Event/TV: Glee—The Right & Wrong of It.

In lieu of a new episode of Glee last week, I attended a debate about the pros and cons of McKinley High and its glee club.

I was super excited, because I assumed the debate would entail a for Glee side, and an against. And it did. But while I thought the against side, consisting of Clem Bastow and Jess McGuire, would discuss the blatant sexism, racism, homo/transphobia, ableism, fatism and the many other phobias and -isms the show incorporates (feel free to add them in the comments), both panelists ultimately praised Glee for it’s inclusiveness and handling of the tough issues.

I’ve heard this rationalisation about Glee before. When my tuba-playing gay friend finally got into the show this season and fell hard for it, he thought I would sing its praises with him because he knew I watched it. (Evidently, he does not read this blog as he would know the main reason I like Glee is because I know I’ll always get a blog post out of it!) When I invited him to the debate, he had something else on but wondered what they would be debating, exactly. I referred to the list of problems I have with it (above and elaborated on below) and he replied, “But I thought Glee was about acceptance.” That’s what it wants you to think, and it blinds you to all the other issues with Katy Perry songs. As panelist for the “pro-Glee” side, Mel Campbell, said, “It’s best not to ask questions.”

While McGuire did touch on Glee’s pro-gay stance, and perhaps its best, and most underutilised, storyline of Brittany and Santana’s forbidden love, I was expecting SlutWalk Melbourne organiser and noted feminist Bastow to knock Glee out of the park for its anti-women portrayals. I was also sorely disappointed, as Bastow, a keen musical aficionado, chose to focus on the shows’ butchering of classic musical numbers.

So, I thought I’d take this opportunity to write about the issues I wished the panel had discussed last Thursday night.

Sexism.

I’ve written about feminism in Glee before, specifically as it’s embodied in the character of Rachel Berry. It annoys me to no end that Rachel is deemed “ugly” (though Lea Michele is anything but) because she’s annoying. And she’s annoying because she eschews traditional gender roles that are perhaps embodied by Quinn by being ambitious, voicing her opinions and unapologetically going after what she wants.

In a clip shown at the debate of the inaugural Glee mash-up in which Mr. Shuester separates the girls from the boys, Kurt attempts to join the girls’ side. Since when did being a gay man amount to the equivalent of a straight female?

Finally, I wouldn’t say sexism is the main problem in Mercedes’ perpetual (okay, she seems to have a boyfriend this season, but more on that later) bachelorettehood, rather some other issues I will address later in the piece.

Racism.

Now is as good a time as any to discuss Mercedes’ aforementioned singleness. Was she literally the only character in season two who didn’t have a significant other because she’s black? (Or because she’s fat?) Sure, she dated Sam for all of a few minutes in the season two final, but before that the only action she got was Kurt condescendingly suggesting she should date one of the guys on the football team because he was black and, like, they’d probably have heaps in common.

If that’s not enough proof of Glee’s insensitivity to race, all you need to do it look at any one episode for a myriad of references to Tina and Mike’s “Asianness”, Roy Flanagan’s “Irishness” (or leprechaunnes, as Brittany might refer to it) and Puck and Rachel’s “Jewishness” (though that also falls under religious prejudice as well).

Homophobia & Transphobia.

Sure, Glee’s pretty much a vehicle for Kurt and, increasingly, Blaine, to showcase their voices, fashion sense and flamboyance. McGuire chose to speak at length about how sensitively the show handled Kurt coming out to his dad and Kurt and Blaine’s first time, and I have to agree with her. And yes, seeing two men make gay love (okay, the implication of them making gay love) on primetime network television without a stink being kicked up is pretty groundbreaking, as panelist for Glee and MC, Tim Hunter, noted. But they still single out Kurt for his gayness (“Single Ladies [Put a Ring on It]” and “Le Jazz Hot!”, anyone?), not to mention how Finn went about outing Santana in “Mash Off”.

They’ve handled the Brittany/Santana thing the best out of every relationship in the show, so that’s one point for lesbianism, but at the expense of other sexual orientations and gender identities, perhaps?

Just look at “The Rocky Horror Glee Show”, for example. Not only to Mike’s parents make him pull out because they don’t want him associated with a “tranny” musical, but the show even substitutes the lyrics “I’m just a sweet transvestite from transsexual Transylvania” for “sensational Transylvania”. Pardon me, but I don’t see what all the fuss is about in using the word “transsexual”.

Finally, we can’t forget Coach Beiste. When she debuted on the show, her sexuality and gender was thrown up in the air, when she’s really just an unconventionally attractive, masculine straight woman who happens to coach a men’s football team. But of course attention is drawn to her 40-year-old virgin status every time there’s a virginity-themed episode. Because, you know, she’s old and funny-looking and has never been on a date! Riotous!

Ableism.

Where do I start? There’s Emma’s OCD, which is made fun of by everyone from Gwyneth Paltrow’s Holly Holiday to her own parents (not to mention Will trying to come to her rescue by attempting to “cure” her). Artie’s wheelchair-bound way of life, which was even pointed out during the debate, only for the panelists to laugh at Artie wanting to give Blaine a standing ovation, “because he can’t”, and a whole episode, “Wheels”, insensitively dedicated to his disability.

I will applaud the show for their inclusion of, and remarkable sensitivity to, Down’s syndrome sufferers. But then they go and use undiagnosed Asperger’s syndrome as an excuse for anti-social and selfish behaviour. Cutting off their nose to spite their face…

Fatism.

Puck’s rendition of “Fat Bottomed Girls” was a clip played at the talk, and was received by audible groans. To see Lauren so uncomfortable as Puck serenaded her was awkward for the audience, and the patronisation was palpable. Like, oh Glee has a plus-sized girl who doesn’t hate herself and is being chased by the hottest guy in school; we’ve come so far.

But when Mercedes is relegated to backing vocals in favour of the slim lined Rachel, can’t get a date and suffers from an alleged eating disorder which is swept under the rug with some sage advice and a granola bar from Quinn, it’s all just tokenism.

So there you have it: the debating of the issues I wished had’ve been brought up by the panel. As my friend, housemate and fellow debate-goer put it: “It was just like Glee: it slightly touched on the issues, but ultimately didn’t add anything new to the discourse.” So feel free to add anything I, or the panel, didn’t cover in the comments.

Related: [The Early Bird Catches the Worm] The Underlying Message in Glee’s “Original Song” Episode.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Brown Eyed Girl.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] The Underlying Message in Glee’s “Duets” Episode.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] The Underlying Message in Glee’s “The Rocky Horror Glee Show” Episode.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Glee: T.G.Inappropriate.F.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Ain’t Nothin’ Gonna Break My Slutty Stride.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Rachel Berry as Feminist.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Is Lea Michele Too Sexy?

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] In Defence of Rachel Berry.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Boys Will be Boys, Revisited.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Glee Season 2 Final in Pictures.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] The Underlying Message in Glee’s “Asian F” Episode.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] The Underlying Message in Glee’s “The First Time” Episode.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Glee: Santana is Forced Out of the Closet.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] The (Belated) Underlying Message in Glee’s “Never Been Kissed” Episode.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Glee “Sexy” Review.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Glee Back in Full Force.

Elsewhere: [Bitch Magazine] The Transcontinental Disability Choir: Glee-ful Appropriation.

[Xhibit P] Fat Girls Singing Backup: Body Images in Glee.

[TV.com] Is It Okay to Find Glee’s Plus-Sized Character, Lauren Zizes, Gross?

[Jezebel] Why Won’t Glee Give Mercedes a Boyfriend?

Image via Meg. All Things Me.

On the Net: The Truth About Cats and Dogs.

From “Cats, Dogs & Asperger’s Syndrome” by on MamaMia:

“A solitary cat, surviving in a room full of boisterous dogs. Its every move being analysed, interpreted and modified based on the framework of rules, behavioural patterns and ingrained habits of the canine species. And as a result, being disastrously misunderstood.

“Dogs wag their tails as a sign of happiness and anticipation of social interaction. Cats swish their tails as a warning to back off and give them much needed space. Dogs always welcome affection in whatever way it is offered to them. Cats will also offer heartfelt affection but it needs to on their terms, at a time that suits them. Sometimes they just need to be left alone. Dogs depend on your approval for their emotional wellbeing. Cats depend on certain things being in place in a routine that they can depend on, and will then reward your reliability with their unwavering friendship.

“Dogs are inherently social. They are pack animals with deeply entrenched hierarchical rules of canine society and as a result are desperately eager to please, and occasionally challenge, the pack leader. As puppies, they will romp and play delightedly with their littermates until they fall into an exhausted, but happy heap on top of each other at the end of the day. They rarely turn down an offer of affection and will warmly greet their family with furry hugs and sloppy kisses when they get home.

“On the surface, cats may seem more aloof, but cat lovers around the world will be quick to tell you they are always keenly observing every detail and will reward those who take the time to understand them with warmth, affection, loyalty and love. Dogs are less discriminating in whom they shower with their boundless love, and this is part of their universal appeal, but it is a trait that cats simply don’t understand … or tolerate. Their love needs to be earned.”

Not to trivialise Asperger’s Syndrome, but as much as I love dogs and would choose to be one if I could be any animal, I am very much a cat. Ask anyone.

Then again, maybe I have a mild case of undiagnosed Asperger’s…? It wouldn’t be unheard of.

I know two people with Asperger’s (perhaps more who haven’t divulged their condition; one who very obviously struggles with social interaction, the other; I couldn’t even tell they had it, based on what we’re told about Asperger’s in the media.

What about you? Asperger’s aside, do you relate more to cats or dogs?

Elsewhere: [MamaMia] Cats, Dogs & Asperger’s Syndrome.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

On the censorship of Andrej Pejic’s Dossier cover:

“… why is Pejic’s cover getting the same treatment as a porno mag? What message are the big bookstore chains sending—that the male torso is only appropriate [for] all-ages viewing when the man in question is ripped?”

Mia Freedman on when life begins.

SlutWalker Leslie Cannold on “the right to be equally mediocre”.

Speaking of SlutWalk, the Melbourne event’s coordinator, Clem Bastow, writes on the event for the Sydney Morning Herald.

The ostentatious disgustingness of “Push Presents”.

Glee: give fat girls a chance.

 The militant atheist doesn’t exist.

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s infidelity and Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s sexual assault allegations are one in the same, according to “The Media’s Groping Problem”.

In the same vein: why powerful men sexually assault women.

From Texas’ hottest sex offenders to Strauss-Kahn’s “hot-or-not” accuser.

What would “a word where Aspergers was the norm” look like? “Girls who spend hours a day straightening their hair are recommended for counselling,” amongst other things.

Rebecca Sparrow on “Hollywood’s Fake Teenagers”.

As if we didn’t need another reason to love Mick Foley: the Huffington Post names him their “Greatest Person of the Day”.

Meghan McCain rips the sexist and sizist Glenn Beck a new one.

Much to my mother’s—and her fellow kindy mums’—dismay, my big-for-her-age, four-year-old sister refused to walk to preschool, so Mum was forced to push her in a stroller. Check out Too Big For Stroller for more on this hideous phenomenon.

Are child murderers born evil or created?

In the case of toddler James Bulger’s murderers (one of whom re-offended after being released and is now back in jail), and Dontez Tillman and Thomas McCloud, who beat and tortured “two homeless men over the course of two days”, I tend to lean towards them being “born that way”. If Law & Order and Criminal Minds have taught us anything, it’s that children who demonstrate these kinds of behaviours usually turn out to be sociopathic serial killers.

Image via Queer Me Up, Psychology Today, Even Without Popcorn.