Small Town Utopia
The show, Schitt's Creek was ... in my opinion ... the SHIT!
When I started watching it, I had no idea that I was going to fall in love with it so fast. Not long after the first few episodes, I noticed that others here in Eureka Springs, also fell hopelessly smitten ... and discussions ensued among our friend circles about it.
When the finale ended the series, I wasn't done.
I was gutted.
No one expected Schitt's Creek to be what it was.
Before watching it, I was convinced it was going to be another aggrandized Hollywood show about a small town with Hollywood elements, Hollywood flair and Hollywood blah, blah, blah ...
I mean, it was definitely THAT to a certain degree . . . but, to many, it was only that.
I. Saw. More.
The power of Schitt's Creek hits home to a place like small town Eureka Springs, Arkansas because, like it, we're just not that different. It absolutely did not take long for me to realize that it was a show depicting a town with a warm heart under a hard, yet, brittle shell.
In this scene <above>, Moira Rose gives a pep talk to Stevie just as she's about to entertain in a lead role in a community production of Cabaret. Moira says, "what the hell is your secret Stevie? You just stand your solid ground refusing to be anything but you."
This single phrase, my friends, depicts the people of Eureka Springs!
We stand our solid ground and refuse to be anything be ourselves . . . and, we can do so here safely and with love for one another, and we do this every day!
I watched this entire series while living here in Eureka Springs, Arkansas and I seriously wonder if my love for this series would have grown in the way that it has if I watched it while living in my former Dallas, or Seattle, or Boston.
The more I ponder, the more I realize, my love for this show, it's characters and the messages, The connections and the love all grew precisely because of it’s depiction of small-town life in a rural countryside of, well . . . any Country.
While we have no Rose Apothecary in Eureka Springs, we certainly have our fair share of bath salt "experiences in a tub" stores and businesses selling essential oils, crystals and "Calgon, Take Me Away! experiences."
I often tell visitors that we are about as close as one could get to a real life Schitt's Creek. I also tell them that "as one of the gay residents, it is my job to inform them that we have no straight streets."
I seriously say this shit.
To me, the character of Roland was utterly irritating, boorish and bland. His wife, vapid at times. As with any small town in America, we too, have our vapid, bland, boorish, irritating Zebras in town that cannot (no matter what happens) change their stripes.
Yet, like those on the show, and here in town, there is an earnestness to those characters that makes them impossible to dislike. This, my friends, is DIVERSITY!
"Rather than going the easy route and encouraging the audience to look down on the provincials, Schitt’s Creek did the very opposite, encouraging us, and the Rose Family, to embrace the utopian appeals of small town/rural life."
When I visit the Wanderoo Lodge here in Eureka Springs (and I do this frequently), I see the front desk and I am transported right back to that show. I think to myself, what happens here is not all that different than what happened with Stevie when she checked guests-in-and-out of the Rosebud Motel.
In fact, one of my most favorite moments of the show happened in the first season, when David and Stevie were clearly in a friends-with-benefits relationship.
Oh, let me just say, that same scenario NEVER (oh, NEVER EVER) happens here in Eureka!
David's father was quite confused by David's pansexuality.
My friends, this is ok.
No one knows everything about everything at every time. We need to learn ... and in most cases our children teach us new things. Please let your children teach you about pronouns. It is OK to continue to learn about the evolution of life from your children.
It absolutely cracked me up when John (David's Dad) said to David that he would be fine with whatever person David decided to date, if only he’d make up his mind whether he liked men or women.
Remember, big city John, (David's Father) said this line in the show.
Yet, it was Roland, the small town Mayor of Schitt's Creek, that reminded John that, ultimately, even though he was David's Father, he absolutely cannot tell his son who to love or how to do so.
In the show, John evolved beautifully and he came to agree. His David will be the beautiful being that he was meant to be whether he likes it or not.
So many things struck me about this show.
My love for this series grew precisely because it’s also the very depiction of small-town life that I experience RIGHT HERE RIGHT NOW in Eureka everyday! I wish, desperately and fervently, more people, like me, have this experience. (Side Note: My sincere thanks to everyone from Schitt's Creek for making this discussion "main-stream!")
Eureka Springs has CLEARLY shown me this experience and the show has shown me that there is beauty and light in this world, that there is goodness and richness in even the most seemingly vapid, silly people.
As rich and spoiled as they were, the Rose Family had some crazy complexity to them, and it’s very clear, at least by the end of the second season, that they all love one another.
I can certainly think of a few WONDERFUL families here in Eureka Springs with that much love and that much complexity.
In the end of this blog-post, I can’t deny that the most important relationship for me in this series was that between David and Patrick as (of course it does) most relate Jeff and I.
It was clearly from the moment that they met during David’s attempt to get a business license that this couple cast a spell on me. It wasn’t long before I was choking up during every touching moment that they shared together on screen when Patrick finally told David that he made him feel right . . .
then . . .
...he serenaded him with Tina Turner’s “Simply the Best.”
This, my friends, is Jeff and I.
When David returned the favor back to Patrick by lip-syncing the song and dancing in front of him as he played his guitar -- I was sold.
I’ve spent a lot of time wondering why it is, exactly, that I’ve invested so much emotional energy in this fictional relationship between Patrick and David, and I think I have the beginnings of an answer.
The 1998 Will & Grace were hardly depicting meaningful gay male relationships. Queer as Folk premiered in 2000 and illustrated some gay relationships, but most would agree that this series was far more about sex and promiscuity than it was about true love between two beautiful people.
David and Patrick filled a deep desire for me for on-screen true love that I never really seen before, between two men -- until now. It is so impressive to see two men sharing such a raw and authentic relationship as that depicted by David and Patrick.
There’s a genuineness to their desire and love for one another that fulfills a deep need in my heart and my soul, one that depicts a juxtaposed energy to my roots from a city-kid upbringing.
The fact that this same-sex love takes shape and flourishes in a small town makes it all that much more meaningful for me, and I’m profoundly grateful that Dan Levy made the conscious choice to depict a show, and a town in rural where ever, utterly devoid of homophobia.
This kind of place exists. This is Eureka Springs!
I can’t help wonder what a 15-year-old John-Michael would have made of David and Patrick growing up as a teen in the suburbs of Boston, Massachusetts. Hopefully, they would have reminded me that there is love waiting for me, even if I did end up living in a small town, like Eureka Springs, Arkansas one day (which is not that much different than Schitt's Creek as depicted on this Hollywood series.)
It would have reminded him that, like David (with whom I identify very intensely), he would one day find a man who understands him. loves him, respects him and is devoted to him. A man who, to paraphrase Moira, "sees him for all that he is."
In short, I would find my own happy ending with my wonderful Jeff, a man very similar to Patrick. (without the guitar and vocal skills, though.)
Every so often, I make a little trip to my hometown Medford, Massachusetts, the beautiful city that I grew up in just 15 miles north of Boston.
I find myself caught in a strange mental space when I am there.
Obviously, there will always be a part of me that feels affection for those run-down buildings, those dusty streets, the rolling hills. For better or for worse, this is where I came of age as a gay man, where I experienced my first (unrequited) love, where I knew what it was like to experience desire. At the same time, I can’t but be aware that Medford is not the greatest place in the world to be gay.
When I watch Schitt’s Creek, I can’t help but wish that my Medford could have been a little bit more like that of the titular town which, despite its nature, its quirky (and sometimes irritating) inhabitants, is a utopian safe space where homophobia dare not show its head.
Years later, our beautiful Eureka Springs, Arkansas has proven to be that wonderful place.
One of the last shots of the Schitt's Creek series is of the redesigned welcome-to-town sign. Still wildly inappropriate, it has now been updated to show all four members of the Rose Family, including David and Alexis in the background, with the sign’s new motto — “Welcome to Schitt’s Creek. Where everyone fits in.”
There’s something radical and powerful about this very sentiment, a suggestion that there is a truly utopian place on earth, an ideal toward which every small town aspires to.
I had hoped, for a very long time, that one day, the very place I would one day call home would become a similar utopia on Earth.
EUREKA! I found it!