After Sunday’s emotional episode, I have seen multiple people on my timeline calling for the swift and immediate death of the character Kate from This Is Us.
I understand why everybody is so upset about her. As a child on the show, she is a whiny, brooding girl, constantly lashing out at her mother with her poor attitude and entitlement. As an adult, she is stuck in a continuous loop of grief and self-destruction, this time directing her poor attitude and entitlement at her fiancé, Toby, who is, for all intents and purposes, the best TV boyfriend ever. For these reasons alone, Kate has been annoying some of us for weeks, especially because Toby is EVERYTHING and how dare she be mean to him ever?? The cry for Kate’s head, however, did not come until Sunday’s episode, when we found out that Jack died from a heart attacked caused by the smoke inhalation he likely suffered when he went back into the burning house, at Kate’s insistence, for her dog.
I have read the arguments (and gotten into a few spirited ones myself) about why Kate’s character is flawed and needs to be removed from the show. Viewers say that she is annoying, entitled, and that it was her selfishness that caused Jack, who is arguably the best TV dad since Uncle Phil, to ultimately perish. And while I’ve read and engaged in these arguments, it didn’t occur to me until early this morning why I felt the overwhelming need to defend Kate, despite her shitty behavior and surly disposition.
Y’all. It’s because I AM Kate.
I mean, obvious differences notwithstanding. I’m clearly not a white woman or one of a set of triplets, although she and I are around the same age. I was, however, a girl who was raised at the center of my father’s universe, same as Kate. I have a daddy who made it clear that he adored me, that I was special, and that he would do anything in the world for me. Just like Kate and her dad, my daddy and I share a very special bond, one that nobody else in the world could replace or understand. He’s just my daddy, and in my eyes, he does no wrong. And my dad still looks at me the way Jack looked at Kate in that video she made while she was singing.
Now, I know for a fact—BEYOND ALL DOUBT—that my father would not have gone back into the house to get my dog. He hates dogs, first of all, and when I was 17, my dad was already in his 60s, so he definitely wouldn’t have been about that life. Also, we’re black. (No elaboration necessary.)
But. (And this is a true story.)
I remember wanting a Care Bear when I was 4 years old. I told my daddy about this Care Bear, and his response to me was, “I’ll give you the Care Bear for Valentine’s Day.” But, as luck would have it, we got heavy snow on Valentine’s Day that year. The streets were impassable. There were no cars on the road. The buses weren’t even running. My dad didn’t live with us then. He lived in Montgomery County. But he’d promised me that Care Bear on Valentine’s Day, and I didn’t care that there was a foot of snow outside. I didn’t care that not even emergency vehicles were on the roads. All I knew was that my daddy made me a promise, and I expected full well for him to deliver, regardless of the weather.
My mom said I sat in the back window all day, waiting to see his car drive by. (He used to drive a white Monte Carlo back then.) She kept telling me that Daddy wasn’t coming, that the weather was too bad. I refused to believe her. He TOLD ME he was coming, so I kept watch. Lo and behold, right when it had gotten dark, I saw this figure trudging down the street in the snow, holding some flowers and a shopping bag. I jumped up and started screaming. My mom comes running down the steps. I’m yelling at this point, “Look, Mommy! It’s Daddy! He came!”
My father came in the house, handed my mother a bouquet of flowers, and gave me my Care Bear, the exact one I wanted with the rainbow on its stomach. My daddy had walked from Addison Road Metro Station—approximately 1.6 miles—in almost thigh-deep snow drifts to bring me my Care Bear because he promised he would and the Metro was the only transportation that was actually up and running. He delivered the packages and didn’t even take off his coat. He kissed us and turned and walked back out the door, down our street, and back to the Metro station. I sat in the back window, clutching that Care Bear and watched my daddy trudging through the snow until I couldn’t see him anymore.
I had no idea that the cold was enough to send Daddy into hypothermic shock, or that he could’ve gotten lost in the snow (it was blowing sideways). I didn’t think about how dangerous or difficult it was to walk through so much snow. I wasn’t thinking about the distance between our house and the Metro station or the fact that, from my house, that entire return walk is almost completely uphill. None of that crossed my mind. I knew I asked Daddy for something, and I knew he would deliver.
How is that any different from how Kate felt about her father and the sacrifices he was willing to make for her? Right. It’s not. I’d be a complete hypocrite if I called for Kate’s head on a platter for killing Jack, because my daddy’s love for me probably almost took him out that cold, snowy Valentine’s night.
It’s a vicious trickbag, though, to be raised at the center of somebody’s universe. Because when you’re no longer under that protective cover, and you no longer have that person keeping you safe from the disappointments of the real world, you fall… and you fall hard. You actually don’t realize the world doesn’t revolve around you, because you’ve ALWAYS stood at the very center of the universe, as far as you could tell. YES, Kate is absolutely an obnoxious, spoiled, selfish brat (even as an adult) with no coping skills (ESPECIALLY as an adult). But that monster was created in love. It was created in the mutual love that allowed Jack and Kate to have the bond that they had. It was that whole “I am your father and I will always save you… from danger, from distress, and from disappointment.” That kind of love is love that ruins you. It was love—not Kate—that made Jack run into that burning house. It is love—not Jack’s death—that renders Kate unable to move on from the tragedy of her father’s death.
I know it’s love because I feel that for my daddy.
And love like this makes you a brat. It makes you irrational. It gives you a sense of entitlement. It’s so consuming, so big, that it swallows you whole. Most of you who know me in real life know I don’t play ’bout my Daddy… and he don’t play ’bout me. You also know how completely spoiled I am. Bratty almost, even. (I said almost. Don’t push it.) That’s all my dad’s fault.
So. I’m Kate. And I have a daddy like Jack. And I get it. Her asking her dad to save the dog wasn’t asking him to sacrifice his life for her. It was her asking him to be his Superman, the same Superman he’d been her entire life. Something was wrong, and she called on Daddy to fix it, because it was always Daddy who had fixed things for her. It looks like selfishness to the outside eye, and maybe it is, but I truly believe it’s deeper than that.
As annoying as she is, I can’t get mad at Kate. I see so much of myself in her love for her father and in the grief with which she is unable to cope, because even though my dad is still alive and kicking, I know a day will come when I will have to reconcile with the fact that he is no longer physically here, and I can’t imagine what that will feel like. I do need Kate to develop some coping skills and to get out of that awful loop of self-destruction and self-inflicted punishment so that she can finally move on from that night, because girl. Twenty years? Come on, now…
But I DO need y’all to stop saying she killed her father. She didn’t. The love that her father had for her caused him to make what we regard as an irrational decision, but to fathers like Jack and Alex, no fire or snowstorm is ever bigger than seeing disappointment in the eyes of your baby girl.
(Jack and Alex are better parents than me, tho. I’m not running through a fire or walking through a snowstorm to avoid seeing disappointment in my kid’s eyes. He’s 15. He will deal.)
I still have that Care Bear, too, 31 years, several engagements, 2 degrees, 5 different residences, a few professions, and several lifetimes later.