I’m late to the game on a lot of things, and though I love podcasts, I’m chronically behind on all my favorite shows. Last week, my friend Jen mentioned The Bright Sessions, a fictional podcast that follows Dr. Bright, a psychologist, as she has short sessions with her young clients. The catch is simple: all of her clients have superpowers.
Since I’ve recently been playing Masks: The Next Generation (a superhero themed RPG, which I wrote about here), I had to check this podcast out, even though I’m very behind on some of my favorites (Off Book, My Favorite Murder, Hello from the Magic Tavern, etc. etc. to infinity). As someone who grew up reading about superheroes and being a huge comic nerd, there’s something wonderful about discovering the patients’ powers along with them.
But there’s another important angle of the show; it is, at its heart, about therapy. It’s about talking through your problems with a neutral third party and, hopefully, coming to some conclusions about yourself. I’m only ten episodes in (so yes, I’m behind on this show like I’m behind on all things), but so far the cast features a high school empath named Caleb, a time traveler named Sam, and a mind reader named Chloe. All three young people struggle with their powers, partially because having powers in this world is strange, but also because they are young and everything is strange at that age.
Strangeness, and how teenagers deal with the feelings of being an outsider, acts as a central focus of many young adult texts. The much-maligned Twilight series by Stephanie Meyer thrived on the appeal of Bella Swan, a teenager who—despite being remarkably plain and demure—felt she was different, an outsider, because of her interactions with various vampires and werewolves. Even novels we’ve covered on the blog before--like Becky Albertalli’s fantastic The Upside of Unrequited—feature protagonists that just don’t fit in with the people they consider to be popular and attractive.
Here’s the secret though—no one fits in. I’ve never met a person who truly believes they are perfect, or even marginally accepted. My beautiful friends often tell me that they feel ugly. My confident friends (who seem like they have it all together) confess to having days where they feel off, or stressed, or out of place. I often shrug off bad days by saying some variation of, “everyone feels this way sometimes.” That reaction is met with agreement most of the time.
The Bright Sessions uses characters who feel like outsiders to illustrate that no one is really all that weird. We all have different gifts and talents, and we all have different ways of approaching problems, but that doesn’t mean that anyone is weird beyond redemption. The podcast always ends with Lauren Shippen (creator of the show) reminding listeners to “stay strange.” Merch for the show features the same slogan, encouraging fans to be different, and that being different is okay. For young adults like the ones depicted in this podcast, it’s a powerful message, though one that has been communicated many times.
The Bright Sessions has recently been optioned for a TV show, meaning that its message of acceptance and “strangeness” will soon reach an even wider audience. As a fan of superheroes, young adult lit, and podcasts, I can’t wait to watch.
About the Blog
The authors of this blog are four women with opinions about pop culture. That's all you really need to know.