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The Female Perspective: Ten Years Of “Six Feet Under”

Welcome! This is a twice-weekly blog* by Author J.L. Metcalf where I discuss anything and everything that strikes my fancy. If you have ideas on what you think I should write about, please send me an email via my website!

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*All views expressed in “The Female Perspective” are those of J.L. Metcalf, not Great Stories, Inc.


The cast of "Six Feet Under"
The cast of “Six Feet Under”

Over ten years ago now I started watching a show called “Six Feet Under.” I had no real expectations for it. I was watching because of two things;

  1. Alan Ball created and wrote it and I simply adored American Beauty.
  2. It was about a funeral home and that sounded morbidly wonderful to me

What I didn’t expect from “Six Feet Under” was to be completely entwined with the lives and disasters of the Fisher Family. I had no idea that it would take me on a five year ride of ups and downs, sadness and happiness. Fear and misery. As an author, this show changed my perspective on what real writing could be. What TV writing could be.

On August 21st, it was the ten year anniversary of the finale of “Six Feet Under” and as usual, that number made me feel old. Where did that ten years go? What have I been doing?

Living my life.

I’ve had my own ups and downs, my own misery and fear, my own depression and anxiety. In that time I’ve re-watched “Six Feet Under” more than once and what I realize each time I watch it is that it holds up. This show holds up. Sure the cell phones are old and some of the references antiquated but not in a way that screws up the story, it’s all wonderfully charming. Let’s take a few minutes to chat about the characters that make up the Fisher family.


“We used to say that Nate was Marilyn Munster and that everybody else in the family was much more overtly strange. Nate seemed normal. But as the series went on, that was very clearly not the case.” –Alan Ball


 

Nate & David Fisher (Played by Peter Krause and Michael C. Hall)

Brothers that could not be more alike. That’s the simplest way to describe Nate and David. When we first see the Fisher brothers, they are snippy and at odds with one another. David is clearly artificial, clearly hiding something and clearly unhappy to see his big brother. Of course, the reason Nate is there in the first place is for the funeral of their father, also named Nathaniel Fisher, who was killed in a car wreck.  Nate is only there to be present for the funeral, he has a good life (or so he thinks) for himself back at home in Seattle and he wants nothing to do with his bizarre family.

The Brother's Fisher.
The Brother’s Fisher.

That all changes when his mother Ruth asks him to stay just a little bit longer. Nate’s inability to turn his mother down would change all their lives in the most wonderful way and also leave the audience devastated by the end of the show’s run.

Nate is a free spirit, he seems normal at first but quickly we realize he’s as screwed up and as selfish as the rest of his family. At times I hated his character, other times I loved him and Krause played it all to perfection.

David is another matter, he is reserved, wound tight and cold. Then we start to see the ice chipping away, we start to see the secret underneath that dark suit and cold eyes. David is ashamed of himself, ashamed of his life choices and what bonds these two brothers it the fact that they are actually both ashamed of themselves and neither was as loved or adored by their father as they thought. Both felt slighted by the man they barely knew.


 

The Trailer For The First Season Of “Six Feet Under”


 

Claire & Ruth Fisher (played by Lauren Ambrose and Frances Conroy)

The women of “Six Feet Under” are no less complex and riveting as the men. We first encounter Claire as a screwed up teenager, high on meth, who now has to deal with the fact that her father is dead (she does not do well but luckily for her, Nate helps her out. Being the understanding brother who knows all about drugs himself). Once Claire sobers up we find that she is a confused girl who simply doesn’t have any idea who she is. Nate had left town before she was grown, David remained unattached and both her mother Ruth and her father Nate really didn’t have much to do with her. Claire was left to her own devices and she didn’t do so well. Throughout the series she goes through quite a few ups and downs, picking bad relationships, trying to find her voice as an artist and finally, leaving home to become her own person.

Ruth Fisher … Oh Ruth. Ruth starts out reserved and confused and in mourning for a husband even she didn’t really know. Her life had become a routine, stark, bleak and boring. We find out quickly that Ruth is not all she seems, she’s had been having an affair and when her kids find out, there are fireworks! But Ruth is more than a widow and mother, she is a woman who, after a lifetime of raising kids and tending to her husband, she has to figure out who SHE is (much like her daughter Claire is doing). I love that their search for self parallels so beautifully. I love that by the end of the series, Ruth is strong and capable (after quite a few mishaps) and I always love when Ruth finally snaps and sets her children right.

Mother and Daughter Fisher.
Mother and Daughter.

The Finale

For me, the finale is nothing short of brilliance in TV. Instead of tidying up everyone’s life and presenting us with a finished package, Ball and series writers take it further. Since the show itself is about death, why not kill off everyone? No, it’s not some bloody shootout, it’s life. It’s reality. It’s freakin’ haunting.

I recently re-watched the last 10 minutes of the finale and it still brings me to messy, ugly tears. It’s poignant and it’s truth. It’s a perfect finale for a show that only spoke truth. I mourn it’s passing and the fact that we only got 5 short years with the Fisher family but then I also realize, we got 5 years with the Fisher family and that is a blessing.

RIP "Six Feet Under"
RIP “Six Feet Under”

Did you watch “Six Feet Under”? Did you love it or hate it? Why or why not? Tell me about it in the comments!

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