Rise Up (Television Thoughts: When We Rise, ABC)

when_we_riseIt’s a shame that apparently, ‘When We Rise,’ did not enjoy great ratings. Although Dustin Lance Black, who wrote most of it, says they count it out yet. I suspect that a lot of people, myself included, did not watch it in ‘real time.’ I don’t think a lot of people commit to something four nights in a row. I finished this in a couple of days, and just watched the last episode just now, and I must say that it is one of those things that will touch you immensely. I found myself in a puddle of tears watching the struggle for Marriage Equality, which is the cornerstone of the whole piece.

I don’t think that was a spoiler, is it? The show chronicles the fight for equality, starting in the 70s, right through the 80s as it fights ‘the plague,’ and culminating to the Supreme Court ruling on Marriage Equality. It tells the stories of different people – Cleve Jones, Roma Guy, Ken Jones. There have been criticism that there are too many characters int he show, but I disagree- each of them proved to be very essential to the whole narrative. It was great to see Cleve’s journey, as a teenager from Arizona who moves to San Francisco. We see him through the hedonistic 70s, as he finds himself a survivor of AIDS< losing friends and lovers to it. He then starts the NAMES Quilt Project, commemorating the hundreds of thousands of yougn men who succumbed to the disease. We later see him as one of the major activists fighting for Marriage Equality: indeed, we see him there at the seats of the Supreme Court. We see his most poignant ending as he sees couples marrying at San Francisco City Hall. His character mirrors all of us, well it mirrors most of my experience. Like him, I found a lot of complexity in where we are today.

I hope that a lot more people discover this series. I know it is available on Hulu, and turns up on Netflix. People on the good and bad side of history will see a lot of themselves in the stories here, and will see themselves enriched after watching.

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