(All photos belong to NBC)
Amber Braverman (Mae Whitman) was one of my favourite characters from the get go for the simple reason that she's my age and I could relate to her. She's always been rebellious, but as the show grew, so did she. She skipped the whole college thing, got a shitty apartment, and worked as a barista. But her relationship with Ryan has been, perhaps, the best part of her character's growth in the show. It showed a new side of Amber, and it was one that I could relate to over the past few months. She gave her entire heart to another person, her entire self into her relationship, and in the end, Ryan took it and crushed her with it. My last relationship was very difficult, muddled with my ex's drug abuse issues, and I found myself crying along with Amber through so many of the episodes, being able to relate entirely to the pain she felt. She gave herself to another person so selflessly and with so much love, and it was beautiful. It was in a very empowering, healing way that she cared for Ryan - it wasn't like the type of relationship that you usually see from women in movies and TV. It wasn't fake, it wasn't out of desperate need for a man - it was out of this very pure caring for another human being. And it was refreshing to see a young woman in such a relationship.
Julia Braverman-Graham (Erika Christensen) has always been a very strong, forward woman, throughout the entire show. When Parenthood began, Julia was a lawyer devoted to her work, with a husband who stayed home with their young daughter. Right away, this was a new dynamic that you really do not see in movies and TV. Her struggle to have another child - and the failure to adopt a newborn baby - presented a new side of Julia, but it's been seeing her as a mother to her adopted son Victor that has been the most empowering (surprisingly!). When she left her workaholic ways and quit her job in order to foster a better family life, I wanted to hate it. I thought it was taking a progressive character and placing her back where most female-characters on TV are - in the home, with the family. But, I was pleasantly surprised. While her marriage fell apart, she fought hard for her son (and daughter). There was nothing soft and gentle about her role as a mother - she's fierce, she fights hard, and she takes takes great pride in her children. Motherhood is all too often portrayed as a very simple task, something that comes naturally to women. Julia's storyline - though set in an upper-class lifestyle that would already supply cushion to so many struggles facing single mothers - demonstrates the extreme emotional toll it takes to be a mother, and especially a mother to an adopted son.
Kristina Braverman (Monica Potter) - how can I not touch on her? She beat cancer's butt, she had a child later in her life, she ran for mayor, she's trying to start a charter school, and her son has Asperger's Syndrome, which presents a daily struggle. I feel like it's impossible to touch base on all that her character has done, but it's not impossible to imagine Kristina as a real person. She navigates through and conquers all that life hands her, and she takes it all a step further to follow her convictions. It's so empowering to see a woman who has strong convictions about what she believes - especially about education and the treatment of disabled children - and take those convictions, and make action on them. I'm pretty sure Monica Potter has won a lot of awards for her part on the show, and it's well deserved. It's not everyday that you see a woman on TV fighting so hard for what she believes, so hard that she takes it into the political realm and the realm of public education.
I should have started this off with Sarah Braverman (Lauren Graham), as she is the reason I began watching Parenthood! I am, of course, a hard core Gilmore Girls fan, and I was excited to see Lauren on TV once again. Her character is pretty much Lorelai - a single mom with a lot of quirk - except less selfish and less headstrong. Sarah has bounced around during the show, going from a bar keep to a playwright to an apartment supervisor to a photographer, but she's always remained a tremendously caring character who is still trying to figure out how to follow her heart and how to pursue her dreams - whatever they may be. She's finally in a stage in her life where she can think about herself - her kids are out of the house and she's left her alcoholic husband - and audiences get to see her floundering in this newly found freedom. It's really beautiful and it's something that a lot of women can understand. We're all unsure of ourselves sometimes, and Sarah embraces that with such a beautiful amount of dignity and grace.
p.s. Parenthood was created by Jason Katims, who also worked on My So-Called Life, so obviously he has a history of bringing totally rad women onto the screen.