12 Posts of Christmas: In Defence of Rachel Berry as Feminist.

In the spirit Christmas, I’ve decided to revisit some of my favourite posts of the year in the twelve days leading up to December 25th.

I’m taking this final 12-Posts-of-Christmas opportunity to squeeze two Rachel Berry-related posts into the one. Think of it as one last Scarlett Woman gift to you.

The first post was written “In Defence of Rachel Berry”, while the second explores the character as a feminist one. You can access the original posts here and here, respectively.

In the first season of Glee, Rachel Berry was introduced as an attention- and approval-seeking know-it-all diva, who sticks a gold star next to her name on the New Directions’ sign-up sheet because that’s what she sees herself as. Season two showed the glee clubber soften her resolve a bit, realising that she’s still only in high school, and has her post-high school years to carve out a Broadway career and have the world see her as the star she knows she is. The season final saw her choose a relationship with Finn Hudson in her senior year at McKinley High, despite having to leave him to head to New York when she graduates.

Not all young girls have to wrangle their feelings for the school jock whilst contemplating a move to the big city to make their dreams come true, but many of Rachel’s problems are shared by the show’s audience.

In the most recent Lady Gaga-themed episode, Rachel struggles to accept her “Jewish nose” and considers rhinoplasty. She also strives for the acceptance of her New Directions band mates, and to be seen as fashionable and popular.

It’s in the character’s nature to be highly-strung, goal-oriented and ambitious, so it’s not likely she’ll change any time soon. And why should she? While there are certainly other young women out there who identify more with the saccharine Quinn Fabray, the sassy soul sisters Santana Lopez and Mercedes Jones, or badass Lauren Zizes, there are plenty who see Rachel as their Glee counterpart, myself included.

A recent New York Times article by Carina Chocano praised the “relatable” and “realistically weak female character”, like Kristen Wigg’s Annie in Bridesmaids—“a jumble of flaws and contradictions”—over the “strong” one. “We don’t relate to [the weak character] despite the fact that she is weak, we relate to her because she is weak,” Chocano writes.

But what exactly does she mean by “weak”?

Pop culture commentator Dr. Karen Brooks notes that talented, beautiful, popular and successful female characters need to be broken down before they can be seen as relatable. “The more talented and beautiful you are, the greater the threat you pose and so ‘things’ are introduced to reduce that threat,” she says. Just look at the “women falling down” video on YouTube.

While Rachel’s had her fair share of setbacks, it seems Glee’s audience is finally beginning to understand her. “We’ve been given time to understand Rachel’s initially painful personality and to identify both her strengths and weaknesses. Her ambitions and drive haven’t shifted, but the context for understanding them has,” Brooks says.

“Rarely are unpleasant characters redeemed, they are simply ‘punished’, while the ‘good’ characters soar to impossible heights, not on the back of hard-work and self-belief, but usually [because of] a love interest and wishing hard. Rachel is a healthy and welcome exception to that,” Brooks continues.

So she’s an unlikely heroine we can all get behind, you might say? “A girl who reminds you of you,” as Chocano opines. An everywoman, if you will?

If Rachel Berry encourages more young women to see themselves as gold stars striving to have their accomplishments recognised, then so be it!

*

Last week I wrote in defence of Rachel Berry.

This week, I wanted to explore the character as a feminist one.

While Glee isn’t exactly known for its positive portrayals of women,people of colourthe disabled, or the gays, Rachel has managed to grow in spite of all this, and become somewhat of a feminist icon.

wrote that audiences have come to know and love Rachel not because her obnoxious know-it-all persona has changed, but because “We’ve been given time to understand Rachel’s initially painful personality and to identify both her strengths and weaknesses. Her ambitions and drive haven’t shifted, but the context for understanding them has,” as Dr. Karen Brooks reiterates.

Other bloggers have come to similar conclusions.

Leah Berkenwald at Jewesses With Attitude writes:

“I… have trouble with the vilification of Rachel Berry on a feminist level. How often do we dismiss women as ‘bossy,’ ‘know-it-all[s],’ or ‘control-freaks’ when their behavior would be interpreted as leadership, assertiveness, or courage if they were men?

“… In the right context, Rachel Berry’s personality would not seem ‘intolerable’ or ‘annoying’ so much as bad-ass, renegade, and hardcore.”

And Lady T, who used Rachel as her “Female Character of the Week” on The Funny Feministsaid:

“… The show wanted us to root for a girl who was ambitious, daring, and driven.”

It might be because I have been known to be seen as bossy, a know-it-all, a control-freak (just ask my new housemate!) and ambitious that I’m standing up for her, but just think of another feminist heroine in modern pop culture who could also be described using these words: Hermione Granger. The only difference is, she isn’t vilified for these attributes.

I have also been called ugly and a slut, not because I am ugly and a slut, but because these qualities are removed from the “‘good’ [female] character… [who] soars to impossible heights, not on the back of hard-work and self-belief, but usually [because of] a love interest and wishing hard.”

If you look back to the beginning of Glee, especially, Rachel was often deemed ugly. Now, anyone who’s seen Lea Michele knows she’s not exactly unconventionally attractive, but Rachel is characterised as this because she’s annoying. And she’s annoying because she stands up for herself, knows what she wants and how to get it. (From a racial point of view, she could also be seen as being “ugly” because of her Jewishness.)

Despite these inherently “unattractive” qualities, Rachel manages to snag her man, Finn, in what can be seen as typical Glee sexism and discrimination:

“‘I love her even though she’s shorter than Quinn and has small boobs and won’t put out and is loud and annoying.’ 

“The show wanted to make me believe that Finn was doing Rachel some grand favor by simply being with her at all.”

On the other hand, it can be seen as a poignant take on teenage life that the underdog is always being compared to the most popular girl in school: Quinn Fabray.

If Rachel is Glee’s feminist heroine, Quinn is her polar opposite. She has had next to no character development, which leads to her motivations changing week to week.

In “Original Song” she tore Rachel down, telling her to get over her “schoolgirl fantasy happy ending” with Finn, who would never leave Lima, taking over Burt Hummel’s mechanics business, with Quinn, a real estate agent.

But in “Born This Way”, she was “broken down” by her fat past coming back to haunt her, to come across as more “relatable”.

Sure, Rachel’s had her fair share of being “broken down” (being dumped and subsequently egged by Jesse St. James, being publicly broken up with by Finn, getting slushied… I sense a food theme here.), but in the grand Glee scheme of things, she’s actually doing pretty well for a female character.

Now, if only we can get Mercedes a boyfriend

Related: In Defence of Rachel Berry.

Rachel Berry as Feminist.

The Underlying Message inGlee’s “Born This Way” Episode.

Do “Strong Female Characters” Remind You of You?

The Problem with Glee.

The Underlying Message in Glee’s “Original Song” Episode.

Brown Eyed Girl.

The Underlying Message in Glee’s “The Rocky Horror Glee Show” Episode.

The Underlying Message in Glee’s “Duets” Episode.

Sookie as Feminist? Hear Her Roar.

Do “Strong Female Characters” Remind You of You?

SlutWalk.

Slut-Shaming as Defence Mechanism.

Elsewhere: [The New York Times] A Plague of Strong Female Characters.

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

[Jewesses with Attitude] Why Rachel Berry Deserves Our Compassion.

[Huffington Post] Hermione Granger: The Heroine Women Have Been Waiting For.

[Feministing] Pretty Ugly: Can We Please Stop Pretending That Beautiful Women Aren’t Beautiful?

[The Funny Feminist] Female Character of the Week: Rachel Berry.

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

Image via Wet Paint.

TV: Rachel Berry as Feminist.

 

Last week I wrote in defence of Rachel Berry.

This week, I wanted to explore the character as a feminist one.

While Glee isn’t exactly known for its positive portrayals of women, people of colour, the disabled, or the gays, Rachel has managed to grow in spite of all this, and become somewhat of a feminist icon.

I wrote that audiences have come to know and love Rachel not because her obnoxious know-it-all persona has changed, but because “We’ve been given time to understand Rachel’s initially painful personality and to identify both her strengths and weaknesses. Her ambitions and drive haven’t shifted, but the context for understanding them has,” as Dr. Karen Brooks reiterates.

Other bloggers have come to similar conclusions.

Leah Berkenwald at Jewesses With Attitude writes:

“I… have trouble with the vilification of Rachel Berry on a feminist level. How often do we dismiss women as ‘bossy,’ ‘know-it-all[s],’ or ‘control-freaks’ when their behavior would be interpreted as leadership, assertiveness, or courage if they were men?

“… In the right context, Rachel Berry’s personality would not seem ‘intolerable’ or ‘annoying’ so much as bad-ass, renegade, and hardcore.”

And Lady T, who used Rachel as her “Female Character of the Week” on The Funny Feminist, said:

“… The show wanted us to root for a girl who was ambitious, daring, and driven.”

It might be because I have been known to be seen as bossy, a know-it-all, a control-freak (just ask my new housemate!) and ambitious that I’m standing up for her, but just think of another feminist heroine in modern pop culture who could also be described using these words: Hermione Granger. The only difference is, she isn’t vilified for these attributes.

I have also been called ugly and a slut, not because I am ugly and a slut, but because these qualities are removed from the “‘good’ [female] character… [who] soars to impossible heights, not on the back of hard-work and self-belief, but usually [because of] a love interest and wishing hard.”

If you look back to the beginning of Glee, especially, Rachel was often deemed ugly. Now, anyone who’s seen Lea Michele knows she’s not exactly unconventionally attractive, but Rachel is charactertised as this because she’s annoying. And she’s annoying because she stands up for herself, knows what she wants and how to get it. (From a racial point of view, she could also be seen as being “ugly” because of her Jewishness.)

Despite these inherently “unattractive” qualities, Rachel manages to snag her man, Finn, in what can be seen as typical Glee sexism and discrimination:

“‘I love her even though she’s shorter than Quinn and has small boobs and won’t put out and is loud and annoying.’ 

“The show wanted to make me believe that Finn was doing Rachel some grand favor by simply being with her at all.”

On the other hand, it can be seen as a poignant take on teenage life that the underdog is always being compared to the most popular girl in school: Quinn Fabray.

If Rachel is Glee’s feminist heroine, Quinn is her polar opposite. She has had next to no character development, which leads to her motivations changing week to week.

In “Original Song” she tore Rachel down, telling her to get over her “schoolgirl fantasy happy ending” with Finn, who would never leave Lima, taking over Burt Hummel’s mechanics business, with Quinn, a real estate agent.

But in “Born This Way”, she was “broken down” by her fat past coming back to haunt her, to come across as more “relatable”.

Sure, Rachel’s had her fair share of being “broken down” (being dumped and subsequently egged by Jesse St. James, being publicly broken up with by Finn, getting slushied… I sense a food theme here.), but in the grand Glee scheme of things, she’s actually doing pretty well for a female character.

Now, if only we can get Mercedes a boyfriend

Related: In Defence of Rachel Berry.

The Problem with Glee.

The Underlying Message in Glee’s “Original Song” Episode.

Brown Eyed Girl.

The Underlying Message in Glee’s “The Rocky Horror Glee Show” Episode.

The Underlying Message in Glee’s “Duets” Episode.

The Underlying Message in Glee’s “Born This Way” Episode.

Sookie as Feminist? Hear Her Roar.

Do “Strong Female Characters” Remind You of You?

SlutWalk.

Slut-Shaming as Defence Mechanism.

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

[Jewesses with Attitude] Why Rachel Berry Deserves Our Compassion.

[Huffington Post] Hermione Granger: The Heroine Women Have Been Waiting For.

[Feministing] Pretty Ugly: Can We Please Stop Pretending That Beautiful Women Aren’t Beautiful?

[The Funny Feminist] Female Character of the Week: Rachel Berry.

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

Image via Wet Paint.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

Race and online dating. [Jezebel]

Hermione the heroine. [HuffPo]

Jezebel also writes in praise of “The Women of the Harry Potter Universe.”

Tavi Gevinson on growing into her beauty:

“I could pretend to be an archetype of a feminist superhero and say I never want to be a conventionally attractive person. But, while I have so much respect for the people who can say that truthfully, I’m not there yet… I admit to the basic human desire to be attractive…

“Maybe I liked my face. Is that not okay?” [The Style Rookie]

If the DSK case has taught us anything, it’s that “any deviation of the victim’s life from the concept of the ‘perfect victim’ is exploited and becomes the focus of attention, as has happened to the DSK victim. Ever had a drink? Been to a party? Been a little bit late to a meeting? Lost your temper? Tried to fight back? Lied to your friends about what’s going on in a relationship? Forgiven someone? Posted a Facebook photo of you hugging someone? Well then clearly YOU ARE A DRUG-ADDLED VIOLENT SLUT BITCH and that necessitates a billion more hearings to talk about how VIOLENT and SLUTTY and DRUG-ADDLED and BITCHY you are.” [Think on This]

Still with Strauss-Kahn, Bob Ellis airs his always controversial, archaic and small-minded misogynist thoughts on the “honeytrapping” of “good men”. [ABC The Drum]

“When Rape Victims Lie.” [Sasha Said]

And this wraps up the DSK portion of the program:

“… I have no sympathy, empathy or even good thoughts for Dominique Strauss-Kahn. Not just because of the rape accusations but also because of his betrayal of the socialist ideals he was supposed to uphold as a prominent member of the French Socialist Party. His ideals that went through the drain when he accepted to become head of the IMF, one of the most subjugating, neo-imperialist institutions imposed on the Global South.

“And now, of course, there is no longer a case against him. However, and this is where I’d like us to focus, there is no longer a case because, it is claimed, the victim lied on issues unrelated to the rape allegations. Let that sink in for a second: a woman who is an asylum seeker/refugee, who hails from one of the poorest countries on earth (where the IMF played a big role in promoting the prevailing poverty and economic hardships that afflict her homeland) was found to have lied in order to get on with her life.” [Tiger Beatdown]

Jokes about Casey Anthony: too soon? [Splitsider]

“So you want to move to New York?” Here are the realities. Not as grim as you might think, yay! [Yikes Machine]

“The World Map of Useless Stereotypes.” If they’d reduced the space allocated for New York, they might have been able to include Australia. Oh yeah, maybe they were playing up the stereotype of us being the forgotten continent of sorts. [Jezebel]

The Lion King promotes homosexuality? And nine other “crazy things” that have come out of potential 2012 Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann’s mouth. [Think Progress]

Elitism in the public school system. [Persephone Magazine]

If global gender equality was represented by the FIFA Women’s Soccer World Cup, this is what it would look like. [Jezebel]

Ten life lessons, according to Ja Rule. Hilarious! [Thought Catalog]

“If I Were a Girl,” also on Thought Catalog, is equal parts poignant and insulting. Interesting to get a guy’s point of view on what it would be like to be a girl.

Read what happens when “a teen… calls the Westboro Baptist Church” to talk about feminism! [Jezebel]

Waking up to the Leiby Kletzky murder crime scene. [Jezebel]

Sleazy News of the World-esque journalism has a place somewhere, right? [Gawker]

“Penis shaming.” [Rachel Rabbit White]

On “Writing Race.” [Zero at the Bone]

More on the should-we-tell-little-girls-they’re-pretty debate. [The Beheld]

Part two of Camilla Peffer’s “In Defence of Women Behaving Badly.” [Girls Are Made from Pepsi]

Men in crisis: “Digging deeper into modern Masculinity.” [Rachel Rabbit White]

Images via The Style Rookie, Buzzfeed.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

 

It’s a smorgasbord of Katy, Ke$ha, Britney and Gaga as Complex counts down “The 25 Greatest ‘Slutwave’ Songs of All Time”.

In other Katy and Ke$ha-related news, Feminist Music Geek critiques their acts.

Finally, closing off a Katy Perry heavy week, Jezebel ponders the similarities between “Firework” and Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful”.

Sady Doyle on Charlie Chaplin’s paedophilia on film:

“I… kind of forgot, actually, that Charlie Chaplin was a pedophile?… Boy howdy, this movie sure didn’t!… It invites you to get off on this… We got a scene where the FBI tried to go after Chaplin for his dangerous left-wing activities, BY PERSUING STATUATORY RAPE CHARGES AGAINST HIM. “It’ll ruin him,” the evil right wing poo-hating US government cackles.”

Hmm… strangely echoes a certain left-winger accused of rape in the media at the moment…

Hermione Granger perfects her “judgemental badger” face.

“Empty Bellies Do Not Beget Genius”.

Now this is how “self-marriage” is done. Glee, take note.

Following on from last week, “Is Lara Bingle the new Paris Hilton?”

Is the antidote to “Taylor Swift’s Endless Reign” a Lindsay Lohan singing career revival?

Coco Rocha reveals “The One That Got Away”.

Gala Darling detoxes her closet.

MamaMia asks, “Do You Have Mother Issues?” Oh hell yes! And daddy ones, too!

More on why Gwyneth Paltrow is just that damn unlikeable.

JWoww’s heinous ex calls her pre-surgery body “deformed” by cellulite. Nice.

2010 was the year of the mistress.

In defence of May-December romances.

What does your ponytail say about you?

On the (Rest of the) Net.

Yet another reason to “really dislike Katy Perry”.

On the other hand, yet another reason to “Be Pretty Damn Euphoric You Live in New York City”:

“We are, as a group, anti-fanny-pack as much as we are pro-gay-marriage. Hetero marriage… we can pretty much take or leave.”

Dr. Katrina Warren on “The Grief of Losing a Pet”. Be warned: this is a tear jerker. I was bawling by the third paragraph, possibly because this story is close to my heart. I lost my dog Ben (above), who’d been with us for seven years, last year, and I still miss him like crazy.

While it may be summer here in the Southern Hemisphere, Gawker lists the “10 Things I Love About Winter”, one being winter movies (which we see here in summer):

“So while Pirates of the Caribbean 18: The Scullery’s Scourage, Transformers 8: This Time It’s Impersonal, and Men in Black 3: Will Smith’s Kids Can’t Make All the Money may make your July 4th jam, I’d rather pass the popcorn in December.”

Satah from This Ain’t Living mourns the loss of “the fun, campy, musical romp of high school TV shows”, Glee.

From “Harry Potter and the Incredibly Conservative Aristocratic Children’s Club”:

“Maybe, incidentally, the reason no other woman as smart as Hermione appears in the books is that J.K. Rowling, like the Turk, can bear no sister near the throne. Her volcanic ego burns down everything in its path. Where the Twilight books are works produced from and for a state of sexual yearning and frustration, Rowling’s ‘wizarding world’ is a fantasy place created for the benefit of Hermione Granger, for her infinite sagacity, foresightedness and teacher’s-pet-hood to be rewarded at every turn.”

I wish Dolly Parton was my fairy godmother.

Elizabeth Wurtzel on the sex appeal of Sarah Palin. Sure, she may be a “kind of sexy librarian, kind of a MILF” but “unfortunately, Sarah Palin is not very bright, not very thoughtful and not very qualified to run a country”. Well said.

“This is a post about judgement”, by Mia Freedman.