TV: The Underlying Message in Glee’s “Naked” Episode.

glee men of mckinley calendar ryder

glee men of mckinley calendar jake

glee men of mckinley calendar artie

Male body image was the word(s) in Tuesday night’s (excuse the one-day-lateness of this post, as I was all ready to settle down in front of the TV last night to watch “Naked” on Channel Ten, only to discover that Glee has now been demoted to Eleven on Tuesday nights) episode, in which Tina (she’s just a wealth of ideas when it comes to Blaine) suggests New Directions raise money for regionals by producing a “Men of McKinley” calendar.

Being the only non-able bodied man in the group, Artie is understandably perturbed, and defensively asks why the women of McKinley High aren’t being objectified in the calendar, also. Kitty rejoins:

“Girls are the ones that buy stuff. It’s a consumer-driven economy. Those Twilight books are poop on paper and we’ve turned them into a billion dollar industry.”

Yes, ’cause women aren’t capable of deciphering what’s drivel and what’s not. They’re also only capable of being objectified or the objectifiers, never the subjects.

Kitty makes a fair point, though, that hot, shirtless men are more likely to make more money for the club’s regionals fund that sexy schoolgirls. And, let’s face it, we get enough of that already.

None of the Glee men stray from the socially acceptable norm of what’s attractive, so that just leaves wheelchair-bound Artie to take on the body image issues that aren’t exclusively the realm of women, he tells Finn.

Wait a minute: wasn’t there an episode this time two years ago in which Finn was the one with the body hang-ups and Artie espoused words of wisdom for navigating the female gaze as a high school boy? While Finn might have grown up since then and Artie’s still in a wheelchair, it’s just another example of the lack of continuity and explanation in Glee.

At the other end of the spectrum, we have teenage Adonis, Sam, turning into an egomaniac when he receives an überlow SAT score and thinks he has to rely on his looks alone to get by in life.

Meanwhile in New York City, Rachel accepts a role in a student film in which she’ll have to be topless. She decides to do the nude scene, much to the chagrin of Kurt, who says Rachel’ll never be taken seriously as an actress. Supportive boyfriend, Brody, retorts that all the serious actresses have done nude scenes. Nudity=Oscar, as I’m sure Seth MacFarlane would concur

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

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

Elsewhere: Two of the Boob Showings Referenced in Seth MacFarlane’s “We Saw Your Boobs” Song Occurred During Rape Scenes.

Images 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: 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.

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.

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.

TV: The Underlying Message in Glee’s “The First Time” Episode.

Blaine, Kurt, and Rachel’s first times were surprisingly tender; taking place in front of the fire after Blaine, Kurt and Rachel had given the performance of their lives in West Side Story, and Finn had realised his college football dreams won’t come true—but not before Glee had effectively prude-shamed Rachel and Blaine.

The idea that an actor can’t truly portray an emotion or a situation unless they’ve felt it or been involved in it flies in the face of the theory of acting. That everyone else involved in West Side Story (except Coach Beiste, who finally gets her man. And is Emma Pillsbury still a virgin…?) has lost it except its two main characters, whose sexual awakening the play focuses on, further emphasises the virgin-shaming going on.

I’d like to point out at this juncture that these kids are 17 YEARS OLD! I have friends who are nearly 23 and 26, respectively, who are virgins—not to mention those who don’t air their sexual history (or lack thereof) as freely—and I don’t think it hampers their ability to do their jobs, enjoy life and make meaningful connections with people. I really resent the fact that not just Glee, but society in general, likens virginity to a handicap. Even handicapped Artie (who insensitively makes a joke about Chaz Bono being stuck inside a woman’s body, and is then subsequently picked on by the college football recruiter, asking if Artie wants a handicapped spot on the team. Been there, done that.) targets Rachel and Blaine for their lack of relatability to their characters. What happened to the days when virginity was a virtue? But, please; let’s not go back there!

Now that Rachel, Kurt and Blaine have lost their virginities in the dream-like way that Hollywood so romanticises, can we please go back to normal? Not everyone experiences their cherry-popping romantically in front of the fire. And the sooner this is drummed into young adults, along with the debunking of the “hopeless romantic” idealism of modern relationships, the better.

Related: [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.

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

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

Elsewhere: [MamaMia] Why Being a Hopeless Romantic is a Crock.

Images via Megavideo.

TV: The Underlying Message in Glee’s “Asian F” Episode.

Despite the racism of the title (is it racist if the two token Asian characters and their tiger parents say it?), last night’s episode of Glee was all about girl power, with some political undertones.

Brittany is continuing her race for class president, performing “Run the World (Girls)” by Beyonce to a standing ovation in the gym. It’s not the first time Brittany’s done a Beyonce song (remember “Single Ladies [Put a Ring On It]” when Kurt was trying to pass her and Tina off as his girlfriends?), and the episode was pretty Bey-heavy, with lots of Dreamgirls songs to boot.

If you haven’t seen this video from NineteenPercent, I wholeheartedly recommend you watch it. “Run the World” “lulls girls into a false sense of achievement and distracts them from doing the work it takes to actually run the world.” Hence Brittany performing in the halls of William McKinley in a leather miniskirt and suspenders, when she should really be working on her campaign promises. But she does look damn fine!

The whole Brittany versus Kurt (versus Rachel) thing evokes feelings of the Barack Obama/Hillary Clinton democratic primary race of 2008, not to mention the Sarah Palin-as-feminist debate.

Santana, Brittany’s right-hand campaign woman, tells Rachel that if she votes for “Jimmy Fallon’s butch daughter”, Kurt, “it would only empower another Frankenbeans,” whatever that means. (A Google search for both “Frankenbeans” and “Frank & Beans” yielded no relevant results.)

Brittany follows this up with all the shit male leaders have gotten America into lately: “double digit inflation, economic freefall, oil spills, the war in Afghanistan.”

But to make women feel like they have to vote for their political counterpart just because they’re a woman isn’t the way it should go. Palin is a perfect example of this: the only reason John McCain chose her as his running mate was because of the close upset of Clinton by Obama in the primaries. Upon further inspection, it was revealed that Palin didn’t know jack about most things. Perhaps Brittany’s run for senior class president is intended to reflect Palin’s vice-presidency bid, or her possible 2012 presidential candidacy, as Brittany isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed.

When Rachel realises Mercedes might beat her for the role of Maria in McKinley’s production of West Side Story, she decides to run for president, too, so she’ll have a stellar extra-curricular on her application for NYADA. Kurt is understandably upset, as he knows that Rachel’s running for personal gain, and perhaps Brittany’s been brainwashed by Beyonce, but he can actually make a difference at the school for fellow outcasts like them.

So it looks like the thinking students of McKinley will be faced with a similar dilemma that Democrats were in 2008: to vote for the marginalised  candidate (coloured Obama/gay Kurt), or the female candidate, who also belongs to a marginalised group…

Related: [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.

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.

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

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.