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. 

The Day They Burned Their House Down

I talk a lot about Fullmetal Alchemist, don’t I? I’ve gone on record and said it’s probably one of my favorite series and it has some of my favorite characters of all time within it. I think the major reason it means so much to be is because of when this series hit for me. Like a comic book main male, I have to say again: this series hit me right after my father passed away. When FMA started its run, my dad’s death was a very recent memory. So having a main cast that all dealt with the loss of a parent and what it meant to be human in a world of loss was important to me, formative for me. I suddenly had someone on TV that understood my grief. I didn’t grieve in the way that all the books I got from my family and teachers did. I skipped sadness and moved straight to cynicism and trying to find logic to replace the hole in my heart. As far as series that are important to me, you can look to FMA as one of the most. Because I’ll say it again for those in the back, you don’t need a character to look like you to feel represented.

This post is coming out during a special time of the year for me (I’m pretty good about scheduling things out far in advance. Don’t judge me.). October 1st is my Mom’s birthday and she would have been 58. October 11th is my Dad’s birthday. He would have been 54 today.  My Dad was a complicated man and I’ve talked about my Father, his legacy and his memory plenty of times. I don’t talk about my Mother as much maybe because that grief is still such a recent memory for me. I don’t like talking about it because that’s a wound that hasn’t closed up all the way yet.

October really is a strange month for me.

My family (both sides,really, if I have to think about it) usually looks to me and then checks on me on these days in particular. And in the past, these days have been difficult. My friends knew to take special care of me and to get me out of the house on these days so I could keep my mind off the negative thoughts that tend to creep in on significant dates surrounding those you’ve lost. My family wants to look to me as some effigy to my parent’s memory.

But really, after all of these years: I’d love to reclaim these days.

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October 3rd for FMA fans is a very important day. It’s the day Edward and his brother Alphonse burned their house down. They made this choice after committing the ultimate sin and paying the price as a knee-jerk reaction to the loss of their beloved mother. They will for the rest of their foreseeable days carry the weight of their sin and the weight of the grief that clouds their hearts. They had lost their beloved mother and their father as far as they were concerned was gone forever. They had no reason to stay in their family home that had been so corrupted by sin and death, so they burned it down. But they didn’t just turn away from their past and ignore it, no. Edward upon receiving the pocket watch that marks him as a State Alchemist scratches the date into his watch.

Don’t forget 3 Oct. 11

It’s probably one of the most important dates in the series and Edward carries it with him everywhere he goes.

I also carry that date with me because like the good State Alchemist that I am, I also have my pocket watch. Travis gave me that watch when we took over our college’s anime club. And even though I had cosplayed as Mustang and as Edward before, I never had my own watch. It was a great irony that Travis gave me the watch that I am now so proud of. In our friend group I was always Col. Mustang, the charismatic leader and he was my loyal Hughes. He was there to keep me grounded and help me move up the ranks and make our club the best we could.

I’m a fully functioning adult and I still wear my pocket watch on occasion (and I still get plenty of compliments on it). And that weight in my pocket, that date in my pocket is a reminder of the date that means so much to an anime I love and so much to my family and my actual family.

So today after 15 years since my father passed and just a little over 5 years since mother joined him; I want to reclaim 10-1, 10-11 and hell, the entire month of October while I’m at it. My family still looks to me a bit to do something grand. To post something inspirational. To show that I still remember. To show that I’ll never forget. To show that I’m doing okay. And trust me, with no sense of irony I can proudly say that I’m fine. I will be fine. And even on the days I’m not, I have more than enough coping skills and loving support to quickly pull myself back up after a rough day.

Today, I burn down the emotional house. And what a perfect day to do so? It just so happens that days after the Elrics burned their house down and the dates of my parent’s birthdays coincide.

If I post something that honors my parents, fantastic and I have posted for them a few times. If I don’t, also fine and despite my blog postings there have been years that I choose not to memorialize the day. A big step in the grieving process is just moving on and I think after so many years, I’m ready to treat these days like they are any other day. The weight will always be with me. I will never forget this day. But I’d also like to move on and try and forge my own path. That’s what my Dad would have wanted and I can hope that it’s what my Mom would have wanted, as well. 

Happy Fullmetal Alchemist Day, to my fellow otakus. Remember to keep moving forward and never let your past dictate who you are.

Happy Birthday, Mom. I didn’t forget.

And Happy Birthday, Dad. I’m a little bit early but now you know that I didn’t forget you, either.