TV: Guns on Glee.

glee shooting star

Apparent gun-toter Sue Sylvester sums up the phenomenon about guns in school best with her monologue about why she allegedly teaches at William McKinley High School armed:

“In light of recent events, I feel more safe with it in my office… The safety net of the public mental health system is gone. Parents are too busy working three jobs to look after them. And the gun yahoos are so worked up about Obama taking away their guns that every house has a readily available arsenal.”

In light of such recent events—namely the Sandy Hook elementary school massacre, but after the past week in America, pick your act of mass violence, any act of mass violence—perhaps it was too soon for Glee to touch on this topic, so artlessly, might I add. But, with the U.S. Senate vetoing the implementation of background checks for prospective gun purchasers and the call for teachers to carry firearms in the wake of Sandy Hook, we need to be discussing gun safety more than ever. It’s just that Glee, what with its disjointed storytelling consisting of one part Brittany-thinks-it’s-the-end-of-the-world-so-let’s-turn-this-into-an-after-school-special-about-the-importance-of-telling-our-loved-ones-how-much-they-mean-to-us, one part truly affecting ten minutes of the New Directions kids cowering in the choir room as a gun goes off, didn’t do the issue justice. As always, the show has so much potential but fails to live up to it.

Later in the episode, it is revealed that Becky Jackson was the one who brought the gun to school, which sheds light on Sue’s remarks about mental health. Becky was one of the suspects I had in mind as the events unfolded, along with dejected Ryder and conspicuously absent Brittany, who arguably would have been better choices but, being Glee, of course they took the easy way out: give the mentally disabled kid the gun. (Apparently this is going to open up a discourse about Becky’s condition and background but in all likelihood we’ll probably never hear about it again.)

The anticlimax of the shooting all being a big misunderstanding reminded me of Dave Karofsky’s suicide attempt and Quinn’s car accident last season: all had the potential to shock audiences and talk about mental health, but Glee chose the easy, happy ending instead.

In Sue’s closing statement as Principal Figgins fires her, she says:

“An entire career of doing the right thing—winning… I sent Cheerios off to the Ivy Leagues. I’ve educated girls who are CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. They’re mothers… Gold medalists… I’ve coached two Grammy winners. An internet billionaire and a lesbian secretary of state [Hillary Clinton?!]. But all I’ll be remembered for is this one thing? It’ll be the first line of my obituary.”

And in so doing, she makes a pertinent commentary on American culture: “winning” is the “right thing”, and in so many instances, this involves the use of weapons: war, the upholding of the second amendment, phallic sports equipment as artillery, masculinity in general… I’m sure Glee was not intending to make such a statement, and thus it seems a little disjointed.

Another point I also don’t think they were trying to make, but was quite timely and humorous, was that of the shooting making Sue’s obituary. Let’s be real: the only thing that’s making her obit is her homemaking skills.

Related: The Underlying Message in Glee‘s “On My Way” Episode.

Elsewhere: [Wet Paint] Glee‘s School Shooting: Lauren Potter’s (Becky) Mother Opens Up.

[Daily Life] Defending Masculinity with Guns.

[Daily Life] Where Are All the Female Obituaries?

Image via YouTube.

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: 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: Glee—Santana is Forced Out of the Closet.

What was a fairly mediocre episode of Glee, trying to capitalise on the Republican Presidential nominee debate by staging a class presidential debate of McKinley’s own, seems to be leading into the second multi-episode story arc about bullying, homophobia and acceptance.

While Santana says some really horrible things to Finn about his physical appearance, he decides to out her, saying the only reason she’s so horrible to everyone else is because she hates herself for her sexual orientation.

I don’t think this is completely true (it’s high school in a small town; you do the math), but word eventually makes its way to a campaign video of one of Sue’s Congressional opponents and, thus, the whole of Lima. Finn poignantly says that yes, everyone knows, but no one cares.

Glee’s next episode is entitled “I Kissed a Girl”, so we can only imagine it’s going to deal with Santana’s lesbianism/bisexuality/non-straightness and perhaps her relationship with Brittany. I hope it handles it in a caring and understanding way. But then again, it is Glee

Related: [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.

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

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

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

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 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.

TV: Glee Season 2 Final in Pictures.

 

In last night’s Glee final, New Directions make it to New York! (New York! I love New York!)

They eat designer sandwiches on the steps of some landmark that escapes me at the present moment, reminiscent of Blair, Jenny et al. having lunch on the steps in Gossip Girl.

From here, they sing a mash-up of “I Love New York” and “New York, New York” in Central Park while Santana gets her flirt on with a cop.

Finn is inspired by the group’s songwriting efforts (that they’ve come to the Big Apple with nary a song to sing at Nationals only days before the competition speaks volumes about the laissez-faire attitude of both the New Directions and their leader, Mr. Shuester), and asks Rachel out on a date now that he and Quinn are toast. He takes her to Sardi’s, where they run into Patti LuPone, who Rachel accosts, telling Patty she’s one of her idols. Patty tells Rachel to never give up (or something), and that Finn is cute. Sage advice there!

Meanwhile, the other man in Rachel’s life (no, not Jesse St. James Douche), Kurt, wakes Rachel up to go have Breakfast at Tiffany’s, followed by a Wicked duet at the musical’s home theatre, the Gershwin, of “For Good”, harkening back to their season one sing-off of “Defying Gravity”. It was a teary rendition for me!

Mr. Shue also has his Broadway moment, singing a song from April Rhodes’ musical, CrossRhodes, which can conveniently be found on Matthew Morrison’s debut album! He later chooses to shun his New York dreams in favour of staying on at McKinley.

Cut to Nationals, where the New Directions perform their two hastily composed original songs, “Pretending” and “Light Up the World”. During the former, Rachel and Finn share an impromptu kiss in the heat of the moment, which the whole club berates and blames them for losing the competition.

Oh, Sunshine also makes an appearance. No doubt to segue into a cameo or recurring role in season three.

Back in Lima, Kurt and Blaine are having coffee when they encounter Mercedes and Sam, who claim they “ran into each other in the parking lot”. When they think Kurt and Blaine are out of ear- and eyeshot, they hold hands whilst waiting to be served. New couple alert!

In the hallway of McKinley High, Will and Emma marvel at the banner erected to congratulate them on their twelfth placing in the competition, and Mr. Shue presents the class with a trophy for their (dismal) efforts. Until next year’s Nationals…

Related: Glee Gets Down on Friday at the Prom.

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

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

Gwyneth Paltrow Addresses Tabloid Culture & Her Haters.

Glee “Sexy” Review.

The Underlying Message in Glee’s “Blame it on the Alcohol” Episode.

How to Make a Woman Fall in Love With You, Glee Style.

Glee “Silly Love Songs” Review.

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

The (Belated) Underlying Message in Glee’s “Never Been Kissed” Episode.

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 “Grilled Cheesus” Episode.

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

Elsewhere: [Jezebel] Glee: Can’t Make it There, Can’t Make it Anywhere.

Images via MegaVideo.

TV: Glee Gets Down on Friday at the Prom.

 

So Rebecca Black has officially permeated the zeitgeist, with “Friday” being performed by Puck, Artie and Sam at McKinley High’s junior prom on last night’s episode of Glee.

And despite Quinn’s monotonous efforts to be crowned prom queen, along with Finn as her king, she lost out to “queen” Kurt.

Kurt’s date Blaine told Kurt of what happened to him at his last prom (he and another gay friend were set on by the school homophobes and gang bashed) and that he wasn’t 100% comfortable with attending, but he went for Kurt anyway.

Kurt’s dad, Burt, was concerned that Kurt’s “royal wedding-inspired” tux, which he handmade himself, wasn’t appropriate and that Kurt shouldn’t draw any extra attention to himself and Blaine.

Kurt thinks, despite Santana and Karofsky escorting him to and from classes as part of their Bully Whips anti-bullying squad, that McKinley is really coming around to the idea of gay acceptance, because he hasn’t been physically or verbally abused since returning from Dalton Academy.

Hatred builds up inside if we can’t let it out, and it seems that the kids at McKinley let it out sneakily and quietly, by “secret ballot” for prom queen.

But you know Kurt: he sucked it up and went out there in front of the school to tell them… “Kate Middleton, eat your heart out.” Okay, I was expecting something a little more inspirational than that, considering the “gay prom” issue is one that’s rampant in the U.S., and also here, as a recent episode of SBS’s Insight will attest.

But I suppose we have Chris Colfer’s Golden Globes speech to comfort us.

And, as is Glee’s trademark, the controversy was wrapped up nicely into one 42-minute episode and McKinley’s homophobia will live to fight another day.

Until then, let’s get down on “Friday”!

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

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

Gwyneth Paltrow Addresses Tabloid Culture & Her Haters.

Glee “Sexy” Review.

The Underlying Message in Glee’s “Blame it on the Alcohol” Episode.

How to Make a Woman Fall in Love With You, Glee Style.

Glee “Silly Love Songs” Review.

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

The (Belated) Underlying Message in Glee’s “Never Been Kissed” Episode.

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 “Grilled Cheesus” Episode.

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

Elsewhere: [SBS] Gay in School: SBS Insight.

Images via Showbiz Nest, I Am Thea 07, Maurissa Weiner.

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

 

The underlying message this week is that there is none: acceptance—of Rachel’s Jewish nose, Quinn’s chubby-checker past and Tina’s “Orient descent”—was right there on the surface for all to see.

This is Glee’s second Lady Gaga-themed episode, the first of which was very Gaga-centric, however this week’s effort kicked last seasons’ butt!

The storyline began with Rachel getting hit in the face by Finn during a dance number, and her doctor recommending she get a nose job to fix her deviated septum, like big-nosed babes, Jennifer Aniston and Ashlee Simpson, before her.

She decides to take angel-faced Quinn along to the appointment, using her nose as an example of what she wants the new and improved Rachel to look like.

This is followed up by a tear-jerking rendition of “Unpretty” by TLC by unlikely soul-sisters Rachel and Quinn.

You might remember a few episodes back (although it’s been so long since a new episode has aired, both on Ten and in the U.S., that you could be forgiven for not remembering) when Quinn morphed from struggling with her social standing after giving birth last season to prom-queen obsessed, “I’m relatively sane for a girl”-espousing zombie.

I didn’t buy it then, and I’m glad we get a more in-depth look at her life now.

Lauren Zizes decides to run for prom queen, with Puck by her side as her king. Most of the non-size-two students at McKinley are ecstatic to see someone who looks like them running for prom queen, which should have given Lauren the heads up that her plan to take down Quinn wouldn’t work: she unearths Quinn’s past as Lucy Fabray, before she transferred to McKinley in eighth grade.

Lucy was overweight, uncool, and bullied constantly at her old school, until she joined ballet, gymnastics and cheerleading, lost weight and asked her parents for a nose job, at which point they began to call her by her middle name, Quinn.

Lauren plasters posters of Quinn as Lucy all over the school, which inadvertently sees Quinn’s approval rating go up 40% because her student body realises she’s not just a vapid beautiful person, but someone with problems and a past, just like them.

But not all of the glee club’s members are accepting that they were “born this way” out in the open.

Santana manages to convince Dave Karofsky to help her get Kurt back to McKinley, or else she’ll tell everyone he’s gay. In turn, her “Macbethian” and “Latina Eve Harrington” ways, she believes, will help her become prom queen.

Eventually, word gets back to Kurt about what’s really going on, and he agrees to return to McKinley on the condition that Karofsky be schooled in acceptance of gays and lesbians, even if he doesn’t come out.

Santana could do well to adopt this school of thought, as she is still in the closet and still in pain that Brittany can’t be with her. Brittany makes Santana a “Lebanese” t-shirt for her to wear in this week’s performance (it was meant to say “lesbian”, but it’s a nice tie in to the “Born This Way” lyrics!)

Of course all the storylines are neatly wrapped up into a special 90 minute package, as is Glee’s style. Emma even manages to address her crippling OCD and goes to therapy.

But I think the most interesting “underlying message” of the episode was Santana’s view at the three-minute mark on changing things you’re not happy with.

As much as, on the one hand, our society preaches self-love and acceptance, what of all the beauty products, foods and exercise regimes that are spruiked to us on a daily basis via all mediums?

I don’t want to turn this into a rant on body image and the affect advertisements, magazines, TV, movies etc. have on it, but Santana does raise a good point: if changing things about you, like Rachel’s nose, Tina’s eye colour, or Sam’s “guppy lips”, makes you feel better about yourself, then so be it.

I got a tattoo a couple of weeks ago because I didn’t like the way the back of my neck looked without one; does that make me “hate myself”? Hell no! Anyone who knows me will tell you that I am confident in who I am, both on the inside and the outside. (Those who don’t just think I’m an arrogant bitch!)

But I think that if you are happy with yourself in general in most aspects of your life and can engage in “active critical thought” about the things you aren’t, what’s a little hairdo change here or gym membership there?

Or—dare I say it?—a nose job?

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

Gwyneth Paltrow Addresses Tabloid Culture & Her Haters.

Glee “Sexy” Review.

The Underlying Message in Glee’s “Blame it on the Alcohol” Episode.

How to Make a Woman Fall in Love With You, Glee Style.

Glee “Silly Love Songs” Review.

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

The (Belated) Underlying Message in Glee’s “Never Been Kissed” Episode.

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 “Grilled Cheesus” Episode.

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

Is There Really a Beauty Myth?

Images via Megavideo.