What we can learn from the forced closeness of Schitt's Creek

At no point in my adult life did I think I’d share anything with a family who, well, wasn’t real. But then the pandemic hit.
(Schitt's Creek )

There's something important I should share about my family: we are not rich. 

We have never been rich, we will never be rich, and if we ever somehow become rich, we will not know what to do with said richness and I will likely eat shrimp rings for dinner every night because that seems like something a rich person would do.

Which is the long way of saying my family and I don't have much in common with the Roses, the family at the centre of Schitt's Creek, who, before we see them ejected from their mansion in the series premiere, enjoyed a life of opulence, only to see them betrayed by their business manager, sending them to live, penniless,  in the titular rural town of Schitt's Creek.

My family are not pillars of the entertainment industry, nor do we have access to a collection of incredible wigs. We've never lived in a mansion, and my life experiences pale in comparison to Alexis or David's. And that was fine, because Schitt's Creek is a beautiful work of perfect fiction. 

At no point in my adult life did I think I'd share anything with a family who, well, wasn't real.

But then the pandemic hit. And whether we liked it or not, many of us all got a taste of that classic Rose closeness -- only instead of financial ruin spurring a new life in a small town, our reality was much more rooted in anxiety, concern for our health, and the quiet acceptance that should any of us venture outside to do anything, we were putting our lives at risk. 

The Roses may have been confined to a precious and glorious hotel, but we were stuck in our own homes, navigating an incredible number of unknowns and adjusting to "the new normal," which is a phrase I refuse to say again because it is awful.

When the pandemic started, I'd been half-living at my parents' for a little while anyway, so it was easy to shift into a type of family mode I hadn't experienced since I was a wee baby teen. 

Then, by the time the summer rolled around and I gave up my apartment, I'd come to accept my new way of life: I was a grown-ass woman sharing a small space with two people who'd been on the receiving end of, "Nobody understands me!" for nearly a decade. I was a little bit (like) Alexis—only instead of a brother, I had a cat.

The thing is, Schitt's Creek is special in the way it made forced togetherness seem survivable and even appealing. 

Over the course of the series, the Rose family come up against the pain of growing up amidst circumstances they can't escape from, but even as they reconcile with the way they've started changing, it's rare to see Moira, Johnny, Alexis, and David take their frustrations out on each other. It's rare to see them act cruelly or selfishly without apologizing and learning to do better. It's rare to see them treat each other as less than or with apathy. It's the blueprint for a familial dynamic that prioritizes unity over isolation. 

And it was exactly what I needed to see when I'd begun equating a move back home with failing the pandemic.

Of course, none of us are characters in a series that's fuelled purely by love. And, where the show is sparked by one family's choice to cope with their financial pitfalls, most of us are also treading water in the middle of a global crisis with no concrete end in sight. (See: we live in hell.) 

But Schitt's Creek has never presented itself as work based on reality, and has never expected us to believe that the Rose saga is one we (or anybody) should relate to. Instead, it offers a rare and special alternative: that should we find ourselves in a situation where we're living in a way we weren't necessarily expecting, there may be some redeeming qualities. Maybe it's an opportunity to reconnect. Or maybe it's proof that once this misery marathon finally ends, it's time to move on.

I watch Schitt's Creek knowing that their life circumstances are very far from my own. 

And I watch knowing that I am very lucky to have parents I like, and who didn't turn my bedroom into anything other than a place I was welcome to stay. But I also watch with the intention of hoarding a little of that Rose family magic; where in moments when my family is driving me bananas or I begin to panic about what's supposed to come next, I remind myself that while my experience belongs solely to me, it's also become a way I've learned to see my mom and dad as people and to accept and understand (and even appreciate) their complexities and flaws. 

But I think that's the point of Schitt's Creek anyway. 

After all, it was in that tiny hotel that one of the funniest and most charming families finally began to appreciate each other, quirks and all. Which is exactly where I need to escape sometimes when my own family starts getting to be a little much. 

Even if none of those characters have a cat.


Anne T. Donahue is a writer and person from Cambridge, Ontario. You can buy her first book, Nobody Cares, right now and wherever you typically buy them. She just asks that you read this piece first.