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 “Makeover” Episode.

With the U.S. presidential election taking place one day before Glee’s “Makeover” episode—in which McKinley High’s class presidential election occurred—aired in Australia, Glee showed that it is capable of some self-awareness and social commentary every now and then.

Shades of Brittany’s bid for last year’s class presidency can be seen, but where that episode dealt more with the feminism of both the 2008 and McKinley’s elections, last night was about the celebrity culture that surrounds voting.

Blaine tries to make this clear when he admonishes Brittany for using her popularity to influence the glee club members to vote for her. “This isn’t a popularity contest; it’s about who’s got the best ideas.” That may be so, but the creators saw fit to milk this angle for all it’s worth with a “Celebrity Skin” by Hole montage.

While Brittany chooses to run with “part-robot” Artie, whom she forgot she dated several seasons ago and broke up with because he called her stupid, as her vice presidential candidate, a category which Sue Sylvester points out has been introduced “for no discernible reason whatsoever”, she suggests Blaine pick Sam as running mate. Sam assures Blaine he’ll bring in the “sympathy” and “not-gay vote[s]” because his family is on food stamps and he’s not gay: kind of like John McCain picked his “granddaughter” (according to Brittany) Sarah Palin as vice presidential candidate in 2008 to seemingly ensure the “female” vote to no avail.

Brittany’s influence on her opposition seemed to work to her disadvantage, as at the end of the episode we see Blaine and Sam (“Blam” as they are collectively called on the congratulations banner) celebrating their victory. Blaine is experiencing some self-doubt and displacement at McKinley when Kurt is more focused on his new intern-career at Vogue.com with guest star Sarah Jessica Parker (who herself is heavily involved in politics and the campaign to get Obama reelected, serendipitously enough) than him, but Sam says being the school’s “first gay-guy president” whose place of birth is brought into question by Brittany is something to be proud of, just like Obama was America’s first black president whose birthplace was also called into question by a fellow “celebrity” perhaps bitter about Obama’s influence in Hollywood: Donald Trump.

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

Image via AllMyVideos.

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Glee Gets Down on Friday at the Prom.

Image via Gleerific News Stop.

TV: The (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.

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

“She is normal.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Glee: T.G.Inappropriate.F.

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

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

Glee Back in Full Force.

Image via VideoBB.