TV: Glee — Chris Brown is a Guilty Pleasure.

glee guilty pleasures jake bobby brown chris brown

Last week it was SVU, this week Glee is undertaking the Chris Brown treatment.

While Chris Brown is hardly in the guilty pleasures league of Wham!, Barry Manilow and the Spice Girls—the other shameful secrets of the New Directions—it was nice to see Glee address the notion of “liking the art but not the artist”.

This is an issue I’ve been grappling with lately as I write some wrestling-related pieces; for all its racism, misogyny, homophobia, ableism and promotion of a rigid type of masculinity, is it still okay for a level-headed person to like professional wrestling? Much the same, is it okay for someone who acknowledges Brown for the “douchebag” he is (“I don’t think that douche is a strong enough word to describe him,” interjects Unique) to still like his music?

I personally have a couple of Brown songs on my iTunes (purchased pre-Rihanna beating, might I add?!), and against my best efforts, I do quite like “Turn Up the Music”, but I refuse to pay for anything he’s selling and make it my personal mission instead to compensate him with as much bad press as possible. I have even been known to exit a pumping dancefloor when a Brown song comes on, if only for the principle of it.

In researching one of the abovementioned wrestling articles, I came across a couple of articles that really resonate with this idea. In an article about female stereotypes in video games, Anita Sarkeesian asserts it is “both possible and even necessary to simultaneously enjoy media while being critical of its more problematic or pernicious aspects.” Similarly, in her fantastic post about the intersection of rap, feminism and cunnilingus, which I linked to here a couple of weeks ago, Maddie Collier urges us to acknowledge the instances our pop culture of choice “sickens and disappoints us” in order to “fully appreciate the moments when it’s good and kind and real”. And the Social Justice League has a whole article on the topic.

After incurring the ire of the feminists, Jake decides to change his guilty pleasure song choice from Chris Brown to another Brown: Bobby. While this is problematic in itself—which Kitty and Artie point out to Jake, who’s apparently oblivious to the whole Bobby and Whitney thing—it highlighted the fact that it is “My Prerogative” to like problematic pop culture. Just as long as we’re acknowledging where it goes wrong, right?

But “does it really matter what a couple of high school kids think?” Yes. Because as avid pop culture consumers they’re shaping the attitudes of tomorrow. And unless we’re educating them in the ways of navigating pop culture safely, the seemingly widely held belief that hitting your partner is justified will continue on into the next generation.

Related: Special Victims Unit Takes on Chris Brown & Rihanna.

My Thoughts on Chris Brown.

My Weekend with Wrestlers.

Elsewhere: [Think Progress] Anita Sarkeesian’s Tropes VS. Women Series is Up—And It’s Great.

[The Pantograph Punch] Eat It Up & Lay Wit It: Hip Hop, Cunnilingus & Morality in Entertainment.

[Social Justice League] How to Be a Fan of Problematic Things.

Image via Ch131.

TV: Glee—“Props” for the Body-Switching Dream Sequence.

In a rare moment of actual self-awareness (none of this Sue-hiring-racially-diverse-midgets-for-New-Directions-to-perform-with-at-Nationals-in-a-show-of-inclusivity—or something—stuff), Glee dared to put Tina in a dream sequence in which she was Rachel and everyone else had swapped bodies, too.

In the “here’s what you missed on Glee” intro, the narrator (who sounds a lot like Finn, but have we ever really been told who it is?) draws attention to Tina’s status as a “prop” at best, so of course the episode was going to be all about her, like the first episode back after Quinn’s accident and the wedding-that-wasn’t was all about Quinn, and then the character is never to be seen or heard from again. I’m not sure what the show has planned for next season, when Rachel, Finn, Kurt et al. head off to college, but perhaps they were trying to introduce Tina as the main player next year.

Anyway, Tina cracks it after having to sit through one too many of Rachel’s solo tantrums. Afterwards, when she’s shopping for fabric for Rachel’s Nationals costume, Tina slips and falls into a fountain at the mall, hitting her head.

For ten glorious minutes, Glee is transformed into an alternate reality, where Finn is Kurt and Puck is Blaine (here’s the homoerotic moment we’ve all been waiting for!) and so on and so forth. With some spot on performances by Naya Rivera as Santana as Artie and Vanessa Lengies as Sugar as Quinn, I’m actually disappointed that Glee didn’t carry this scene on for the rest of the episode! But then Glee’s never been one for pushing the boundaries…

In other, storyline continuity-related Glee news, Shannon Beiste’s domestic violence arc was tied up when she got the courage from, of all people, Puck, to leave Cooter for good.

What did you think of the body-switching experiment? Yay or nay?

Related: The Underlying Message in Glee’s “Choke” Episode.

Images via Putlocker.

TV: The Underlying Message in Glee’s “Prom-asaurus” Episode.

Three episodes before the end of the season, the issue of Brittany’s class presidency is finally addressed, because she the show seems to have forgotten she was elected earlier in the season. Brittany addresses this herself, when she says she’s been a bit out of the loop this year, and “even stopped speaking” for a period.

In her first prom committee meeting, for which the board has sent Brittany ten prior memos, she fires the team and monopolises the choosing of the theme (she did like the unicorns featured in the diorama for the original Castle in the Sky theme): dinosaurs.

When explaining her choices to New Directions, she compares her presidency to the corrupt nature of the U.S. government, and is determined hers won’t turn out that way. She also imposes a ban on hair gel, sending Blaine into meltdown!

Last year, Kurt was humiliatingly crowned prom queen, a memory he still struggles with in this episode. It seems Glee has learned nothing from the tokenisation of gay people as somehow not being of the gender they identify as, as Brittany is nominated as prom king. Maybe it’s that undercut that had people confused…

Also troublingly, the show pitted the two “disabled” girls, Becky and Quinn, against each other. Becky was sure she’d get a nomination as prom queen, but when Quinn gets one in place of her, Coach Sylvester tells her there’s only room for one “sympathy vote”. Helen Mirren’s voice (shoutout to The Queen) makes another cameo as Becky’s inner monologue, adding to the “difference” between her and the other characters on the show. (That Quinn manages to walk at the prom after months of intense physical therapy widens this gap.)

Becky wonders why no one realises that not all prom queens “have to look the same; they can be different.”

And Glee tries to tie Becky’s concerns up nicely in a bow of equality with Puck crowning her “the anti-prom queen” and the boys of New Directions crooning One Direction’s “What Makes You Beautiful”.

Related: The Underlying Message in Glee’s “I Am Unicorn” Episode.

Glee Gets Down on Friday at the Prom.

Image via Gleerific News Stop.

TV: The Underlying Message in Glee’s “On My Way” Episode.

Well, if last night’s Glee episode wasn’t an after-school special, I don’t know what is.

The writers had the opportunity to really shock with Dave Karofsky’s suicide attempt and actually have him die, whilst also getting the oft-heard message across that gay teen suicides are rampant in our culture.

Not only that, but the epidemic of cyber bullying in general. Warbler Sebastian threatens New Directions with the online publication of a risqué photoshopped image of Finn if Rachel doesn’t drop out of regionals, and Sugar remarks, “If someone posted a picture like that of me online I’d probably kill myself.” Not only is that an example, on the one hand, of Glee’s insensitivity to a myriad of diversity issues, it also hit the nail on the head: many young people do kill themselves when incriminating pictures of them, real or not, hit the net. Tyler Clementi, anyone?

What really irked me, though, was self-righteous Quinn and how, in Bible group, she admonishes Karofsky for putting his family through something so “selfish”.

“I feel sorry for Karofsky but I feel worse for his family. He didn’t just want to hurt himself he wanted to hurt everyone around him. I went through the ringer, but I never got to that place…”

Kurt, who despite not believing in God crashes the meeting to pay tribute to Karofsky, tells Quinn that teen pregnancy and pink hair hardly qualify as going through the same ringer as gay kids. “You really want to try to compare…?” Quinn says. “I just can’t imagine things getting so messed up that you would consider taking your own life.”

While I think what Quinn says does have some truth to it, what gay kids go through during school, and in society at large, is incomparable to most of us. But everyone has their line to cross, and if we remember back to last season, it was revealed that Quinn left her first high school because she was bullied for being fat and ugly. I think we can all relate to that; even if we aren’t actually fat or ugly, we’ve all been called those things at some stage!

Apparently, Mr. Shue’s line was his dad catching him cheating on a math test, so he went up to the roof and was about to jump. I’m sorry; I know I just said everyone has their cross to bear, but I think that piece of the storyline served to diminish real problems, like Kurt and Santana’s struggle with their sexuality, and Artie’s disability, and solidify Will as the worst character on the show.

Not to worry, though: New Directions wins regionals with a medly of “It Gets Better”-esque songs, like “Fly/I Believe I Can Fly” and “Stronger”, whilst burying the hatchet with Sebastian and the Warblers, who are equally after-school specialish, singing “Stand” and “Glad You Came”. Oh, and of course they dedicated their performance to Karofsky, who Sebastian met once when he rejected him at a gay bar and the rest of the Warblers don’t even know. Makes sense!

But the real shocker of the episode came right at the very end (and you can see it coming for about 10 minutes prior): Quinn’s car gets hit by a truck. I guess that’s what you get for texting and driving and comparing your white girl problems to those of people with actual problems.

Related: The Underlying Message in Glee‘s “Original Song” Episode.

The Underlying Message in Glee‘s “Grilled Cheesus” Episode.

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

The Underlying Message in Glee’s “I Kissed A Girl” Episode.

Image via While Not Making Other Plans.

TV: Glee “Michael” Review—Oh My God Can’t Believe What I Saw As I Turned On the TV This Evening.

We’ve come to learn that when Glee devotes a whole episode to a star (Madonna, Britney Spears)—bar the second Lady Gaga episode—they pretty much go the Rock of Ages route: pack as many songs into the episode as they can without giving much thought to the dismal story lines developed in previous episodes.

I thought, in their “Michael” episode, they went the other way: using whichever Michael Jackson songs they had access to that resembled the character’s plotlines to insert into the show. Unfortunately, this meant such dull MJ songs as “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You” and “Ben.”

 

Rachel Berry is included in both of these renditions, and she admits at the beginning of the episode that she’s never really “gotten” what Michael Jackson is all about like the other New Directions’ have.

It seems the Glee writers don’t really “get” him, either (although, do they really “get” anything?), because they would have used songs like “I Want You Back”, when Sam serenades Mercedes, instead of “Human Nature” (which is a stunning song and perhaps the only example of where the writers chose melody over meaning); and when Artie gets all riled up over Blaine’s rock-salt-infused slushie attack at the hands of the Warblers, “They Don’t Really Care About Us” might have been more appropriate than Michael’s duet with sister Janet, “Scream”:

“What do you expect from us; we’re people. I know the rest of the world may not see us like that but when they tease us and throw stuff at us and toss us in dumpsters and tell us that we’re nothing but losers with stupid dreams it freaking hurts. And we’re supposed to turn the other cheek and be the bigger man by telling ourselves that those dreams and how hard we work make us better than them? But it gets pretty damn hard to feel that way when they always get to win.”

 

By far the best performance was the Warblers’ Sebastian and Santana’s Michael-off of “Smooth Criminal”, featuring 2 Cellos, who played at Elton John’s gig and did the same version of the song!

And, for old time’s Michael’s sake, here are the other songs from the episode:

 

 

 

 

 

Related: The Underlying Message in Glee’s “Britney/Brittany” Episode.

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

Rock of Ages Review.

My Week in Pictures 8th December 2011.

Images via Put Locker.

TV: The Underlying Message in Glee’s “Yes/No” Episode.

Wow, where do I start? Last night’s episode of Glee focusing on Becky’s newfound interest in Artie and Mr. Shue asking Emma to marry him was one of the most offensive yet.

Let’s begin with Becky: I found it weird that Becky’s internal monologue was spoken in a British accent (Helen Mirren’s to be exact). She claims that it’s her head and she can sound however she wants, but how many “abled” characters have a different voice in their heads and make that justification for it? I though it was singling Becky out because of her disability.

She and Artie go on a date and, at first, Artie feels uncomfortable with it, but begins to get to know and like Becky. It came across as platonic on Artie’s end, but his fellow glee clubbers gave him the third degree about what kind of message he was giving Becky.

They urged him not to lead Becky on or give her the wrong idea, and Artie called them out on their hypocritical ways: “You guys talk a good game” about acceptance, but at the end of the day, they’re just as narrow minded as the rest of McKinley High, which pretty much sums up Glee. They think just because they’ve got black and Asian characters and characters in wheelchairs and with Down’s syndrome and characters who are gay they’re being “inclusive”, but really, they show is just using them as token gestures.

Take Kurt, for example: he hasn’t been the focus of many storylines of late, and the writers seem to just slot him in to the background. In the opening scene, Mercedes and Sam channel Sandy and Danny of Grease, while the rest of the glee club stand around imploring them to “tell me more, tell me more”. Kurt belongs to the girls’ group in this instance while his equally gay boyfriend, Blaine, is hanging with the boys on the bleachers. Furthermore, when Puck, Finn and Blaine act as backup singers to Artie, Will and Mike in their rendition of “Moves Like Jagger”, mashed up with “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”, Kurt is nowhere to be seen. Is it because he’s not sexy or masculine enough? Let’s remember that this isn’t the first time Glee has ostracised Kurt from the gender group he belongs to because of his sexuality. Didn’t Glee get the memo: gender and sexuality are not the same thing.

But back to Becky: when Artie takes into consideration what the rest of New Directions are trying to tell him, he asks Coach Sue, of all people, for advice.

It is revealed that Becky sent Artie a sexy photo and he feels weird about it. Sue asks if he felt the same when Brittany, no doubt, sent him similar pictures of herself. Artie replies no, but those were different circumstances. So even Artie, a man with disabilities himself, thinks someone with Down’s can’t be sexy. Hypocritical, much?

The other storyline driving this episode is Will and Emma’s relationship being taken to the next level in the form of marriage. Emma is so desperate for Will to propose that she fantasises about doing it herself. Funnily enough, Coach Beiste and Sue become her bridesmaids in the dream sequence, wearing Princess Eugenie and Beatrice’s royal wedding hats, respectively. They called Kate Middleton “Waity Katie” and I think that’s what the writers were playing into with Emma’s patient wait for Will to propose.

Will finally decides to propose and asks Finn to be his best man as apparently he has no grown up friends and because he thinks Finn has showed him what it means to be a good man. Pah!

Finn is the whiniest, most cowardly and simpering character on the show! He feels sorry for himself, has an unrealistic idea of what Rachel and women in general should be, is (or has been) embarrassed by Kurt’s sexuality and only stands up for those he loves after the fact. He also thinks that joining the army will fill the void that college football has left and make him more of a man.

To further illustrate Finn’s insecurity, he decides to ask Rachel to marry him because he’s got nothing else going for him!

I was also a bit disturbed by Sam’s inclusion in the synchronised swimming team, called the “Guppies” and lead by bronze Olympic medalist, Roz Washington, who is of African American descent. She also comments that Sam’s “trouty mouth” is one she’s never seen on a white kid. This, in addition to Becky’s dig at the possibility of dating Mike Chang (“I’m no rice queen”), makes “Yes/No” one of the worst episodes of Glee yet.

Related: Glee’s “Sexy” Review.

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

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

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

Image via The Dam Nation.

TV: The Underlying Message in Glee’s “I Kissed a Girl” Episode.

“You know, with all the horrible crap I’ve been through in my life, now I get to add that,” Santana responds to Finn’s efforts to show her New Directions and the Troubletones are there for her by staging a week of lady-on-lady music.

Watching Santana be forced out of the closet was pretty uncomfortable for all those involved on either side of the screen, no matter how many Katy Perry songs were there to ease the pain.

Naya Rivera portrayed Santana’s grief, sadness and discomfort perfectly, as both glee clubs essentially patronised her into coming out. Sure, as Finn points out, she’s going to be outed by Sue’s Congressional opponent’s campaign video anyway, but watching someone be coerced into doing something they really don’t want and aren’t ready to do was painful to watch.

But, in the spirit of the episode’s title, midway through the episode Santana and her glee club comrades told a douchey rugby captain who claimed he could “straighten her out” where to go. The rushed exchange between Josh Coleman and glee girls really summed up the issues surrounding being gay in America:

“Easy girls, I’m just trying to make her normal.”

“She is normal.”

“It’s not a choice, idiot, but even if it were you’d be our last choice.”

“Oh, I get it. You’re all a bunch of lesbos.”

“So what if we are? You don’t stand a chance either way.”

Also interestingly, when the girls sing “I Kissed a Girl”, they engage in the very girl-on-girl-for-guys performance that genuinely non-straight women are trying to tackle. Whilst I did enjoy the rendition, it reminded me of the high-school experimentation my peer group engaged in at the appeal of and for the opposite sex. Sure, there’s nothing inherently wrong with that, I guess, but it undoes all the work of gay and bisexual women to be seen as having legitimate sexual orientations that don’t revolve around how the patriarchy wants them to perform their sexuality.

Indeed, it undid all the work Glee was trying to do in this episode.

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

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

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

[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 “I Am Unicorn” Episode.

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

Image via VideoBB.

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

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

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] The Underlying Message inGlee’s “Born This Way” Episode.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Do “Strong Female Characters” Remind You of You?

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] The Problem with Glee.

[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 “The Rocky Horror Glee Show” Episode.

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

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Sookie as Feminist? Hear Her Roar.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Do “Strong Female Characters” Remind You of You?

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] SlutWalk.

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

Last night marked the return of Glee after a month of baseball-related hiatus.

While the show is continuing it’s new tradition of actually following its storylines (Shelby’s new glee club, Santana and Brittany’s lady love, Quinn and Puck’s quest to get Beth back), it’s also following its long-held ritual of being wildly inappropriate and offensive.

The offensiveness was dialed down to low, with a couple of racist (nationalist?) remarks directed at Brittany’s leprechaun, also known as Roy Flanagan, but the hypersexualisation of the New Directions and the Troubletones* (the name of Shelby’s glee club, consisting of Mercedes, Sugar, and the newly recruited Santana and Brittany) was at an all-time high, singing Katy Perry’s (does she have an agreement with this show or something? “Firework”, “Teenage Dream” and “I Kissed a Girl”, the title of the episode in which Santana comes out to her family in a few weeks’ time, have all been featured.) “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)” and Christina Aguilera’s “Candyman”, respectively.

I’m not so sure lyrics like, “We took too many shots… Got kicked out of the bar… Had a ménage a trios,” and, “Makes my panties drop… Makes my cherry pop… With a real big cock,” are really appropriate for fictional 17-year-olds to be singing, as several of them are twelve kinds of illegal!

But then again, they’re probably not as bad as this

*This post originally named Shelby’s all-girl glee club as the Treble Clefs.

Related: [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 “I Am Unicorn” Episode.

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

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Disturbing Behaviour: Terry Richardson Does Glee.

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

Image via VideoBB.

TV: In Defence of Rachel Berry.

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!

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

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Do “Strong Female Characters” Remind You of You?

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

Image via Noelle’s Means of Escape.