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.

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

Brown Eyed Girl.

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

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

Glee: T.G.Inappropriate.F.

Ain’t Nothin’ Gonna Break My Slutty Stride.

Rachel Berry as Feminist.

Is Lea Michele Too Sexy?

In Defence of Rachel Berry.

Boys Will Be Boys, Revisited.

Glee Season 2 Final in Pictures.

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

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

Glee: Santana is Forced Out of the Closet.

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

Glee “Sexy” Review.

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 “Silly Love Songs” Review.

 

Last night’s episode of Glee had some semblance of a storyline, unlike most of its companion episodes this year.

Santana was ousted by the glee club as a bitch, Puck serenaded Lauren, who refused to be wooed by his misogynistic rendition of  “Fat Bottomed Girls”, and Finn attempted to court Quinn at his Valentine’s Day kissing booth.

By far the best song of the night was Artie and Mike’s collaboration on Michael Jackson’s “P.Y.T.”, which I have taken the liberty of embedding below.

Another key story arc was Kurt’s continued infatuation with Blaine, who serenades another man with Robin Thicke’s “When I Get You Alone” (again, below), another standout. Not to worry; although Blaine is rebuffed by his love interest, and Kurt confesses his feelings for his, the two are back being besties before the night’s through.

Don’t you just love how life on Glee comes packaged up nicely with a pretty ribbon on top after forty minutes…?

Related: 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.

Images via Shulman Says, Soul88, TV Hamster.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

Just a short one this week, as I haven’t had a lot of time for reading. L

Rabbit White ponders the things she learnt about her own sexuality from the men at Mr. International Rubber:

“It is being put in a sexual situation when you are non-sexual. It’s being introduced to a new world all at once. But it’s not long before I feel comfortable here, basking in male sexuality that is totally not directed at me. I think I finally getting the draw to being a ‘fag hag’or ‘fairy princess’. I get to gawk and join in the lust without fear of being pulled in or anxiety of protecting myself. In the view from here, human sexuality is a celebration and male sexuality is valid and uniquely cool.

“I don’t know how many times I’ve read advice columns where girls write in, worried about their smell or unable to enjoy sex because they are self conscious. Perhaps it’s because girls are taught to please everyone else, putting themselves last, but there just seems to be something in female sexuality that is uncomfortable with receiving pleasure. Look at all the women’s mags, obsessed with ‘how to please a man’.

“But maybe the ‘pig’ concept could lessen fears around receiving pleasure. What if your partner liked you sweaty, smelly, just the way you are right now? And just wanted more and more and more of that.”

Sady Doyle, of Tiger Beatdown (lots of feminist goodness from them this week) discusses “The Fantasy of Girl World”:

“The fantasy of girl world often feels like the feminist imagination taken to its most self-indulgent, hypocritical extremes. We stand for tolerance and egalitarianism, whereas the people who disagree with us are IGNORANT WIFE-BEATING MONSTERS. Women, if left on their own, would eliminate war, poverty, heartbreak and pets that are not cats. But, here’s a question for you: Why shouldn’t it look like this? What’s wrong with a wish-fulfilment fantasy that tells women they could do well with power and without oppression? What’s wrong with girls geeking out over the idea that they’re special?”

Glee’s Rocky Horror episode failed to touch-a, touch-a, touch-a, touch Garland Grey at Tiger Beatdown:

“Early on in the episode Mike volunteers to play Dr. Frank-N-Furter, but a few scenes later he says his parents won’t allow him to play a ‘tranny’. Mercedes takes the role, delivering a show stopping version of ‘Sweet Transvestite’, but the word ‘transsexual’ is replaced by ‘sensational’. For Glee, transpeople are punch lines, not anyone the show needs to fucking think about. While doing Rocky Horror Picture Show, a musical whose entire message is about accepting people’s sexuality and gender.

“Can we just cut out losses and rename this show Chord Overstreet in Tiny Gold Shorts? Clearly, he is fanservice and I don’t even care… However, as much as I appreciated seeing his abs, I didn’t care for the oddly-specific diet regimen he blurts out before showing them or the comically small weights Artie was holding. Artie’s a paraplegic, pushing himself everywhere in his wheelchair, lifting himself in and out of it dozens of times a day, and THAT is the biggest weight he’s lifting? That weight is a clear signal to the audience that Artie doesn’t belong in the locker room and is only there to provide comic relief…”

The four types of Facebook friends, according to Susan Orlean.

The Pervocracy on the “Slut, Deconstructed”:

“I’m 25. I lost my virginity at 15. So 26 partners is only two or three a year. It’s hardly going home with a new guy every night. To break it down further, 6 of those partners were serious romantic relationships, and you can’t call a girl slutty for sleeping with her own boyfriend, right? So now it’s 20 casual partners over 10 years—a raging, wild, man-eating two per year. I’m so cock-crazy I need it every six months, baby…

“Oh, and a woman in ‘my god, you can see her everything’ clothing dancing on tables and flirting with every guy in the bar might be a virgin for all you know about her.”

It’s the wrong time of year here, but there’s not many things I love more than trawling through the gossip magazines in summer, style-stalking the celebrities in Aspen and New York, longing for cool weather again to break out the beanies, woollen cardigans and shearling coats (okay, wrong continent for shearling!).

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

 

I was unable to catch up on Glee when it aired last week, so I decided not to write about the latest episode’s “underlying meaning”. However, after watching it over the weekend, I think there is an important message that needs to be talked about; just like every other episode this season!

While Glee can sometimes turn into an after-school special, “Never Been Kissed” was more of an “hour long ‘It Gets Better’ video”, as Jezebel puts it, focussed around Kurt’s struggles with being the target of homophobia and Coach Beiste’s sexual inexperience and objectification as an anti-sex symbol.

It will be interesting to see if the usually lacklustre writers will continue the storyline in which Kurt’s bully and member of the football team, Dave Karofsky, is tormenting Kurt because in actual fact, Dave is confused about his own sexual orientation. But what I found most interesting about the episode was Beiste’s storyline.

When Sam asks Finn how to “cool down” when making out with “chaste” Quinn, Finn relays his story of running down a postman with his car. Sam decides to use a mental image of Beiste in lingerie, and passes this on to the other guys. Somehow, Tina gets hold of this information and also uses a mental image of Beiste when making out with Mike. When Sam and Tina accidentally let slip Beiste’s name during make-out sessions with their significant others, it somehow gets back to Mr. Schuester, who “says [that] Beiste can never find out, though he winds up telling her himself in the very next scene”!

I can’t imagine how hurtful that must have been for Coach Beiste (yes, I am aware Glee is fictional and the characters DON’T ACTUALLY HAVE FEELINGS), especially when it is revealed that she’s “never been kissed”, hence the title of the episode, and never made to feel beautiful.

But the glee clubbers make good by dedicating their mash-up of “Stop! In the Name of Love” and “Free Your Mind” to Beiste, which ends in an inappropriate group hug, not to mention Will attempting to kiss Beiste’s insecurities away. It’s not that easy, Mr. Inappropriate Glee Teacher!

Related: 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: Kurt Gets Kissed in Hour-Long “It Gets Better” Video.

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

 

Following on from last week’s controversial episode, this week’s Glee deals with the students pairing off into couples for “Duets”. All except Kurt, of course, who is unable to find a partner, not only to sing with, but also to be with in the romantic sense.

This theme is timely after the suicide of gay teen Tyler Clementi, who was filmed having sex with another man by his roommate, who was then going to broadcast the footage online, and the subsequent campaigning by Ellen DeGeneres and her fellow celebrities to stop gay bullying, and that life does get better.

Kurt expresses interest in duetting with the new kid, Sam, but Finn warns him against it, as the “ensuing beatings” will force Sam out of glee. Of course, Kurt thinks Finn still has issues with his homosexuality, but Finn retorts that they live in a (homophobic) man’s, man’s, man’s world, and breaks out the “no means no” shtick.

Later on, Burt Hummel, who is out of the hospital after last week’s stint in ICU, reiterates Finn’s sentiments, and Kurt asks, “So a gay guy can’t be friendly to a straight guy without it being predatory… You’re saying I shouldn’t sing with this Sam guy because it might upset a couple [of] homophobes?”

The episode also deals with the other kinds of pairings the glee club members engage in. There’s Brittany and Santana, whose lesbian relationship is taken to new levels this week when they’re shown kissing on screen; the proverbial straights, Rachel and Finn and Sam and Quinn; the (perhaps stereotypical) strong black women, Mercedes and Santana, singing “River Deep, Mountain High”; the “Asians”, Tina and Mike, who are having relationship issues and will attend “Asian couples therapy”; and the sensitive issue of Artie’s disability, how it relates to his sex life, and his deflowering by Brittany in this episode.

Thus, this leaves us with loner Kurt, who has more than enough personality and pizzazz to pull off “‘Le Jazz Hot!’ from Victor/Victoria” and steals the show.

Kurt is a strong enough character that he doesn’t let his peers’ (albeit not is glee club peers) discrimination get to him, and thus he comes across as a teenager who has the courage of his convictions to stay true to himself, a stance which can only serve to encourage and enable other young people struggling with their sexuality to stand up and own it.

Oh, and in a rare show of compassion, Rachel offers to do a duet with Kurt in the final scene, asserting that they’re more alike than they think. Perhaps a straight wife-gay husband relationship to rival Carrie Bradshaw and Stanford Blatch is blooming?

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

Elsewhere: [Jezebel] Everyone’s Duetting It (Except Kurt).

[Jezebel] Why Glee’s Brittany & Santana Are My Queer Icons.