What’s it like being human, after all?
Things are becoming different to what they were. For long, mainstream media, storytelling and the homogeneous world we live in told us we are working towards a society where differences were either being appreciated, or disrespect towards them was being questioned.
But now, from the Hindu identity to being a Caucasian in America are things we must take note of, because enough people around us do. Things are not just changing; they are turning our world upside down. People can travel based on what ethnicity they belong to, and which specific country they were born in. What does one do? Despair doesn’t get us far, anger and resentment brings us closer to our foes than those among us who understand.
As always, we must find refuge in literature and on the screen, living our feelings vicariously through stories and characters who bring succour. The underdog wins, despite their skin color, race, economic status. But these stories rob us of the struggles. And we can only learn so much.
In this light, I’d like to recommend Transparent, a show on Amazon Prime. It’s perhaps a world we’ve never quite learnt about, especially in India. The show’s hero (in a gender-neutral manner) is a 60-something college professor, who has just retired. And has decided, after years of being what he was, to become a woman, tired of playing a man all his life.
Transparent is about the journey. It’s almost meditative. There are five people in this family, each of them going through their own journey. The mother, abandoned at the precipice of old age. One child, who learns his childhood abuse by a teenaged babysitter has resulted in a son who’s a strapping teenager. Another who realizes she’s Bi, and divorces her husband of years. And finally, the youngest, who’s discovering what’s it like to be a lesbian. As many F-ups as you think can be there.
But Transparent transcends everything — gender identity, family dynamics, tragedy and everything else in between. More than anything else, it’s as acute an examination of the human condition you can find. You’ll see familiar faces from TV and Hollywood, playing roles you’ve never thought of. In ways that are new, unfamiliar and uncomfortable at times.
In times when people want to skew to stereotypes and ideas of the past, this show leaps to a future that’s real and yet imaginary. This family is Caucasian, Jews in a world where anti-Semitism is (nearly) dead, and their personal lives are the ones causing the conflict. You want to root for them, yet thinking about what horrors they bring to their families. And over time you realize each for their flaws is making them stronger, for they do what most of us can’t, face their deepest fears.
This piece is not meant as a review, or a recommendation. It is meant as a helping hand in these times of despair. If Twitter and its trolls bother you, if your family’s Whatsapp group makes you shudder about the casual prejudices our people carry, watch Transparent. It will disabuse you of issues that today exist at the very margins of our consciousness. I had to put off watching individual episodes, and even seasons at a time. But at the end, I’m left a better human being than I was. And that’s worth something.
By Karan Rajpal
Karan is a professional marketer who lives for cinema and the written word. He writes brand stories for a living, and daydreams about Bryan Cranston and Christoph Waltz doing a film together He tweets at @ironymeter and writes at www.karanrajpal.com