Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Parenthood - My Thoughts on the Bravermans, Part 3

Okay, with Part 1 and Part 2 done, it's time for Part 3 - discussing the Braverman grandkids. Thanks so much to all who are chiming in in the comments section. It's fun to discuss this show together!

I have one random pet peeve I'd like to express before I go on. Now that we're caught up and watching the show as it airs, I am really peeved at their previews/scenes from next time ("next week on a very special Parenthood!"). They have a tendency to show us, in the previews, how next week's episode is going to END. Whaaaa? Where's the element of surprise there? Talk about spoilers. Wow.

Let's go family by family again, starting with my favorite (/end sarcasm), Adam and Kristina's clan.

Haddie Braverman

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Nice picture, right? Can't you just HEAR her whiny, nasal-y, annoying voice droning on about some injustice in her life?? BAH. Like, it's so, like, you know, like, hard, like, to be, like, a Braverman, like, and, like, it, like, makes, her, like, eyes, seem, you know, like, dead, or something, like. Why are all the kids on this show, particularly the girls, so bratty?!? The teen angst is soooo over the top in this show. Honestly, the whining. It burns. She drives me crazy.

Sarah Ramos, who plays Haddie, is a lovely girl, but man has she had some bad hair seasons. It was as if the make-up people were trying to make her look bad. And that episode where she dyed her hair dark? Why was that such a big deal? Why did her parents flip out? She wasn't dropping acid. She was making her hair darker. And it looked nice, too. Honestly, it's like Adam and Kristina aren't happy unless they're mad about something. They seem to think it's a parent's job to be constantly annoyed with your kids (unsolicited advice: it's not). It doesn't make you cool. It doesn't make you hipster. It just makes you kind of an ass.

Speaking of, she hasn't exactly had it easy. I mean, the first couple of seasons show her parents repeatedly missing her school events, sports games, and awards ceremonies. They'd apologize and swear they'd try to do better and then they'd forget all about her again. It has GOT to be tough to be a sibling in the situation she's in with Max needing so much attention and special care. As I watched the early seasons of the show, I couldn't help but think of the book Wonder and how Auggie's sister didn't ever seem to get mad or resentful about all the extra attention her brother got. I suppose it's normal to have some resentment. Haddie doesn't have it easy and she's generally a good kid. It would've been nice for her parents to recognize that more and to work to have a relationship with her, too, instead of her just "being there." I felt for her.

This brings me to a pet peeve I have about this show in general - their portrayal of all teens as difficult, angst-y (it should be a word), withdrawn, sullen, attitude-y (that, too), whiny, rebellious, and troubled. I. am. so. sick. of. stupid. teen. stereotypes. I hate that all teenagers are portrayed the exact same way. There is no other subset of people who would ever stand for it. People trample on teens because they think they can. Well, I cry foul. Teens are capable of much, MUCH more than pop culture leads us to believe. So, please, writers, give them more credit. And less pigeon-holing. Geez, you'd think America was made up of a homogeneous type of adolescent - look around your high schools and communities. That's just not true.

By the way, Sarah Ramos, in 2013, began attending Columbia University. Not too shabby.

Max Braverman

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I. Love. This. Kid. Max Braverman is the bomb! And Max Burkholder, who plays Max on the show, is a brilliant, brilliant actor. I seriously had to stop watching one time and look him up to find out if he had Asperger's in real life. His portrayal of Max is uncannily good. It is utterly believable and I just love how this show tackles the issues surrounding Asperger's Syndrome. So well done. 

Max says what he thinks. Always. His parents don't always know how to connect with him, because bonding with him isn't easy (they do try, for the most part). He struggles with eye contact, empathy, and considering others' feelings - it's all part of the diagnosis. He is obsessive and has tantrums. He is hyper-focused and can not be interrupted without blowing up in frustration. Life with and for Max isn't easy. But they try hard. This show really, truly addresses the struggles of dealing with a family member who has Asperger's and, at times, it's heart breaking. 

And, at times, it's funny. One of our VERY favorite episodes is called "Small Victories" and Mark and I both laughed out loud so hard that we nearly fell off the couch. I have tried and tried to find a video montage (how has someone not made one yet?!?) of the hysterical lines in that episode, but to no avail. Zeek and Camille have a great, casual interaction with Max about his entering puberty, while Kristina drones on in protest under her breath. Hysterical! The talk he has with Adam about changes is so sweet and poignant. And then when they get him to shower and wash his privates and he tells them about it in the hallway as he struts around in a towel (Skittles!). So freaking funny.

Max is a terrific character - one of my very, very favorites.

Kristina and Adam also have baby Nora - she's cute (reminds me of our kids' cousin Zoe) and a fun, additional storyline. The timing, how they found out, how they portray the struggles of babyhood . . . all excellent. Sometimes you've got to wonder with the Adam and Kristina story lines, how much can one family handle?!? Geesh!

Sarah's kids are . . . 

Amber Holt

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This is another one of those mystery-to-me-why-everyone-likes-her-so-much characters. She is her mother's daughter - lost, afloat, directionless, confused, and messed up. Every time she tries and things don't go her way, she throws a fit and does something unhealthy (drinking, drugs, and other impulsive behaviours - yes, behaviours. I feel British today.). I know people like this - they must get their way or else they get mad and take it out on life. I don't understand that mentality. I get being angry, but the self-destructive behaviours? Not so much. Especially with a history of alcoholism and substance abuse in her family. And yes, kids can understand that. If we think they can't, we're back to stupid teenage stereotypes again and low expectations for all adolescents.

Sometimes she seems to have some sense - doesn't trust her father, doesn't trust Ryan when he reminds her of her father . . . and then she does something stupid like drugs or a bad haircut or getting that hole of an apartment. She doesn't seem scared enough, in my opinion, of a guy with a temper (MAJOR red flag). And then, after some ups and downs, she goes on a bender and just happens to end up, unbelievably, at a bar where her estranged father works. Will wonders never cease. 

Amber suffers from the same annoying affect that most of the females do on this show (except for Sarah, the lovely Lauren Graham) - she is flat, monotone, whiny and can't seem to string together a sentence without an equal part of "likes" and "you knows." People love her and her dynamic with her mother and her brother, but I can't for the life of me figure out why. Just about every scene with her is histrionic and verklempt. And not in the pass-me-the-tissues way. More in the OMG-I-can't-take-any-more way. I want to like her, but she makes it very hard.

Drew Holt

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So, Drew. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Oh sorry, I nodded off there for a second. Um, hmmmm. Like his sister, he plays guitar sometimes. Let's see. What else. Another teen who is uncomfortable to watch. He's overly shy, not very assertive, and so awkward. He is also so flat when he speaks that I sometimes forget I'm watching a show and start making my to-do list for the next day. I just can't bring myself to care about his story lines. 

His girlfriend Amy was a cute first love for a while, but then she blew him off when he was totally there for her and then she showed up when he was in college and zzzzzzzzzzzzz . . . oh, so she stayed with him for a couple of weeks and zzzzzzzzzzzzz . . . . I guess we were supposed to be upset that it messed up things with Natalie, but I wasn't, because I just can't bring myself to care about any of them - not Drew, not Amy, not Natalie, not his, dude, roommate, Berto (Berto?!?), though I do love the scene where soldier Ryan shows up to lay down the law. Just a giant snorefest all around.

Joel and Julia's kids are . . .

Sydney Graham

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Sydney is a gigantic brat. She is one of the biggest brats on television. She grates on my every nerve. Do you see it? Do you see how every granddaughter on this show is annoying and bratty and every grandson is more endearing? I can't stand Sydney. She is spoiled, pampered, catered to . . . it's like her parents are scared of her. What the ????? I sort of love the episode where her grandparents call them out on raising a brat. Part of me was outraged like it was none of their business, but I have to admit that what they said was spot on. She's a sore loser, a sore everything. I can't stand that kid. 

Victor Graham

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I really like this kid and, man, is he adorable. Of course he's sweet and likeable since, you know, he's a Braverman grandson as opposed to a Braverman granddaughter. He's been a wonderful addition to the show and it helped illustrate such a sweet storyline about frustrations and unexpected surprises in infertility and adoption. I love that they dared to show Julia's difficulty bonding and her second thoughts (especially after the bat-throwing incident, you can't blame her). The adoption scene was great and the season finale was also very sweet. I love, too, how Zeek stood up for him at the baseball game. Do not mess with the Bravermans! I read an interview with him that says he's nothing like his early, angrier character. He's a sweet kid, so it's kind of fun for him to play a different role like that.

Crosby and Jasmine's kids are . . . 

Jabbar Trussell (Braverman?)

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Did they ever legally change his name? I'm not sure. Love this kid. He's one of my very favorites of all the kids on the show (though, admittedly, that's not hard, since so many are brats, especially if they have 2 "X" chromosomes on this show). Such an unassuming, sweet kid. He's the biggest reason I root for Crosby and Jasmine. I want him to have Crosby in his life always, because Crosby loves and adores him and is so good to him. I love how he has transformed Crosby. It wasn't instantaneous, but it was a slow evolution and it was beautiful.

Crosby and Jasmine also have baby Aida. Not much to say about her, though I love when she's born and Crosby is all, "She's white!" Hilarious.

Next installment will have any characters not discussed so far. I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments!


Emily Foley said...

I thought it was a given that Amber went to her dad's place of work on purpose? I don't think that was an accident. She wanted to confront him because she was mad at Ryan and she thought it was his fault. I don't think that was meant to be an accident.

I hate Drew, I hate Max, I hate Haddie. I hate Sydney. I think she is portrayed fairly accurately as a spoiled only child, though. But I think Lily from Modern Family has the corner on brattiness, way more than Sydney.

I say I hate Max. I don't hate him. I struggle with him a bit. But yes,the actor does an amazing job.

Dr. Mark said...

Yay for Part 3! Hurrah for having so much to do that all you want to do is write!

Hey, you know what? We agree on so much again. That's right out of left field!

Angsty. I like it. As a word, not a characteristic of teenage characters on the screen. Give teens a little more credit. Sheesh!

Haddie. Like, it just that, you know, I have a really, like, hard time understanding, you know, why she must, like, talk this way. I wish they'd clean up her dialogue a little more. It's distracting. Between her poor speech patterns and bad attitude I spent the first three or four episodes thinking she wasn't a very good student when in fact it's the exact opposite. She needed a little more Adam and Kristina love in the beginning. You know?

Max. Best kid on the show, hands down. Is there any line better than this? "That's because I washed my armpits, my butt, and my balls with soap, like dad said." I'm laughing just thinking about it. You're right. He's an incredible actor. It is unbelievable how well he captures the nuances of Asperger's. Unreal.

Nora. She seems nice enough for a baby. I'm sure they'll make her annoying since, you know, she's a girl on "Parenthood."

Amber. There are times, especially in the later seasons, that I feel like I may actually like her a bit, but then they put her in a very Amber/Sarah situation and then I'm reminded why I can't stand her. I will say that she has grown a lot over the course of the show. She's still self-destructive at her core, but I feel like she's slowly making progress.

Dredlllmkfmmmmmmmmmmmm. Oh, sorry. Fell asleep there for a minute just thinking about all of Drew's stimulating quips and clever witticisms. Blah. And he's a whiner. Big time.

Sydney. Brat indeed. I'd cut her some slack with the "all of a sudden I have an older brother" situation, but she was such a brat from the beginning. I'm thinking there's somebody on the writing staff with a very annoying child or niece, or neighbor, or something, because this girl is beyond most brats I've met.

Victor. What a great addition. He's another great actor. He captures all the emotions that have got to be involved in being adopted as an older kid. Can you imagine essentially being abandoned at an age where you are fully aware of the situation? Yeah, I wouldn't think so. I've loved seeing his small triumphs that bring the family together.

Jabbar. Another great kid. I like everything they've done with him, but I absolutely loved the early seasons and how he affected Crosby's life.

As an aside, I love how the Braverman clan accepted both Victor and Jabbar with zero hesitation or reservation. That is awesome.

Aida. Weird name for a kid. "She's white!" What an awesome line!

There's a Part 4?! Yay! I'm so supportive! ;)

Dr. Mark said...

Emily, I did not get that about Amber's trip to see Seth. They do leave a lot of details out that we're forced to accept, so maybe it was a given that Amber knew where he worked.

Lily is definitely a brat. Brats in comedies somehow come off as a little less extreme, but I can see where she rivals Sydney.

I can also see where Max would be a difficult character to watch. I think they use him brilliantly in so many situations. I love when they use his quirks to diffuse a tense situation.

LMW said...

I maintain that Jabbar is the very best and Sidney is the very worst kid. Interesting to learn that she hasn't gotten better in the current season.

I see both sides of the Max argument. He is played absolutely brilliantly, but he's certainly not an endearing character. Much like Sheldon from Big Bang Theory.He's hilarious to watch on TV, but if you're realistic about it, he wouldn't be much fun to be around in real life. It may be wrong, but I always say "Sheldon deserves a punch in the face!" as I watch Big Bang. Since Max is still a kid, I never feel like he deserves a punch in the face, but I also don't think he's particularly delightful or easy to watch. Then again, I can think of a certain former student of mine with Aspergers that I started off thinking I wouldn't be able to like, but ended up enjoying and admiring very much once I got used to his quirks. I will say that dealing with him everyday was definitely like doing mental gymnastics and rather exhausting after the end of just a 1.5 hour session. That's kind of how Max is for me. He's challenging, but I think the character is brilliant and I give mad props to the show for presenting Asperger Syndrome so realistically.

Lindsay said...

Drew drives me nuts and Sydney makes me cringe. Max does a really good job, but I also have a hard time watching him sometimes. My brother has some of the same quarks that are hard to work with. We (me and Scott) actually think that Jabbar and Victor are really bad actors. There, I said it! They are adorable boys, but just not good actors to us. I am so sad that we don't have our Thursday night show. Parenthood is probably our favorite one right now.

Boquinha said...

Huh. I thought they presented it as a giant coincidence. I could be wrong.

Emily, don't hold back your feelings. :P I can relate, though. The kids are just AWFUL. And yeah, Max is REALLY tough, that's for sure.

And ohhhh you're right - Lily is awful, too!

Mark, you're so right about Haddie and Kristina!

I LOVE THAT MAX LINE! I looked so hard to find a video clip of that as well as his conversation with Zeek and Camille. SO SO funny.

Agreed on Amber.

Great point about the Braverman acceptance of those two kids. That IS awesome. Adopted, natural born, whatever - they're family.

LMW, buckle up, because Sydney possibly gets worse this season! UGH.

Such good points about Max and Sheldon. Excellent thoughts! And ditto the mad props.

Lindsay, I can see that. Max really is a phenomenal actor. I mean, just incredible. So the others pale in comparison anyway. At least they're playing pretty young kids - that helps.

Anonymous said...

I don't watch this show, but maybe I should. My friend talks about it all the time. :)

Boquinha said...

Ha! Nevillegirl, that's hilarious. It certainly brings out a lot of opinions!! :P

The Magic Violinist said...

Throughout each season, I've gone back and forth on who I liked more, Amber or Haddie. But overall, I think Haddie is the winner. Her life seems to be more on track than Amber's. She's in college, she's stable, she's not dating someone who frequently gets into fights. But I think Amber has a better relationship with her mom than Haddie does. Haddie and Kristina's conversation seem like official meetings, while (for the most part) Amber and Sarah joke around a lot, seem more casual.

MAX!!! I love him. He's awesome. He's funny, he's a great actor, and his character is well-thought out. He never acts in a way that he shouldn't, which I don't I think I can say for any of the other characters. And after he found out he had Aspergers, he had some serious heart-wrenching scenes where he asks his parents why the other kids laugh at him and why he can't be normal. Ugh, it's like a punch to the gut.

(I also love his scenes with Hank, especially the one in the dark room where they're both obsessing about their own problems. SO funny!)


I think Otis and Nora often do/say things that cause Adam and Kristina to say things that aren't in the script. Kristina gets interrupted a lot by a babbling baby, and then she'll say something like, "Yeah, can you say dada?" when it has nothing to do with what she was talking about.

I think Amber drinking when she's upset is odd. She lectured Haddie about Alex's drinking problem, saying that she always worries about that because of her dad, but then she goes out and gets drunk, while she driving, no less? That always struck me as a little odd, considering her hatred of Seth.

I also think Amber can be condescending. The way she talks to Drew, while some might find it sweet, I find to be the same as someone might talk to their dog. She seems very assured in her position as the big sister.

And calling Ryan Buddy? That bugged me before you ever said anything. "Buddy" is the name of a puppy or little boy, not your boyfriend.

Drew's boring. His sentences are littered with, "Uh, yeah, I don't know,"s and "huh, cool,"s. But I do love that scene with Ryan in his dorm room! :) "No, dude's not my name either."

Sydney's spoiled. Maybe being an only child was part of it, and suddenly having to share things with a sibling was a shock for her, but I have yet to find something redeemable about her.

Victor's so cute. :) I feel especially bad for him with the whole Joel/Julia situation. Just like Jabbar, Victor was just settling in when Joel had to move out.