Being Erica

Being Erica

Being Erica used the trope of time travel in a whimsical tone to explore the life and mishaps of Erica Strange. I felt a great affinity for the protagonist, loved the fact it was set in Toronto and was impressed by dynamic female characters and a cracking representation of the LGBT community. Rather than using LGBT relationships as cheap plot devices, the show was very open, normalised and celebrated this community, for which I greatly applaud it.

The show dealt with large themes and issues like understanding and accepting the self, constructs of success and failure as a new opportunity. There are plot arcs involving pregnancy and adoption, drug abuse, gang violence, bullying, tradition and religion, sexual identity and consent, and patriarchy’s damaging expectations of men and women. I’m so fond of this show for tackling huge issues without getting self-righteous or preachy,

Erica Strange at the start of Season One

When we first meet Erica, she has hit her version of life’s pit. She’s just been fired from her call centre job, her love life is shambles and in hospital after experiencing anaphylaxis. Enter Dr Tom, a mysterious therapist with the power to manipulate time. He offers Erica a form of therapy: she writes him a list of her past regrets and he grants her the opportunity to go back and fix her mistakes. There are of course some stipulations, including no altering of history for profit or to change the larger scale of events.

The show primarily focused on Erica’s life but throughout the seasons the audience became intimately acquainted with Erica’s friends, family, co-works and a myriad of love interests. I’m glad the show refused to let Erica be defined by her romantic relationships; the show portrays Erica as sexually open and independent, with her own standards and ambitions, and the men in her lives equally so. The lives of all the characters intertwined and the choices and actions of each affected others.

In Season One, the audience learns about Erica through her regrets. This arc was effective for creating audience empathy quickly, and some of the most memorable regrets for me were Erica’s first time having sex and her experiences as an English major at University. With the benefit of retrospect, Erica interrogates her own values and her idea of her past self and future ideal. Season One culminates in Erica’s ultimate regret of her brother’s untimely death. Dr Tom explains that time has fixed points and she cannot bring Leo back from the dead. I felt this tragedy was overused later in the show, and the plot thread of Erica learning the date of her death was haunting but definitely underdeveloped.

In later seasons, Erica meets other who are also in therapy, has group therapy sessions and learns to help others. She eventually becomes a Doctor herself, beginning work with her own patients. The lines between professional and personal become incredibly blurred as Dr Tom’s past haunts him and Erica becomes involved with someone from a future timeline. Wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey complexities.

Erica’s therapy with Dr Tom is the main plot arc, but their relationship changes from patient-therapist to friends and colleagues as Erica becomes more self-assured and confident in the world. We watch her struggle through the cut-throat world of publishing and she eventually opens up her own publishing company with her old boss.

Erica’s life improves in so many ways; it’s a gradual and painful change but Erica’s time-travelling therapy is a representation of the self-reflection we all undertake. I enjoyed the show because Erica was a character I could relate to; she was clumsy, hilarious, smart, ambitious and loving but most of all flawed. Being Erica was fundamentally about the human experience. Yes it was whimsy and the show did lose its way at times,  but overall it wore away some of my cynicism about the world.

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