Much like the Wendy Cope poem, Making Cocoa for Kingsley Amis, this may not be much of a blog post. But it was a thought that occurred, and I wanted to flesh it out a little.
Schitt’s Creek is many things, chief among them a redemption tale. It starts with a simple, if unlikely premise. Four people who are monstrously out of touch and pathologically self involved get their comeuppance. And, bought low by an abrupt change to their situation, they come to learn about the important things in life: empathy, responsibility, family etc etc. Over the course of six seasons, these four characters become entwined in a community of colourful personalities. For more details, go ahead and read one of the dozens of hot takes about the show on that internet they have nowadays.
But here’s one take I think is new: the Roses are dead, and have been flung into limbo to work out their issues and become better people before moving into the great hereafter. So far, so Lost. But in this case, their self-development is overseen by a benevolent deity.
Quick theological detour – common among the monotheists of the world, are the following three propostions:
- God is all powerful
- God is all knowing
- God is all good
One of the less sophisticated arguments against the existence of god (as if there aren’t plenty of better ones to pick from) seeks to catch the believer in a paradox with the inclusion of a 4th propostion: evil exists. I say less sophisticated, as introducing a 5th (and 6th) proposition, namely that free will also exists (and that is a good thing) gets round this supposed paradox pretty easily.
So: Twyla. By day she’s a waitress in the local eaterie. She’s a bit put-upon, but generally an upbeat and optimistic character. By night – er, see ‘by day’, since Cafe Tropical seems to offer a solid three square meals a day to the denizens of The Creek, and Twyla has on more than one occasion worked late into the evening to facilitate a romantic night on the town for the benefit of her friends.
The big character bombshell comes in the final episiode, when Twyla somewhat bashfully admits to Alexis that she is a multimillionaire having split a lottery jackpot years prior. And just like that, we get a totally different perspective on Twyla’s life. She’s not unhappily trapped in a life she hates and determinedly trying to make the best of it; she’s there by choice. That sunny demeanour isn’t a coping strategy to get her through one humdrum day after another; it’s pure shining joy that she can spend her time in this community that she clearly loves. She could leave, but she wants to stay.
I accept it’s a bit of leap from that to my central thesis- but hear me out.
God is all powerful. Well, money is power and Twyla has loads of it. Granted she couldn’t use that money to control absolutely everything, but she certainly has the means to affect change in many aspects of her life if she so chose to.
God is all knowing. This is perhaps more of a stretch, but Twlya represents the canonical observer, much like another sitcom celestial being working in the hospitality sector. As she tells Alexis in that last episode, she gets to listen to all her friends’ stories. She knows everyone in the town, and she enjoys serving them. For this christian-raised atheist, it brings to mind the tropes of servitude (washing of feet etc) which litter the ecclesiastical cannon. Also, in an earlier Season 6 episode, she brightly informs everyone that she knows the exercise class they just completed is an entry level to a cult. What kind of person is quite happy to sign up to a cult, knowing it’s a cult, with no concern whatsoever that this will have any detrimental effect on them? How about a very secure, but curious deity?
God is all good. This one is an easier sell. Twyla exudes positivity, warmth, and empathy. In many respects her character embodies the show in its determination to be non-cynical, even whilst populated with a fair few cynics. And looping back to the original premise, this is someone who had the opportunity to become as the Roses are at the start of the show: shallow, selfish & snobbish to the point of real, if not irredeemable, unkindness. But, clearly, she turned down a life of vacuous pleasures and instead treasured the value of what she had: relationships of substance with her fellow townies.
To wrap up, I submit one last piece of evidence, which also handily addresses propositions 4,5 & 6 mentioned above. Twyla is one of the first people to bear the brunt of the Roses brash unpleasantness when they first arrive. These people are rude, overbearing, and noisily consumed with their disdain for their surroundings. They wallow in self-pity for their reduced circumstances, and bemoan everyone and everything around them. Twyla had the means to make this obnoxious problem go away from the get go. But she doesn’t. She shows them compassion and helps them grow as people, but also allows them to rebuild their lives themselves. She gives them the space to exercise their own free will – to learn and be willing to change. Just as you would expect from a benevolent god who is both all powerful & all knowing, but understands that suffering is sometimes an essential to allow someone to fulfil their potential and to grow. In her last scene, Twyla comes by the motel with a cheque which would certainly be useful to Alexis in her new found independent life. It’s played out as a classic Test of Character which proves the protagonist’s worthiness. Alexis passes, graciously, having achieved enough self-realisation to know that she will value what she will go on to achieve much more for having refused the easy path. It’s a lovely character moment which demonstrates how much Alexis has grown. And for the purposes of this theory, echoes how Twyla herself refused the temptation of the easy path (which would have been to get rid of these boorish creatures right at the start). Instead she chose to embrace the much harder path of patience and fortitude, supporting them on their path of redemption. Very godlike.
Disclaimers: I have no idea if Twyla’s lottery win was a plotted point right from the outset, or if it was an idea someone had later down the line. Perhaps tellingly, Sarah Levy (actor and sister to showrunner Dan Levy) talks in the Behind the Scenes farewell special Best Wishes, Warmest Regards about how the character was re-written early on to make her less pathetic.
Also, for the record, I remain an avowed atheist, although I still maintain that the ‘evil exists’ proposition doesn’t produce the slam-dunk paradox that some atheists use as an argument against the existence of god.
Lastly, the above should be read in the context of not entirely serious commentary about a silly (but really good) sitcom. I am not actually advocating without qualification a position that suffering is a good thing, lest anyone interpret this as a manifesto in self-reliance, pulling oneself up by ones’ boostraps and the moral turpitude of hand-outs. The fictional family of the Roses ultimately benefit from their struggles. This should in no way be interpreted as condoning a position that in the real world a good person, let alone a good god, should take a non-interventionist stance because helping people in need deprives them of the chance to better themselves. Just so we’re clear.