Resenting Rachel Greene

Yes, we’re talking about ER again. No, I have no regrets. 

Rachel Greene, daughter of Mark Greene and his first wife, Jen, is a brat. That’s all I have to say. I know she’s a fictional character but she’s a brat. But watching Rachel grow up, at times, with me during my own childhood and seeing how she reacted to stressful situations as both a child and an adult with my own heavy emotional burden and doing my best to work through my trauma: mostly thanks to the assistance of medication and therapy. But looking at Rachel’s character made me feel something I haven’t felt for a fictional character in a while: resentment. 

Rachel Greene is first seen in ER as a child in the middle of a less than kind divorce between her parents. Jen is tired of Mark working too hard being a literal damn doctor and Jen wants to be a lawyer for some reason. Of course their daughter is caught in the middle of the messy divorce as Jen moves to Milwaukee and uproots her daughter’s whole life so she can go be independent, I guess.  Rachel doesn’t take the divorce well, no kid can, really. She misses her dad, her school and her life in Chicago. 


Mark isn’t guiltless; he’s forgetful, scattered and constantly overworked being a literal damn doctor. He forgets her engagements, doesn’t know her new friends and is fairly out of touch in her life due to the divorce and trying to move on with his life. Rachel feigns illness once saying that her dad’s patients were the only ones that got his full attention. It’s a biting line but also, very true: Mark’s attention never fully belongs to anyone but his patients; it makes him a fantastic doctor but a less than great lover and parent. 

By the time we see Rachel again, she’s a teenager and she is horrible. I guess because my teen years were relatively quiet and I never went through a seriously outward rebellious stage thanks to being clever enough to hide my indiscretions on internet forums and LiveJournal posts. She was hanging out with the wrong kind of boys, doing drugs, listening to obnoxious music (okay, same but not the point) and was back in Chicago with her dad, his new wife: Elizabeth (played by the badass Alex Kingston) and their new daughter, Ella. Mark finally found love and is dealing with the last parts of having brain cancer and has most of his family together. Nope, Rachel ruins a lot of that by just being an impudent teen. Her rebellion ends up with her baby half-sister nearly dying when the toddler finds Rachel’s drugs and is poisoned. 

She gets what is effectively a slap on the wrist for nearly killing a baby and almost ruining her father’s second marriage because…you know…baby almost died. She continues to be a brat and gets her normal life as much as possible while everyone else has to deal with the fallout of her actions. 

Fast forward and Mark’s cancer is back and he has precious little time. Rachel deals with it the way I’m assuming most normal teenagers would and she continues to be selfish until she is spirited away to Hawaii, where her father is from, to spend his final days together learning about their family history and legacy. And how does Rachel respond to this? By ignoring her father, stealing his medication that may I remind you he needs for his brain cancer, drinking, listening to more obnoxious emo music and sulking. The episode is called On the Beach and it’s a masterclass in making you hate a character. Towards the end, Elizabeth, who by this point in the series has no reason to even acknowledge that Rachel exists after almost killing her child, finally sits down with her and says she has to grow up and that it’s unfair her father is dying but to take the time she has. 

That’s where the resentment came into play. You see, I didn’t get the chance to watch my father go quietly into that good sweet night. My father died alone, unceremoniously in the middle of the night patiently waiting for an ambulance outside of our apartment door as to not wake his family when he started feeling funny. I was woken up by my aunts who already knew the news but didn’t want to shatter my 12 year old world just yet. I was allowed to do something fun, to play the game like this was just a slightly less than normal day and then later I would be filled in properly on the events. I was told by my grieving mother that my father died and that my life was never going to be the same. I didn’t get the luxury of watching my father fade away on his own terms with dignity like Rachel did. And if I had the chance, I’d do anything to get the time she did with her father, knowing that he was dying, to tell stories, make memories and spend more time together than they ever would be able to if both were to go about their normal lives. 

Watching that episode, watching Rachel waste time left me seething with hatred: if only I had that chance, if only I could, what I’d give and before I knew it I was angry at a fictional character. When at the end of the day, there’s no promise of what I’d do if I did have that time with my father. I can’t promise that at 12 I’d have the maturity to spend the time I so wish I had now at 30. I don’t know if I’d be better than Rachel; my resentment comes with the luxury of  having decades of hindsight. 

We see Rachel again a few times in the series before the end, she’s older and heading towards college. She’s still alternative in some ways, making all the choices a young adult with a less than stellar childhood does but she’s mellowed out and matured. 

I’ve made my mistakes during my teen years, my young adults years and even now; I’m still learning and growing. My resentment and anger at Rachel is really resentment at myself and others. There’s a joke in my friend group that if trauma and having a less than great childhood is an excuse for bad behavior that we all deserve a Purge-style hunt once a year. I’ve been very strict in my approach to separate my bad behavior from my trauma. If I am excessively flirtatious or bad with men, I don’t blame my father’s death: that’s on me. If I am sullen and weepy: I don’t blame that on the insecure attachment of a child that had to parent their parents; I blame the current flavor of depression that day. And the way Rachel Greene is written, constantly using her less than great circumstances as an excuse for poor behavior; I just can’t stand it. Maybe it’s the white privilege that allows her to openly rebel and feel so outwardly when I was never given that chance; maybe it’s just jealousy, maybe it’s just grief but I learned so much about myself and how much I still have grow when I began to examine my feelings about the very fictional Rachel Greene.

I’ll end this post with Dr. Greene’s final coherent words to his daughter, words I hold in my heart since I couldn’t get meaningful last words from my father: be generous; be generous with your time and your love and your life. Just be generous. 

When I Don’t Remember You

“Nothing can last forever. There isn't any memory, no matter how intense, that doesn't fade out at last.” ― Juan Rulfo.png

2018 has been a pretty heavy blog year, hasn’t it? I’ll blame Mercury’s Retrograde or something. But I wanted to tell a personal story and it all relates to Adventure Time and the struggle it is to grapple with the legacy of someone who is no longer with us.

For the record, I love Adventure Time. It was one of the first cartoons I started watching after college and it hit me at a perfect time and place in my life. I was emotionally vulnerable, had far too much time on my hands and was easily swept into a light-hearted yet incredibly emotional adventure with a boy and his dog. I had no idea that this show would emotionally gut me over and over again. Famously, there was one night after the episode Simon and Marcy aired that I remember messaging Carlos and telling him “Be prepared to hate the theme song from Cheers.” to which then an hour or so later I got another message from him saying that he hated me, hated the song and that he was mad a show for kids made him emotional at all.

Truthfully, it wasn’t even when this particular episode aired that it made me emotional, though I did cry a little as I learned the lyrics to the song. I was because the narrative demanded I be so but it was more recent that it brought a more thoughtful tear to my eye in an entirely different context. It was after re-adding a few of the songs I lost after the tragic death of my Zune to my current musical cloud and I found a song that I had downloaded years ago from Adventure Time. It was I Remember You, sung by Marceline and the Ice King. Narratively, it’s about a lost relationship due to the crippling loss of one’s mind and a preemptive apology for all the things one does as they lose their mind.

You may know where I’m going with this.


My grandma passed away a few years ago. She was diagnosed with dementia when I was in the first half of my college career. Grandma was always sort of flighty and scatterbrained; her chronic forgetfulness was easy to write off. But medicine proved that she was losing her memory and we had little precious time with her as we knew her. I was fortunate that she was very aware for a majority of her later years in life. I didn’t notice a serious decline until after I graduated from college. Hell, we even casually joked that once she didn’t remember who I was that it was done. That would be the end of our relationship as granddaughter and grandmother. Though it was a joke, it was also a clear line in the sand for my sanity and for hers. It didn’t mean I’d ever stop loving and respecting her but I had to set that hard and fast line. Because the spiral of losing her was something that I would not wish on anyone.  

My grandma said some nasty things as she began to lose herself. She was usually sweet but when she was combative it was scary. It was difficult watching the woman who helped raise me during my early years decline in such a way. I never thought she meant the mean things she said but it was always difficult to deal with when my grandmother berated me for denying her iced tea at lunch (she had a heart condition that forced us to seriously limit her caffeine intake).. It wasn’t always bad. The bad times came in bursts. Most days were quiet but the beast did creep up in moments. Grandma would get paranoid after watching hours of crime procedurals. She’d ask about her husband who had passed away over a decade ago. She’d ask about plenty of people who were no longer with us. It is disingenuous to make it sound like it was all violent outbursts; it was in fact their scarcity that made them so powerful. And in her moments of lucidity, it was like you could see the flashes of the person my grandmother used to be. After saying something horrible, she’d apologize a day or two later or she’d just simply forget: it’s hard to hold a grudge against someone who doesn’t remember the argument.

And talking to my aunts about it seemed to do very little. I mostly dealt with it by simply shutting down and not dealing with it. All of us were processing this thing at the same time and that left very little room to help each other cope with the thought of losing our family’s matriarch. So for the longest time I mostly just internalized the pain of watching her slip away by ignoring it, keeping my head down and remembering the better times. I was working in a mall at a job I hated, I had a routine, an all be it terrible one, but it was a routine.. And my routine often revolved around my grandmother. I worked so that I could be with her in the morning and I seldom stayed out late with friends: someone had to be there with her. We did our best to work together as a family and I know my grandmother received the best care we could give her. But once I moved away, I finally had time to realize that I had kept those feelings of loss and longing bottled up. I did my best to call but the physical distance of moving away makes it difficult to maintain even the most important of relationships.

There was one day that I called and my aunt went to hand over the phone. My aunt said “It’s Amanda on the phone.” and I could hear my grandmother say “Who is that?” and my aunt had to remind her that I was her grandchild.

I don’t think I told anyone how much that bothered me. I don’t think I even told myself how much it really bothered me. And I stopped calling for a while. When I heard that she wasn’t doing well, I came back home to visit and she passed away while I was making my way home. I stayed the night and returned home long enough to pack and prepare for the funeral.

That was 2 years ago.


So when I was sitting in my car listening to the lyrics of I Remember You which says so clearly:

Please forgive me for whatever I do, when I don’t remember you.

I cried.

I sat there for a moment or two and just sort of let it happen. It was far from a dramatic anime cry but one of those small tears you barely notice until the headache of emotional weakness kicks in.

I had always thought I had forgiven my grandmother for the things she said in anger. I realized then that not only had I not but I had barely reconciled the person who passed and the person I looked up to so much.  I handled her passing about as well as I did my mother’s, in that I didn’t. I accepted it and moved on. I kept moving forward but it was while stopped at a stoplight and listening to my cursed musical cloud on shuffle that I had to pause and take stock in the feelings that I had buried for my own protection.

I’m working towards forgiving her for the things that she did I’m working on forgiving myself for not always being an enlightened saint during that time.

So thank you, Adventure Time for being one of many songs that can bring a tear to my eyes. Maybe, just maybe, catharsis isn’t so bad after all.