Love that Journey for me- why I’m writing about Schitt’s Creek at last.

Today 404 Ink launched their Crowd Funder which includes my book Love that Journey for me: The Queer Revolution of Schitt’s Creek.

This book came about because I quoted Dan Levy to make an argument about Angels in America in another book. If you know me, weirdly that probably makes perfect sense. If you don’t…we’ll get there. 

I’m going to start by saying, I’m terrified. I’ve never written about anything that quite so many people care about before. As an academic I’m used to writing about 30 year old plays that a handful of people care about. As a playwright I’m used to talking to…well the back room of a pub.

But people care a lot about this show I’ve written this little book about. I’m one of them. And finding the words, even as someone who has a lot to say about a lot of things, I’ve not been able to find the words for something that feels like it…saved me. 

Firstly though, I want to assure any fans that it comes from a place of love. While I don’t flatter myself anyone involved in the show will read this or the book, if they did, that it also comes from a place of love. And my need, as an academic and as a first class nerd to document and shout about its importance. 

So, in my case, how do we get from Angels in America to Schitt’s Creek? Well firstly about 30 years of Queer cultural history on stage and screen. But that’s another blog post or lecture (obviously I have written that blog post). Ok seriously, how did I get there?

Bribery. I used the final season of Schitt’s Creek as bribery for finishing my Angels book last summer. And I used the other five seasons to keep me sane while I wrote said book (the keeping sane part didn’t quite happen). Long story short, a Dan Levy quote made its way into the Angels book as quite a central argument that I’ll probably end up arguing with the editors over. And somehow in that process, the slow realisation that this show had saved me more than a little bit. But that aslo, I really had to find a way to write about all the things I now had in my head about it. 

How? Why? That’s the stuff that’s really hard to put into words. 

I can pinpoint the exact moment I fell in love with this show. How often can you say that about something? The moment I cried more at any show than I’d cried before (to that point). And the exact moment I just knew it was going to change my life. The moment I knew I was never coming back from my off at the deep end nerdery with it. And when it ended? I went to bed and cried, and the next morning, mid work, sat at my desk and sobbed. 

Reading this some people will nod in agreement, others will roll their eyes. But I know the people who get it, get it. 

I fell in love with the show at the end of season two. Like many of us, the Roses’ dancing together stole my heart and I knew in that second I wasn’t coming back. My Mother got there a few scenes earlier, she never talks to the TV, but as Johnny and Moira had dinner my very British Mother declared ‘That’s Schitt’s CREEK!’ along with Johnny. And at the end of that episode I knew I would have these characters in my life forever. 

I cried more than I’ve cried at a tv show (to that point…this same show obviously took that crown again…and again) during ‘Singles Week’ and David’s speech to Ted…and again at the ending. 

The moment I knew it would change my life was hearing Patrick say ‘you make me feel right’ and articulating something I’d never had the words for before. And later in his coming out story, giving me a way to understand parts of myself I hadn’t, even at 30-something. (I wrote more thoughts about his coming out story here) 

The moment I knew I was going off at the deep end with nerdery was Patrick’s Cabaret audition. As a musical theatre nerd and as a former academic of musical theatre, specifically Queer musical theatre, my brain near exploded. Basically, the need to write about this show started with a need to write about Cabaret and this show. 

When it ended? It fell as these things do, at a moment I really needed it.Everyone’s last year has been filled with low points, and when I finally reached the finale I was at probably the worst of mine, and so I needed it. So yes, I went to bed and cried. And yes, I sat at my desk the next day and outright sobbed. And judge that if you want to, but I cried because it meant something. 

I can (and I will) tell people what this show means in terms of Queer TV, in terms of representation, of stories told. But really it’s what it means to us all in the big and the small, individually, that matters. 

Of course it’s the ‘big’ things like ‘the wine not the label’ and yes, hearing someone talk about your identity in a way that made sense. It was ‘nobody is thinking about you the way you’re thinking about you’ and again having the words for something you didn’t before. It’s a coming out story for grown ups, that makes you feel seen because not everybody has it all worked out in high school. It’s the coming out story not all of us get to have. It’s a collection of flawed humans figuring life out, it’s a group of kick-ass women who aren’t defined by their relationships. It’s feeling like you have a ‘family’ on TV. 

It’s a Happy Ending to a Queer story. That thing that 30-somethings Queer people didn’t grow up with. We grew up with legislation that meant we couldn’t talk about being Queer in school. We grew up in the wake of AIDS, we grew up with maybe two famous Queer people to look up to. So that’s why lots of us needed Dan Levy and his show too. For what’s inside the show, and what’s outside. 

The ‘Happy Ending’ of the show is one that I think we all need sometimes. The moments we feel a bit lost like both David and Patrick did at some point- I’m still in my pre-Patrick David Rose phase. But that’s ok. Because what the show did was give me hope. In the moment I watched the finale I needed to let go of some things- in the midst of a pandemic, having everything taken away from me, I felt most keenly of all David’s decision to finally let his life in New York go, and stop fighting for something that wasn’t right. Sometimes you need fictional characters to teach you a lesson you already know.

For what the show means outside of itself too, lots of 30-somethings needed that. To see a gay man, as a writer and show runner owning his Queer stories and fighting for them. Yes, following in the footsteps of others who had gone before, but also, more importantly paving the way for others to come after. To see that man unapologetically be out, and proud talking about his show. And I know for lots of us, the power of seeing his Dad by his side supporting that. The sheer hope in that, especially for anyone who didn’t grow up with that, was so powerful. And finally too, Dan Levy’s personal style, showing all us quirky kids who got made fun of in high school for dressing differently, that embracing fashion for a sense of who you are (especially as Queer kids) is ok. 

Again, for anyone who never needed any of this maybe it seems silly. But I know this story changed me; I think it saved me a little bit too. I know without a doubt, this show got me through. Not just in the watching of it, the stories it told, but in having something to look forward to, to focus on, while everything fell apart. It might seem impossibly trivial, it mattered. From thinking ‘hey that interview is coming out’ to getting excited about award shows or hanging onto Noah Reid’s albums like they were a life raft (which I also wrote about here) to taking the Native Studies Course with University of Alberta (which I wrote about here) to just, having something to be nerdy about with friends, it gave me that in times I needed something. 

What about those people who want to mock it? saying it’s only TV. To which I say, part of me hopes you never needed those stories that badly, to feel seen that badly. But part of me hopes you do experience that one day, because finding something that speaks to you, whatever it is, always changes things.

The reason I cried so much for the ending of this show, was in that moment I needed it most once again, this little show told me it was ok to be who I am. To be burned and bruised by life, to be the one who doesn’t quite fit in, or who hasn’t found their path or their person yet. And that sometimes, it does work out, even for us.

As a writer writing about this show saved me a bit too. In January an academic publisher told me I didn’t have enough expertise to write a book on the topic of my actual PhD and while it says more about the nature of academia than me, being told you aren’t good enough to write about the thing you spent years working on….that knocks you. I’ve spent nearly ten years all told on the research in my ‘PhD books’ and this one, from the little show that helped me get through trying to write one of those will get published first. I was told I wasn’t ‘good enough’ to write about one thing I wrote a PhD on, but a publisher saw the love and yes ok downright nerdery I have for this show and gave me a chance. That matters. 

With my ‘creative’ writing hat on too, this show and what it created gave me something to cling onto. Not only, when, as a playwright, my whole industry disappeared overnight in 2020. While at the same time I kept getting told I was a variation of ‘too nice’ a writer. I wasn’t ‘edgy’ enough, and really let’s face it not cool enough. I found myself asking ‘am I enough’ because all the stories I wrote for theatre were dismissed for being ‘too romcom’ ‘too sitcom’ …basically not ‘cool’ and ‘edgy’ enough…and while I can’t ‘fix’ my writing style for theatre, this show made me see the power in stories that are nice. That isn’t cruel, that isn’t filled with suffering or darkness. Obviously those stories have their place, but this show taught me shows that are nice, and happy are equally, if not more so powerful to the people they matter to. 

This show matters to people. It lights up my slightly jaded heart every time I see someone mention it, because it makes me feel like that person shares an understanding of something special. It got me through the darkest of times, it excited me again as a writer and academic, and it made me feel less alone. Really, the town where everyone fits in.

And so, I’ve written this little book, with the help of 404 Ink to celebrate that to try and put some of that into words, and explore why it means so much. 

You can support their Crowd Funder here and I’ll be blogging some more in the coming weeks to talk about other pieces of the show that got me through. 

By Emily Garside

Academic, journalist and playwright. My PhD was on theatrical responses to the AIDS epidemic, and I continue to write on Queer theatrical history. Professional nerd of all things theatre.

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