[Editor’s Note: We want to thoughtfully explore what is worth discussing in movies and shows. Spiritual and gospel themes are often embedded in what we’re already watching. By talking about something, Power to Change – Students is not giving an official endorsement, nor are we giving a ranking or judgment of overall quality. We simply desire to join the conversations that people are already having about #movies+shows.]

True confession: I love superhero movies and TV shows. Still, I only have time for so many, and a show that just imitates other shows bothers me. I thought The Umbrella Academy would be another imitation: a picture-perfect set of heroes embroiled in a conflict bigger than them, with a side dish of personal flaws. Instead, what I got is a show where the dramatic doomsday scenario plays second fiddle to the dysfunctional existence of an unlikely family of superheroes.

As with all superhero movies, the flaws in The Umbrella Academy characters help me to empathize with the flaws of humans in real life. So, I suppose, it was just a matter of time before I fell for The Umbrella Academy. Here was a group of kids adopted from around the world, trying to find love to make up for what they couldn’t get from their father—an unfeeling scientist—and only automatically from their robot mother. Perhaps it was no surprise that their love lives got confusing fast.

Two of the kids develop feelings for each other (not being blood-related), one tries to win over a former colleague, another falls for a client, and yet another clings to a mannequin. They’re a strange bunch, and they know it. In fact, in Season 2, Episode 5, three of the siblings find themselves in a hair salon, poking fun at their own misadventures in trying to find love in unconventional ways. As Klaus remarks: “The only thing The Umbrella Academy knows about love … is how to screw it up.” Yet, despite past family tensions, these three siblings dance together and the former pariah, their sister Vanya, ends up remarking: “I love this family!”

Like the members of The Umbrella Academy, I can feel like a misfit—disconnected from the world around me, or even within my own family: both immediate and in my church. Sometimes I feel like a misfit because I’m into video games, while most of the world at least claims to be getting away from screens. At other times I feel like a misfit because I like reflecting and contemplating, while people around me want to fill the air with words, or their space with actions. 

Whatever the situation, when I feel like a misfit my tendency is to judge others. In fact, I’m tempted to normalize my judgmentalism based on moments of judginess in The Umbrella Academy. Yet, the overall plot of the show drives both the characters and me towards working together for a greater purpose. Like them, my own judgmentalism is a flaw. Ironically, in recognizing this fault, I find my heart softening towards the fellow misfits in my church family—all of us are flawed as humans! Yet, our weaknesses form a common experience that can be the basis for real love. There’s a lesson for me here: stuffing my flaws inflates my ego and encourages me to be judgy, but being honest about my flaws is a catalyst for love. 

In contrast, the father, Reginald Hargreaves, looms as a figure who doesn’t recognize any flaws in himself. By sheer power and control, he brought his family together as The Umbrella Academy. But this wasn’t enough to hold them together once they became independent. What was, and is, needed for long-lasting unity, is love. The members of The Umbrella Academy develop a bond not because of their father, but rather through his absence. 

What was, and is, needed for long-lasting unity, is love.

That’s where the parallel between The Umbrella Academy and my church family breaks down, because unlike Reginald Hargreaves, God is a loving father. Sure he corrects us, but he’s not interested in alienating us from the rest of his family, or holing himself up in a holy office. I suppose we can feel that way, but personally I’ve experienced his love in spite of feeling like a misfit. In fact, I think I’ve actually felt his love more in those moments. It’s this love that gives me the strength to love my fellow misfits. When I remember his love, my concern about “fitting in” moves into the background and I become more open to accepting myself and others. My eyes become open to how, despite our differences, we are similar: we are all loved by God, our father. 
The love of God has the power to bring us misfits together. Then, once we’re together, maybe, like the Hargreeves family in The Umbrella Academy, we’ll eventually do more than stall the destruction of the world. After all, unlike them, we have a father who’s not just powerful but also loving. So, yes, this world is messed up and love is hard to find, but by recognizing our flaws and the love of God, we can participate in the restoration of the world. We may be misfits, but God knows how to heal the human family so that, one day, we too can exclaim: “I love this family!”

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About the Author

Hobbe Smit

Hobbe Smit is an occasional writer for Power to Change and is on staff at McMaster University (since 2010), where he is also a part-time student. He enjoys spending time in Hamilton, Ontario with his wife Heather and their two children. He also enjoys reading, birding, board games, and computer games.

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