices. But for some, that taboo isn't a hindrance at all–if anything, it's an added benefit.

As a result, we have Nazi chic, a fashion trend centered around the SS uniform and related Nazi imagery.

History of Nazi Chic

For the most part, Nazi chic is not characterized by Nazi sympathy. Rather, Nazi chic tends to be associated with counterculture movements that view the use of its taboo imagery as a form of shock value, and ironically, anti-authoritarianism.

The movement came to prominence in the British punk scene during the mid-1970s, with bands like the Sex Pistols and Siouxsie and the Banshees displaying swastikas on their attire alongside other provocative imagery.

Very rotten, Johnny. i.redd.it

Around this time, a film genre known as Nazisploitation also came to prominence amongst underground movie buffs. A subgenre of exploitation and sexploitation films, Naziploitation movies skewed towards D-grade fare, characterized by graphic sex scenes, violence, and gore. Plots typically surrounded female prisoners in concentration camps, subject to the sexual whims of evil SS officers, who eventually escaped and got their revenge. However, the most famous Nazisploitation film, Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS, flipped the genders.

The dorm room poster that will ensure you never get laid. images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com

Ilsa was a female SS officer and the victims were men. She spent much of the movie wearing her Nazi uniform in various states, sexually abusing men all the while. As such, Ilsa played into dominatrix fantasies. The movie was a hit on the grindhouse circuit, inspiring multiple sequels and knock-offs and solidifying Nazi aesthetics as a part of the BDSM scene.

Since then, Nazi chic fashion has been employed by various artists, from Madonna to Marilyn Manson to Lady Gaga, and has shown up in all sorts of places from leather clubs to character designs in video games and anime.

Lady Gaga looking SS-uper. nyppagesix.files.wordpress.com

Nazi Chic in Asia

Nazi chic has taken on a life of its own in Asia. And unlike Western Nazi chic, which recognizes Nazism as taboo, Asian Nazi chic seems entirely detached from any underlying ideology.

A large part of this likely has to do with the way that Holocaust education differs across cultures. In the West, we learn about the Holocaust in the context of the Nazis committing horrific crimes against humanity that affected many of our own families. The Holocaust is presented as personal and closer to our current era than we might like to think. It is something we should "never forget." Whereas in Asia, where effects of the Holocaust weren't as prominent, it's simply another aspect of WWII which, in and of itself, was just another large war. In other words, Nazi regalia in Asia might be viewed as simply another historical military outfit, albeit a particularly stylish one.

In Japan, which was much more involved with WWII than any other Asian country, Nazi chic is usually (but not always) reserved for villainous representations.

OF COURSE. i.imgur.com

That being said, J-Pop groups like Keyakizaka46 have publicly worn Nazi chic too, and the phenomena isn't limited to Japan.

In South Korea, Indonesia, and Thailand, Nazi imagery has shown up in various elements of youth culture, completely void of any moral context. For instance, in Indonesia, a Hitler-themed fried chicken restaurant opened in 2013. And in Korea, K-Pop groups like BTS and Pritz have been called out for propagating Nazi chic fashion. Usually such incidents are followed by public apologies, but the lack of historical understanding makes everything ring hollow.

Implications

So the question then: is Nazi chic a bad thing?

The answer is not so black and white.

On one hand, seeing Nazi chic on the fashion scene may dredge up painful memories for Holocaust survivors and those whose family histories were tainted. In this light, wearing Nazi-inspired garb, regardless of intent, seems disrespectful and antagonistic. Worse than that, it doesn't even seem like a slight against authority so much as a dig at actual victims of genocide.

But on the other hand, considering the fact that even the youngest people who were alive during WWII are edging 80, "forgetting the Holocaust" is a distinct possibility for younger generations. In that regard, perhaps anything that draws attention to what happened, even if it's simply through the lens of "this outfit should be seen as offensive," might not be entirely bad. This, compounded by the fact that Nazi chic is not commonly associated with actual Nazi or nationalistic sentiments, might be enough to sway some people–not necessarily to wear, like, or even appreciate its aesthetics, but rather to understand its place within counterculture.

Ultimately, one's views on Nazi chic likely come down to their own personal taste and sensibilities. For some, Nazi chic is just a style, an aesthetic preference for something that happens to be mired in historical horror. For others, the shadow of atrocity simply hangs too strong.

TV News

"This Is Us" Wants You to Cry Harder Than You've Ever Cried

Are you ready to see what would've happened if Jack Pearson had lived?

As America's favorite family, the Pearsons don't have many flaws.

Sure, the patriarch Jack Pearson (Milo Ventimiglia) struggled with alcoholism, and he and his wife, Rebecca Pearson (Mandy Moore) weren't equipped to address the subject of racial inequality in America despite adopting a black son, but the mythology that This Is Us has crafted around Jack and Rebecca Pearson is untouchable: They were the perfect love story.

Except Jack Pearson died tragically in a house fire when his three kids were just teenagers, his widow ended up marrying his best friend who has the personality of plain toast, and now, in her old age, Rebecca is showing signs of Alzheimer's disease, meaning that she'll one day forget all about her epic love story with Jack.

Only two more episodes remain until the season 4 finale (titled "Strangers: Part 2," which suggests the return of Cassidy Sharp, played by Jennifer Morrison), and the time-jumping series has been teasing more dramatic reveals than ever: Who is Kevin's fiancee and mother of his child? Will Randall experience another nervous breakdown? Will Kate Pearson (Chrissy Metz) and her husband, Toby (Chris Sullivan), break up over the conflict of raising a child with special needs?

Of course, there have been signs of hope for the Pearsons, like dangling ropes to hang ourselves with while we wait for the Pearsons to figure their sh*t out and become the well-adjusted people we ourselves will never be. By the end of "Clouds," we saw that Toby seems to be adjusting to fatherhood with a blind son, Randall has continued his much-needed therapy despite his pride, and Kevin–well, who knows what Kevin will do next, as that boy has a twisted sense of love and relationships.

But tonight's episode, "After the Fire," will attempt to wrench the the still-beating heart out of America's chests by showing us what life would have been like if Jack had lived. At the end of last week's episode, "New York, New York," Randall (Sterling K. Brown) told his brother, Kevin (Justin Hartley), that he often thinks about what would have happened if their father had survived. Promo materials show the return of elderly Jack (Milo Ventimiglia), who has made brief appearances in his children's dreams.

Following his first appearance as 73-year-old Jack in the season two finale, Ventimiglia shared with CNN that the show's makeup artists based his aged look on photos of his own late father. The process took three hours and involved a wig, but the impressive realism matches that of Mandy Moore's time-jumping transformations. Ventimiglia added, "Looking at the history of Jack and how he had lived his life in a very simple way, I feel like a broken record saying he loves his wife and he loves his kids, but I feel like that is expanded when you get to your 70s." He added, "He felt like a man that was probably interested in slowing things down as best as he could, just to hang on to the moments."

With Randall beginning regular therapy for his anxiety disorder, is his preoccupation with his father's death a driving source of his anxiety? Would Jack have taken Randall to meet his biological father, William, when he was a teenager (giving him decades of time to spend with William before he succumbed to cancer)? Would Randall have been happier if he hadn't felt the responsibility of looking out for his mother throughout his life? Would Rebecca have been happier? Would she still have become sick?

This Is Us will come for your soul Tuesday, March 17, and the finale will air on March 24, on NBC.

This Is Us 4x17 Promo "After the Fire" (HD) youtu.be