Families come in many shapes and sizes, whether it’s the one you make or the one you’re born with. The Umbrella Academy explores the meaning of family, and though they might not be completely conventional, they are extremely relatable considering the they are supernatural. The Umbrella Academy is a Netflix original based off the American comic book series written by Gerard Way. It began streaming in February of 2019. There is currently one season of the show, but with such high success rates, (8.2/10 on IMDb.com and 97% of Google users liked this show) there is to be expected to be a second season in the near future. The show centers around a family after their father’s passing. Though these siblings have powers that are beyond belief, they manage to deal with the same issues many face when it comes to families; jealousy, grief and rivalries.
One example of this relatable family dynamic is that the one child tends to be the
leader for the rest of them. Luther, otherwise known as Number 1, is often looked to
for advice in the show from his siblings. This can be seen in season 1 episode 1 when he is trying to wrangle the family for his father’s funeral. He was named Number 1 because his father ranked them in order of usefulness. This can be relatable to the audience as many children who are first borns also feel this pressure to be prefect. In many ways, they are expected to set an example for the rest of the family. Luther is put in many situations where he feels trapped in the captain role and sometimes breaks under the pressure.
Another example of relatable family dynamics in The Umbrella Academy is the absentee father. While the father isn’t physically absent when the children are growing up, he is in no way there for them emotionally. This is demonstrated clearly in season 1 episode 1 when Grace, the mother, brings the children upstairs to the father’s office. “The children are ready for bed sir, they wanted to say goodnight” Grace says. She opens the door to reveal the children, however the father doesn’t even look up from his work. Grace usher’s the children off to bed. One of the daughters, Alison lags behind. Grace tries to move her along saying, “Come along now, your father’s busy”, before leaving Alison responds, “He’s always busy.” This sets the tone for the show, it distinguishes that this isn’t a one time experience for these children, but a regularity to be ignored by their father. This disinterested father continues into their adulthood and even after his death. For example, when his daughter, Vanya, sees the book she wrote and sent her father on his shelf, she asks the butler if her father ever read it, he responds, “Not that I’m aware of”.
This family denies the “typical” nuclear family in basically all ways. All seven children are adopted. If that wasn’t irregular enough, the children are from all over the world. All seven born on the same day, at the same time. In a way, they are like a foster family as they have no blood relation between them. Yet there is never any doubt that they are each other’s family. This only strengthens the idea that you can choose your family. Family is there for each other through thick and thin. Vanya’s siblings are there for her even after she bashes them in her book. The family always forgives each other for their mistakes. Mistakes including losing one’s temper and fatally injuring another sibling (season 1 episode 9.) No matter what happens, someone is always on their side, which after all, is truly what I believe family is all about.
Seven children with unnatural abilities adopted by a billionaire, raised to save the world. This may sound like anything but relatable. Yet time and time again through the characters we see that this supernatural family reflects the same issues that we face in our day to day lives. Whether that be competition amongst siblings or lack of parent involvement we can empathize with these characters. I believe that is what made this show such a success, everyone has a family and more often than not, it’s not perfect. The Umbrella Academy tackles the idea of imperfect families and gives its audience something that resonates in their everyday lives.