TV: The (Belated) Underlying Message in Glee’s “Choke” Episode.

 

As someone who has witnessed her mother being choked by her father, using that action as a metaphor for intimate partner violence on Glee is sick.

Not only that, but in desperately trying and dismally failing to, for some reason, raise awareness of domestic violence (actually, I’ve decided I hate that phrase, so I’m taking to using the more all-encompassing “intimate partner violence”), Glee has gone back to its old ways by being especially misogynistic and racist.

The intimate partner violence storyline opens with Santana observing Coach Beiste’s black eye and remarking that “it looks like Mr. Beiste went all Chris Brown on Mrs. Beiste… [Did] Cooter put the smackdown on [her] ’cause [she] wouldn’t let him be on top?” Troublingly, women of colour Mercedes and Tina, and LGBTQ woman Brittany, all snicker. I wonder if the writers were aware (oh wait, this is Glee: of course they weren’t!) that African American women are 35% more likely to experience intimate partner violence than white women, 60% of Korean women have been beaten by their partners, and violence in same-sex relationships is gravely underreported and misunderstood.

Enter Cheerios co-coach and “black Sue”, Roz Washington, who overhears Santana’s bad taste musings. She tells the girls that “violence against women” and “men hitting women” is never okay, buying into the perception that women are the only victims in intimate partner violence. Granted, women are the overwhelming victims, but that’s not giving equal opportunity to non-heterosexual relationships (for shame, considering the abundance of LGBTQ characters on the show) and the fact that a woman can hit a man. Instead of insinuating that it’s intimate partner violence only that we should be concerned about, how about violence against women in general? Including rape.

Anyway, I’m sure the writers wanted Roz to mean well, but her racial and sexist slurs directed at Mercedes (“Lil Oprah”), Tina (“Asian Horror Story”), Sugar (“Rojo Caliente”) and Santana (“Salsa Caliente”) undermine this.

In a following scene, Sue coins the aforementioned nickname, “Black Sue”, for Roz, telling her that “ivory poachers could make a fortune selling your enormous white teeth on the black market”, and refers to Coach Beiste as John Goodman, perhaps insinuating that Beiste’s masculinity should have prevented her from being a victim. This way of thinking seems to be adopted by Santana, too, when she says she doesn’t think Coach Beiste actually got hit because she’s “a wall”. What if the roles were reversed and Beiste had hit Cooter, who is considerably smaller than Shannon?

The racial stereotyping continues when Roz admonishes the girls for their joke. As Autostraddle points out, Glee gave the “‘my aunt got beat up by her man’” monologue to the one black woman on the show,” claiming it took her five years to escape the relationship. It took my mum nigh on thirty to get out.

Shannon initially denies her husband hit her, but uses her experience to inspire the girls, who—up until this point— have never really had anything to do with the Coach, to sing a song about empowering women to leave abusive relationships. According to Sue,

“The American songbook is chock full of songs making light about men hitting women.”

Chris Brown, anyone?

Beiste is so moved by the girls’—who, again, she’s had nothing to do with up to now—apathetic show of indifference to intimate partner violence, that she confesses to them—jeopardising her reputation at the school (remember what happened the last time she got too close to McKinley students?)—that she was actually the victim of intimate partner violence, and that they effectively “saved her life”, because she forgot to do the dishes all weekend. Yes, perpetrators of intimate partner violence can be set off by the slightest thing, and we all know that beating the person you love isn’t the means of someone who’s mentally balanced, but dishes?! Glee, really?! If you’re going to make one of your characters, perhaps the most underutilised, exploited and maligned of them all, the victim of a serious issue like intimate partner violence that will never be addressed again, can you at least make it for a reason less trivial than dishes?!

Two realistic things to come out of the storyline, though: that Shannon stays with Cooter and gives him a second chance, and lies about it to Sue and the girls. And finally, that Beiste fears that if she leaves him, “no one else will ever love me”. Painfully sad, true to actual victims of intimate partner violence who are made to feel worthless and unlovable by their abuser, and ties in with a past storyline on the show!

Related: The Underlying Message in Glee’s “Never Been Kissed” Episode.

My Thoughts on Chris Brown.

Elsewhere: [Women of Colour Network] Domestic Violence Facts & Stats Collection.

[Autostraddle] Glee Recap: Choke-a-Joke.

Image via Putlocker.

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

 

Finally! Glee acknowledges the racist stereotypes it’s perpetuating, and Santana had the guts to stand up and say it:

“You went from ‘La Cucaracha’ to a bullfighting mariachi. Why don’t you just dress up as the Taco Bell chihuahua and bark the theme song to Dora the Explora? You don’t even know enough [about Latin culture] to be embarrassed about these stereotypes you’re perpetuating.”

Well, kind of.

But let’s backtrack.

When Mr. Shue realises he doesn’t actually know enough about the Spanish language and culture to confidently call himself a Spanish teacher, he enrolls in Spanish night class, run by guest star Ricky Martin as David Martinez. “How did I become so out of touch?” Will wonders.

Firstly, become out of touch? Despite the New Directions kids’ undying devotion for him, Mr. Shue has been out of touch from day one. Not to mention his inappropriate relationships with his students.

And secondly, there’s a lot more to Latin culture than dressing up as a matador and singing “La Cucaracha”, as Santana and Mr. Martinez soon school him in.

But it wasn’t just the South American racial stereotypes who got their fair share of airtime last night. The black prejudice was out in full force, although not acknowledged by Glee. Cutting off their Latin nose to spite their black face?

Synchronised swim coach Roz Washington is one of the most racist characters on the show, in my opinion. She speaks in African American colloquialisms such as “bajonkajonk”. When she challenges Sue Sylvester for leadership of the Cheerios, she tells Sue her “stale white bread moves” aren’t working for the team anymore, insinuating that black girls dance better than white girls and buying into the stereotype that they do.

Also, Miss Pillsbury is on a mission to have her pamphlets infiltrate McKinley High and hands out some to Mercedes and Sam when they come to her about their relationship problems. The pamphlet that Mercedes receives is entitled, “So You’re a Two-Timin’ Ho?” whilst Sam’s reads, “So You’re Dating a Two-Timin’ Ho?” Do you think the show would have given such a racist and sexist title to a pamphlet received by Quinn, for example? They might as well have made the girl on the cover of the pamphlet black because that’s pretty much what they were insinuating: that Merecedes is the sassy, fat, angry, sex-crazed woman of colour.

It remains to be seen whether Glee will actually make an effort in the future to abolish the stereotypes it so readily holds up to its viewers…

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

Glee: The Right & Wrong of It.

Elsewhere: [TV Tropes] Sassy Black Woman.

[Jezebel] Why Latina’s Aren’t Allowed to Get Angry.

Image via Channel 131.

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.