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Won’t Stop Believin’: A Gleek Turns Against the Thing He Loves

Last month marked a year since the pilot episode of Glee aired. Initial critical reception was tepid, with reviewers praising its theatrical take on high school extracurriculars but faulting its lack of dramatic substance. The show focuses on a high school show choir by the name of “New Directions”, melding the hyper reality of a musical with low-stakes emotional drama in a way Americans haven’t seen since Cop Rock. Needless to say, I’ve spent a great deal of my year watching it, and loving it, and waiting for new episodes to show up online.

This week was the season finale of Glee. The last episode, “Journey”, was a reminder of all that Glee does well. The creators of the series have bottled the zeitgeist in it’s quintessence: American Idol reminded us how much we like shows where pretty people sing, as a society we are slowly plodding our way towards acceptance of queers, and the producers cast young, vibrant actors at the pinnacle of their talents. It doesn’t hurt that the show exists in this weird Pleasantville bubble where the worst thing that can happen to you is you don’t win the big game or you get pregnant and get kicked off the cheerleading squad.

I wish I could have titled this piece “How Glee is Dissolving the Kyriarchy Through Song” or “Let’s All Go Out for Equality Slushies, Our Work Here is Done!” But I can’t. Because lately, Glee has been making me squirm. Somewhere along the way, Glee became problematic. It stopped merely depicting systemic prejudice and discrimination, and started contributing to it. And I can remember exactly when it happened.

In the episode “Hairography,” New Directions meets their competition for sectionals: a show choir for girls who have been released from juvenile detention and a school for the deaf. They attempt to add a bit of spice to their routine in a manner which is far too stupid to reprint here and at the end the deaf choir and New Directions sing John Lennon’s “Imagine” together. Well, New Directions sort of butts in in the middle and invites themselves to the song, but don’t they sound pretty?

Can I be honest with you? I cried like a baby. But after the episode finished, I started to suspect that the show was patronizing the disabled. It reminded me of that old Coke commercial, where everyone is holding hands on a hilltop, swaying to “I’d like to teach the world to sing” which is so heartening until you realize that this vision of world peace was brought to you by High Fructose Corn Syrup, which is going to kill SO MANY PEOPLE this century.

“Hairography” aired around the time that the mainstream started to embrace the show, a few days after the network renewed it for a second season. Glee had become appointment viewing, and people on the internet were live-blogging every episode. To watch Glee was to belong to something, and for those of use who participated in Theater or Choir in high school, it allowed us to relive and synthesize the experience of being a part of something that was both deeply emotionally fulfilling and socially ludicrous. The advertisers and the network rejoiced: we were invested.

Before that episode Glee was a show about a mythical school where people were courageous, and fought for each other, and no one was excluded. It was a show where you could watch football players dance to Beyoncé and imagine that homophobia and gender discrimination were in their death throes. That in fact YOU WERE MAKING THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE FOR WATCHING IT. Just by watching a show about attractive people singing show tunes and talking about gay rights, you were being a part of the solution. But consumption without sacrifice rarely makes the world a better place. After that episode it became a show about cruelty and diversity, or rather the steady dismantling of the idea of diversity in order to sell the constituent parts back to us. The only character that comes out relatively unscathed is Kurt. Kurt is gay. And on Glee, being gay is SERIOUS BUSINESS.

Before we talk about Kurt, let me get one thing straight: there is nothing in the world wrong with Kurt as a gay man. There is a lot of hatred of the feminine in the gay community, a lot of gay men ready to prove their masculinity by denigrating men with flamboyant or feminine gender expression. That is FUCKED. Kurt is a well-written character, and Chris Colfer is under appreciated for the depth and humanity that he brings to the role. He allows us glimpses into the pain and humiliation of being a person whose optimism and belief in the good in people continually allows other people to hurt him. Kurt has very thin skin, and our love for him allows us to experience a little bit of the bewilderment and frustration and terror of being the victim of anti-gay harassment.

But halfway through the series, Kurt develops a crush on Finn, the archetypal straight All-American football player. I can see why the writers did this: gay people sometimes fall in love with straight people, providing their first taste of the agony of unrequited love. But Kurt has a plan. He arranges for his father and Finn’s mother to meet and start dating, then schemes to have he and Finn share a room. In “Theatricality,” all of this comes to a head with Kurt’s redecoration of the room they share. Finn crosses a line and starts calling the new decorations Kurt bought “faggy.” Kurt’s father overhears this and kicks Finn out, but before he does he gives a really moving speech about overcoming his own homophobia. This needed to happen. Finn was being a SHITHEAD.

But what about Kurt? What if we changed the gender of either of them? Even better, what if we didn’t? Finn made it clear several times that he wasn’t interested. And no matter what you hear from beer commercials, there is not a thin line between courtship and stalking. If you push your love interest past the limits of your intended’s comfort or safety, you are stalking them. Gay men can stalk straight men. Straight men can stalk gay men. If anyone does it, for whatever reason, it is stalking. Cut that shit out.

This isn’t terribly surprising, considering the enshrined position gay characters have on the show. A position that every character should enjoy, but doesn’t. It isn’t that the show is “too gay”, it is that it treats its white characters and its gay characters differently than it’s characters of color. And because this is a show that is ostensibly about diversity, the other characters comment on this disparity. Mercedes, the show’s most prominent black character, comments on the fact that her race is a factor in how the other characters treat her. But this creates an odd critical parallax, where the show’s analysis of its own shortcomings isn’t as deep as the shortcomings themselves – they make a big show of being hard on themselves for the show’s hidden internal mechanics of racial displacement, but then it is TIME TO SING, AND COME HELL OR HIGH WATER WE ARE GOING TO TURN THIS MOTHER OUT!

The ways in which minorities are overshadowed by their white counterparts are threaded throughout the entire series. The show has 3 Asian characters: Mike Chang, Tina Cohen-Chang, and Coach Tanaka. Mike Chang NEVER SPEAKS. He is the Silent Bob of the Glee universe. Tina starts off with a speech impediment is faking a speech impediment, before she pairs off with Artie, the disabled character played by the abled actor Kevin McHale. Coach Tanaka emerges as a mid-season villain, the big nasty man who is keeping the quirky white lady and the talented white man from getting together and having quirky, talented white babies for great justice and dire necessity. To recap: one of them is evil, one of them doesn’t speak, and the other is given the courage to overcome her stutter through the transformative power of love appropriates a disability THAT REAL PEOPLE HAVE AND STRUGGLE WITH EVERY DAY to avoid speaking in class.*

Then there is Jane Lynch’s mesmerizing turn as arch villain Sue Sylvester, the over-the-top bigot who lives only to make others miserable. At the beginning, Sue was a cautionary tale about the dangers of ambition and competitiveness – an acerbic, one-dimensional monster of the type that used to populate the children’s television show Captain Planet. Every episode she would try to cut corners by dumping the sludge of discord into the placid waters of Mount Funshine, and all of the kids would CARE BEAR STARE her with friendship and diversity. YAAAAAAAAY, THE END.

But recently, we discovered Sue has a heart. And not just a normal squishy heart of ventricles and atriums, but an elastic heart, the expansion of which acts as a tidy deus ex machina each episode, allowing her to simultaneously be a heinous bitch AND save the day. (Like the Grinch in How the Grinch Stole Christmas! but also like the scene at the end of The Neverending Story 2 where Bastian wishes the evil princess Xayide had a heart and she BLOWS THE FUCK UP.) In almost every episode Sue decides she wants to be mean to everyone, people are sad, and then Sue decides to stop being mean to everyone. This has made her a more sympathetic character, and has also LEGITIMIZED HER BIGOTRY. Before, she was a paper tiger whose cruelty was understood in the context of it’s own defeat: she made New Directions stronger, forcing them to overcome their own inhibitions and putting things at stake. But now she has emerged as a sort of dark choragus, allowing the writers to simultaneously mine the natural discomfort we feel when someone breaks ranks and shows us our own racism and bigotry, turning that discomfort into laughter (without forcing us to linger too long on the matrices of prejudice that discomfort is built upon) AND lecture us on how FABULOUS diversity is.

Glee is still one of my favorite shows. Even with my long list of complaints, there are still moments when the show achieves the things it is attempting. The interactions between the students often remind me of the ways people can choose to transcend their own ignorance and sacrifice parts of their own privilege to empower each other. These moments make me hopeful that when the show returns in the Fall, I’ll be proud to call myself a Gleek.

* Thanks to Anna for the correction.

30 Comments

  1. Laila wrote:

    SRSLY. Mike Chang needs to talk. He is so freaking cute.

    ^^shallow. But seriously, this is the most cogent analysis of what is right/wrong with Glee I’ve read yet. Thanks.

    Thursday, June 10, 2010 at 1:32 pm | Permalink
  2. sarita wrote:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you.

    I get so frustrated with Glee, b/c it does the Kurt story *so well* and all the other minority (by color and ability) characters get short shrift. My sense is that the excellence of Kurt’s story (leaving out the stalking, and I totally agree on that) is due to two factors: Ryan Murphy being a gay man, and the part being written for Chris Colfer and at least partially based on his input (the “Defying Gravity” storyline happened to Chris in HS).

    I also need to thank you for verbalizing what I couldn’t quite pinpoint about how Sue changed for me over the season. I was disappointed in the use of her sister with Down’s Syndrome as a way to give her depth, and I think you’re right that having her save the day undermines her status as an obvious villain and casts her slurs and cruelty in a different light. “Aw, heck, that’s just Sue bein’ Sue.”

    I am a big fan of the character-driven story, and it also seems to me that the second half of the season character and relationship consistency took a back seat to plot, or just got kicked off the bus entirely.

    I’ll watch the first few episodes next season, but I may end up just watching the musical numbers on youtube the next day.

    Thursday, June 10, 2010 at 2:03 pm | Permalink
  3. Mercer Finn wrote:

    YES! You read my mind better than I could ever read it:

    “the show’s analysis of its own shortcomings isn’t as deep as the shortcomings themselves”

    I couldn’t get over this, so I had to stop watching after about episode 6.

    Lovely post. Hope season two works out for you.

    Thursday, June 10, 2010 at 2:12 pm | Permalink
  4. Stassa wrote:

    Thank you for this awesomely, awesome analysis of Glee. I’ve been struggling with the depiction of Tina and Rachel (yes, Rachel) and it’s one of the reasons I’ve pretty much given up on Glee. Just some points on Tina – her stutter was fake wasn’t it? So love helped her overcome her shyness and find herself. Dumb. The only time I’ve really liked her character was when Joss Whedon directed and she, like, was an actual person for half an episode. I think sometimes the Glee writers have a difficult time depicting the “Freaks and Geeks” of high school without running right to stereotypes.

    Thursday, June 10, 2010 at 2:31 pm | Permalink
  5. Anna wrote:

    Tina starts off with a speech impediment, before she pairs off with Artie, the disabled character played by the abled actor Kevin McHale.

    NO.

    Tina did not start out with a “speech impediment”. She started out faking a speech impediment – poorly – and then said something about how it allowed her to avoid public speaking assignments.

    Actual people with stutters were pretty fucking pissed. For one example.

    Seriously, presenting that as Tina “overcoming” her “speech impediment is so very very wrong – both factually and from a social justice standpoint.

    Thursday, June 10, 2010 at 2:39 pm | Permalink
  6. Sara wrote:

    Oh man, I needed someone to write this piece. I too find myself watching Glee, week after week, and I spend equal amounts of time gushing over it and criticizing its faults. Every time I hear about Rachel’s dads, I wonder where they are, and every time I see another major story arc going to the white leads I wonder when Mike Chang gets to speak, much less get his own story.

    But then they sing “Give Up The Funk” or Kurt’s dad makes the speech you were talking about, and my heart melts, and I’m a Gleek all over again.

    Thursday, June 10, 2010 at 3:08 pm | Permalink
  7. GarlandGrey wrote:

    @Anna I apologize. I misremembered her story and need to educate myself on speech impediments. It will be fixed ASAP.

    Thursday, June 10, 2010 at 3:16 pm | Permalink
  8. Elysia wrote:

    GarlandGrey: But after the episode finished, I started to suspect that the show was patronizing the disabled.

    Your saying “patronizing the disabled” – it makes me squirmy. The choir students in that scene were teenagers. Hearing imparied teens whose voices were silenced by their hearing peers. Your word choice gets dangerously close to the place where we have designated the hearing impaired kids as A Source Of Inspiration For Hearing/Typical Teens and completely lost their humanity. The humanity without which that scene is just a warm “awwww, how sweet” moment, and not a f’ing horrifying (apparent ) endorsement of using PWD to give ourselves pats on the back for Being Accepting. And I don’t think you meant to get anywhere near that line, at all, and I don’t want to sound accusatory – but the phrasing got my attention.

    The Glee writers are walking a damned thin line between playing games with caricatures in order to make points about society, and (unconsciously?) reinforcing those caricatures. And that’s been true from the pilot, although it was harder to see then.

    P.S. Didn’t Kurt have a crush on Finn since Day One? I had that impression.

    Thursday, June 10, 2010 at 7:09 pm | Permalink
  9. Leah wrote:

    Just have to add, that I found appalling the strange scene two episodes ago where Quinn (the pregnant one) told Mercedes (the black one) that the experience of being pregnant had really made her understand the difficulties of being black.

    Thursday, June 10, 2010 at 8:01 pm | Permalink
  10. Alicia wrote:

    Is it possible that Sue’s semi-reclamation is part of a longer plot arc that will end with her openly defending New Directions at some point? The way she covertly defended them in the finale? It seems like a large part of her character is her loyalty to people she identifies with — witness Becky in the Cheerios, whom Sue has no problem with because of her sister. And she sided with the McKinley High kids against Groban, Newton-John, and that newscaster dude when they explicitly compared the Glee kids to Sue herself.

    Admittedly, that’s way more foresight than Glee appears to have going for it. And it always feels a little slapdash to me when they pull this out:
    MERCEDES: Wacky meta comment about how I never get a solo, probably because of race.

    SOMEONE ELSE: Yeah, what is the deal with that?

    CUE MUSICAL NUMBER WITH RACHEL AND FINN AND MAYBE A LINE OR TWO FROM KURT IF WE HAVE TIME.

    Thursday, June 10, 2010 at 8:15 pm | Permalink
  11. scrumby wrote:

    At least Mike Chang gets mentioned every once in a while. What about the black football player who joined the club at the same time and still shows up in the background every once in awhile but never gets named?

    Personally I’m getting sick of the ridiculous contortions the plot often just to end up right back where they started, and not in a cool circular narrative way. The whole plotline with Jesse and Rachel’s mom? It’s not just god from the machine but the whole damn pantheon.

    Thursday, June 10, 2010 at 8:20 pm | Permalink
  12. Courtney wrote:

    I cry in just about about every Kurt scene Glee does. But I completely felt uncomfortable with the Kurt/Finn relationship, too. Because both of them were being pretty shitty- Finn was/is homophobic, but Kurt was acting like a sexual predator. And so my gut reaction was to be like “Finn, stop being SUCH AN ASSHOLE and pretending like you’re understanding because you deign to let Kurt in your presence”, but at the same time wanted to scream at Kurt for doing exactly what EVERY STRAIGHT DUDE I HAVE EVER SPOKEN TO ABOUT WHY THEY DON’T LIKE GAY PEOPLE is afraid of.

    But yeah, Kurt’s dad… that speech had me sobbing.

    Friday, June 11, 2010 at 12:23 am | Permalink
  13. lauredhel wrote:

    Hairography isn’t where Glee started being problematic from a disability point of view – it’s just the point where it became so blatantly obvious that you started to notice. It was problematic from the pilot, and we PWD started saying so back then.

    meloukhia/s.e.smith’s week-by-week writing on Glee is essential reading, in my opinion.

    Friday, June 11, 2010 at 12:27 am | Permalink
  14. Kate wrote:

    The Mike Chang this is actually a good example of how the show calls itself on its own racism and then continues to perpetuate it, as if their awareness gives them license to do so without remorse–remember when Mike Chang was referred to as “Other Asian”? And Tina made a WTF face, and then the show continued to not give him anything to do besides dance and smile in the background.

    The black football player actually has a name (Matt), but the fact that I was like, “wow, Black Football Player got a (single) line!” during the finale says a lot about his representation overall.

    Friday, June 11, 2010 at 4:38 am | Permalink
  15. Brad V wrote:

    And to further what lauredhel said, there were other parts that were problematic that were a little more hidden at the casting level. During a few interviews about Kurt, Chris Colfer mentions that he was actually auditioning for Artie, but the casting people and writers loved him so much that they wrote a new character for him. This character ended up replacing an Indian character they had planned. Why they couldn’t keep both characters since it’s an ensemble show (at least in the Heroes sense) I’ll never know. However, it’s another example of the more talented (read: white) actors getting the part. Even if that part wasn’t written for them in the first place.

    Friday, June 11, 2010 at 5:36 am | Permalink
  16. ozymandias wrote:

    Admittedly, I’m TAB, but I personally interpreted Tina as a person with social anxiety. If you’re faking a physical disability in order to avoid talking, there is probabably something fairly wrong. So I saw her as “cool, people with my mental problem are being represented as normal on TV.” I mean, just because her problems are mental not physical, doesn’t mean they’re nonexistent. But in retrospect I can see how that was problematic.

    In terms of PWD, Glee only seems to be able to get it half right at any given point. First we have Artie, who mostly manages to my (again, non-disabled) mind to avoid being the Magical Wheelchair Dude, but is played by an able-bodied actor. Then we have a paralyzed actor who plays a Magical Quadriplegic.

    Also problematic: Santana and Britney. While it’s nice to have legit female bisexuals on TV, it would also be nice to have legit female bisexuals who are monogamous and neither stupid nor evil.

    Otherwise, I completely agree. Sue’s Spikeification is awful, and Mercedes is a very problematic character (especially since her voice is approximately twelve times as good as Finn’s. Actually, everyone’s voice is twelve times as good as Finn’s.)

    …The coach-dude is Asian? I totally missed that.

    Friday, June 11, 2010 at 9:54 am | Permalink
  17. Lara wrote:

    Completely agreed on the Kurt thing. His character is completely sympathetic in so many ways that it pisses me off about how badly they fucked up with his crush on Finn. The only time he got called on his creepiness is when Finn blew up at him, and the takeaway from that was that Finn used “faggy” as a pejorative.

    Which, okay, BAD, and Finn got what he deserved. But why didn’t Kurt also get a dose of smackdown for his ridiculous overt manipulation to put Finn into a compromising position? Or Kurt’s sabotaging of Finn’s relationships with girls?

    I lovelovelove the interaction between Kurt and his father, but when it comes to Finn, he’s every straight teenaged boy’s worst nightmare about what having a gay friend would be like.

    Friday, June 11, 2010 at 12:15 pm | Permalink
  18. Anna wrote:

    Ozymandias,

    I think when a lot of people with disabilities have been talking about problems with the way characters with disabilities are portrayed, there’s probably a problem.

    While obviously not all people with disabilities agree that there’s huge problems in how Artie & Tina were played – and I’d love if crippling social anxiety could be solved by singing & dancing, but I understand for most people with social anxiety that’s not how it works – there are a lot of very strong, very disability-focused critiques of the show.

    You can find many of them from the links that lauredhel provided, and others by going to access-fandom and clicking on the “glee” tag.

    And that’s just a sample of the discussion that people in the disability community online are talking about with regards to Glee.

    As much as I’m sure intentions are best, as I’m sure GarlandGrey’s are, googling “disability glee” would give you so much information about what we are saying, and incorporating that into your discussion would be helpful.

    Friday, June 11, 2010 at 1:04 pm | Permalink
  19. Gnatalby wrote:

    Shouldn’t that be thanks to Stassa for the correction?

    I enjoy Glee but I am continually baffled that it chose to go the route of promoting itself as progressive: none of Ryan Murphy’s other shows are, and it wouldn’t bother me nearly as much if Glee weren’t always proclaiming how good and diverse it is.

    What you write about Sue is spot on, the show needs to stop trying to humanize her if it wants to have her keep saying cartoonishly villainous things.

    Friday, June 11, 2010 at 3:25 pm | Permalink
  20. tony wrote:

    @Leah – I thought that Quinn was comparing being pregnant to being overweight in that ep.

    Friday, June 11, 2010 at 4:38 pm | Permalink
  21. ozymandias wrote:

    Anna,

    My apologies! I actually have done some reading about Glee’s problematic treatment about people with disabilities. I didn’t mean to say that there were no problems with Tina and Artie– of course there are fairly major ones! I was just trying to point out something that seemed to be overlooked.

    Their portrayal of social anxiety is… fairly problematic… as well, although to be generous (perhaps more generous than the show deserves) it makes sense to interpret Glee Club as a safe and supportive space for Tina where she can start to work through her fears. If they gave us more with her character it would be far less problematic. Frankly, when I watched it, I was happy to see someone with social anxiety who wasn’t “creepy loner possibly serial killer,” and I probably missed a lot of problematic elements because of that.

    I’m sorry if I was ablesplaining.

    Friday, June 11, 2010 at 5:08 pm | Permalink
  22. DRST wrote:

    The “Imagine” song had me cringing horribly, though I did read an interpretation that it was supposed to represent the kids behaving in a collegial fashion with their peers despite the competitiveness of their teachers. Which is a nice thought, but doesn’t erase the abled kids singing over the disabled ones (and the fact that the MP3 version is just the abled kids singing rather than the one from the show which included the hearing-impaired student speaking the lyrics).

    Kurt’s predatory behavior towards Finn made me want to cry. Both because it was flat out demonstrating the overblown myth of predatory gay males and also because Kurt never seemed to recognize or admit (at least, not yet) that what he was doing was wrong.

    And the episode where Artie was believing he was going to walk again… ugh. I can’t even begin with the fail there, other than to say “Way to reinforce the idea that anyone who is not fully able bodied must WANT to be, because otherwise they’re not real people!”

    I watch this show for the musical numbers and change the channel when the adults are on (except Emma, who is IMHO the most emotionally mature of the adult characters, though that’s not saying much).

    Friday, June 11, 2010 at 5:41 pm | Permalink
  23. Dez wrote:

    @Tony: No that was a different episode. Quinn’s all about appropriating Mercedes’ supposed issues, which apparently results in their friendship (which we never see onscreen unless they’re having an afterschool moment).

    Saturday, June 12, 2010 at 11:20 am | Permalink
  24. Barbara Smith wrote:

    Thank you for this excellent set of critiques about “Glee.” You couldn’t include all that’s problematic or you’d be writing your master’s thesis in American Culture or Media Studies, but this is a really good start in covering a lot of the areas that bothered me personally this season of watching “Glee.”

    I also appreciate the thoughtful commenters who linked to additional critiques (many of which I had not read) regarding ableism, etc. Those of us who are committed to social justice issues and pop culture and to think about the implications of such appreciate the areas of the Internet where such interesting discussion can take place.

    Without defending the show, I have come to conclude that some of the problems with the show hinge on structural problems with the show (for example, it can be difficult to address “serious” issues in service of hitting the appropriate punchlines in a comedy, much less a comedy that is essentially surreal) AND the fact that they have cast people who are good actors OR good singers and only a very small number who are good actors and good singers.

    The actress who plays Mercedes (for example) is an excellent singer, but her acting skills need work, so of course she is relegated to the background because she can’t carry a serious dramatic storyline right now.

    It’s a casting issue though, and does not excuse other decisions – writing or otherwise – that have been made of the course of the season. I’ll watch Season 2 because despite all of this, the show drives me less crazy than “American Idol.”

    Saturday, June 12, 2010 at 2:47 pm | Permalink
  25. Sar wrote:

    Just had to mention that while I agree that Coke is shoving a harmful product down the throats of an often captive audience (think: kids in school)and that their product may contribute to illness or early death, Coca-Cola has used union busting tactics in South America that take the form of violent murder of union organizers. They are manipulating your emotions with bullshit television commercials. They are unequivocally murderers. They have also sought to control access to water in certain areas in south america so that people have no choice but to drink coke. They have also been busy in India, where their factories have been illegally dumping toxic waste generated by coke production.

    Saturday, June 12, 2010 at 4:13 pm | Permalink
  26. Melissa wrote:

    I’m so glad to find out I’m not the only one bothered by that aspect of the Kurt/Finn story! Yes, Finn crossed a line, but only after Kurt crossed too many of them to count (which I guess we were supposed to think was cute). It reminds me of this Monty Python sketch:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZgOqcH1Ywzs

    And although I know it doesn’t pay to try to make sense of a Glee plot, it still bugs me that the parents are willing to build an addition so the boys can have their own rooms, but they’re not willing to wait a month or two to move in together until it’s built.

    Monday, June 14, 2010 at 2:49 pm | Permalink
  27. k-bot wrote:

    Thanks for all the wonderful discussion and links here regarding how Glee deals with PWD. Seems to me like the show tries to deal with lots of touchy subjects, but always does it very quickly and poorly. (Except Kurt’s story arc, which I agree is well-developed but clumsy).

    Regarding Tina appropriating a disability: One piece of that story that I don’t think has been discussed here was that Artie was furious at her, for reasons the audience is supposed to understand – she faked a disability to make her life easier and he actually lives with one, so resentment was totally justified. She stood to lose her friendship with Artie over that. So she’s supposed to be learning a lesson (“growing up”) there; I appreciated that sotryline because for once you have a dynamic character/relationship, and it was never really played for punchlines or anything. Granted, it has the tone of “pat the physically-abled gal on the back for her emotional growth (brought to you by Artie!.”

    Monday, June 14, 2010 at 3:17 pm | Permalink
  28. I too am a Gleek who has been squirming more and more with each episode.

    The Kurt thing to me seems to perpetuate the idea that gay people prey on straight people. Be afraid, straight people! The homos are coming! They will try to convert you!

    I see the Sue thing as hugely problematic. Some people (fictional and real) have their racist, sexist, ableist, homophobic, etc, comments excused because they are so lovable (if you’re a white man, that is). Giving Sue the platform to say this nonsense is one thing, but having her become more lovable totally legitimizes the negative commentary. Also, you know people think it’s funny. Ironic funny because of course THEY aren’t racist (etc). Sure.

    Monday, June 14, 2010 at 7:20 pm | Permalink
  29. Melusine wrote:

    Delurking :) I have seen exactly one episode of Glee–Hairography. I went into it expecting to love it. How could I not love a musical show about misfit choir geeks?

    Instead I spent the entire episode appalled, mouth hanging open in horror. First at the stereotyical over-sexualization of the mostly Latina and African-American girls in the “reform school” choir, then at the “Hi, we’re deaf students here for your lesson-learning pleasure” moment later. And finally, at the horrific mess they made of Hair.

    Unforgivable. I was turned off completely.

    Tuesday, June 15, 2010 at 7:59 pm | Permalink
  30. Christina wrote:

    I’m coming sooooo late to this discussion, but I’ve been wanting to think/work out some of my loves and issues with this show, and there have been so many good comments here that have helped me think.

    First, regarding Mike Chang/Matt Rutherford (the silent football players/Glee kids): I think a lot of their lack of dialogue/story has to do with casting and economics. I have a feeling that they were initially brought on for their dancing abilities (Harry Shum Jr is a member of LXD). If they’re given a story line, they’ll probably have to sing about it, and that might not be one of their performance skills (See Brittany, too– the actress was also one of Beyonce’s backup dancers, and we’ve absolutely seen her dance, but never sing.) Also, if you give an actor lines, you have to pay him/her more. So, there’s that.

    There are so many other parts of this show that are so touch and go, though. And I keep watching (and loving) because I want them to pull through and get it right. I think the show did it’s best work so far at the beginning, before the kids were given a “lesson” every week in Glee rehersal. It had a much more organic approach, and didn’t have such a self-congratulatory feel to it (or patronizing, as if the audience needs to hear “THIS IS WHAT WE LEARN NOW” to understand character development).

    That being said, FOR GOD’S SAKE, there are people who are just as interesting as Finn and Rachel. And while I like to think the writers are, you know, maybe trying sometimes to do something completely different than anyone else is doing on TV (like, when’s the last time you saw a teen in a wheelchair on a network show?), they just don’t quite know… how? They build up these decent arcs– Artie’s dream is to dance! Mercedes is having body issues! Tina is shy, but likes performing and wearing “vampire” clothes (in the words of Principal Figgins)! But then they never explore these things– Mercedes is “cured” with a granola bar. It almost feels like they’re afraid to write something more complex? Half afraid and half simply ignorant, maybe.

    Monday, June 21, 2010 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

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