Champion is the second show we have seen in recent weeks that perfectly encapsulates what generational trauma looks like and the cost of trying to break out of it. The first was Black Cake, and though that remains the superior show in our estimation, Champion is a strong second. First things first, the show does a good job of showing the complicated nature of the social systems that govern people and how they intersect to make life especially difficult or easy for the members of a family. While Beres always had to deal with the undue weight of carrying on the family legacy that he transferred to his son, his wife and daughter had the added burden of patriarchy to carry. The relationship between Aria and Vita was especially interesting and far too realistic, so much so that our hearts twisted at the relatability. Here was a mother who was a victim of patriarchy and was paying the price for centering her life around a man. But the lesson she had learned from that was that it was her fault for having dreams in the first place. This is why she behaves that way with her daughter and differentiates between her children, because of their genders. As for Beres, he acknowledges the mistakes he made with his wife but not to her. In fact, he encourages his daughter not to take his mistake to heart and to live her own life. But his son doesn’t get the same lesson. He is told to continue carrying the burden of his ancestors’ mistakes. This is an extremely interesting situation when one realizes how closely this mirrors real life.
In today’s world, women have caught up with their understanding of their rights, but the number one complaint they have is that men failed to do the same. Fathers want their daughters to be progressive but can’t extend that understanding to their wives. Similarly, brothers are happy for their sisters’ success, but they wonder why they have to help their wives in the kitchen. Finally, even boyfriends will choose the sexism of the ‘bro code’ over standing up for their girlfriend. (Spoiler alert.) It is worth questioning whether Memet would have come back to Vita if Bosco had not turned out to be such a bum or if Vita had not been so successful.
The politics of the show are on point. There are a few episodes in the middle where it gets a little dull, and the story doesn’t really go anywhere. That means that Champion could have done with a shorter runtime or fewer episodes, preferably just six. The actors, especially the older ones, are fantastic in their roles. May we say that the actor playing Beres lives his role as the man who has lost it all and is clinging to patriarchy as his last hope? As for the actress playing Aria, she is beautiful and is so believable as the person who could have been the next big thing in singing. Their screen presence dominates the show.
It has often been found that shows made with black talent have a knack for having difficult conversations correctly without unnecessary jargon. There is a particular rawness to the emotions they portray on screen that addresses the trending therapy talk without losing its complexity and nuance. We see that in the relationship between Aria and Vita and also in how Beres treats his son while remembering his own past. There is a silent subtlety with these very emotions that the show has employed to further the story in Champion season 2, should it be made.
The series opens with a home video clip where two children (Bosco and Vita) are fighting over who sings a song. Bosco is angry that Vita sings it better, and the parents side with Bosco in the children’s fight and then move on to their own arguments. In the present day, Vita has been employed as her brother’s caretaker, and her parents don’t even spare a thought to the unfairness of it all. Vita herself is quite scared of taking that leap of faith in herself despite knowing that she has the talent. When she eventually takes the step, all hell breaks loose in her family and her career. Through the tumultuous journey she undertakes, Vita and her family both learn to let her be her own person. It starts out as Champion versus Champion, but soon enough, the problem becomes deeper than that because of the sexism and the twisted dynamics of the Champion family.
On a different note, the music in Champion is fantastic. It is believable that these songs and lyrics could top the charts and be the cause of someone’s stardom. It is just one of those details that shows the effort that has been put into the series.
Perhaps one of the few flaws of the series is how all the women seem to be hung up on their exes. Chantelle can’t stop thinking about Bosco; Beres still has a hold over Aria, and Vita can’t commit to anyone because Memet dominates her mind. All these men have treated these women the same way, as secondary characters, because they would rather prioritize themselves and other men first. The three women suffer from the opposite, which is an inability to prioritize themselves and their well-being. This is not an uncommon thing to see, but it would have been nice if at least one of them was shown as having gotten enlightenment. Even Aria’s realization was the result of anger and not common sense. Sadly, this makes us root for the men that these women are using as placeholders. We wish there was another way to put this, but this is exactly how it is playing out.
In the final moments of Champion, the happy ending is palpable, so much so that you can feel it, but it is all upended by an abrupt wrong decision by Beres. That may be a good way to keep up the excitement for a second season, but the nature of the story is such that our gut is twisting at what other harsh reality we may see more of. Regardless, it would be an important story to watch.