In a culture that’s intent on depicting emotionally (or otherwise) abusive relationships as women’s salvation (Twilight, 50 Shades of Grey, Gossip Girl etc — I would list them all but we’d be here all night), nothing makes me happier than characters who stand up for themselves and refuse for love to be an excuse for abusive behavior (it should never be).
There are many reasons why I love Parenthood. It’s a show that never shies away from being real: from the storylines to the performances to their execution. It hits the hardest when it explores the crux of family love: your siblings/parents/children might exasperate you, drive you mad, be the kind of person you would never choose to be friends with, but you always find a way to mend fences with them because you love them unconditionally.
Amber is by far my favorite character on the show. It’s been a privilege to watch her grow from a rebellious, lost teenage girl to a confident young woman who isn’t afraid to go after what she wants. Her relationship with Iraq vet Ryan has been a joy to watch. For the first time, she was consciously entering a healthy adult relationship. She was letting herself be loved.
But for all the beauty of Amber and Ryan’s romance, their relationship isn’t without bumps. The war damaged Ryan, perhaps beyond repair, and that directly affects those closest to him. After Ryan abruptly quits the job she found for him, he disappears on her for several hours, wrecks her car, and eventually comes home to her drunk out of his mind. He yells at her, accuses her of trying to control him, and leaves Amber sobbing on a parking lot, her car wrecked, her heart broken.
The clip above shows Ryan apologizing to Amber about the way he treated her. He says he’ll do anything to make up for it. He wants her back in his life. But Amber decides his apology is not enough. Not because she doesn’t love him — really, he’s the first boy she ever really loved — but because forgiving Ryan and accepting him in her life again means accepting the way he treated her. It means accepting the possibly he might make her feel the same way again — betrayed, guilty, powerless, scared.
It’s such a powerful moment for Amber. She has the wisdom to see beyond her love for Ryan. And maybe Ryan and Amber will find their way back to each other eventually. But this is about her. This is about the kind of life she wants to lead. This is about the kind of woman she wants to be. And she’s better than this.
So here’s to strong, powerful, independent young women like Amber Braverman.