Glee revisited (2 of 2)

The first season of Glee ended recently, and, well, I’d like to take a moment to express my dissatisfaction with the show (at the risk of slipping into pettiness). You won’t want to read this if you want to avoid spoilers. Before I spill my thoughts: I haven’t followed much of the media or blog chatter about the show, but in the comments on GarlandGrey’s post at Tiger Beatdown, lauredhel shared a link to a weekly summary of the show at s.e. smith/meloukhia’s blog. Worth a look.

Okay, since I like to talk: Glee writers, what the hell was that finale? Even if I didn’t have trouble with the perversion of character development masquerading you tried to pass off as a plot, I’d have thought the episode, uh, sucked. Too melodramatic. Too over the top. (And yeah, this show isn’t lacking in that department.) Too many loose ends tied up quickly and too nicely; it felt like you didn’t know if the show would last beyond a single season and wrote a clean-up episode Just In Case. Which didn’t help with the generally awkward pacing of the show.

But this blog is about my life with and around my sister. I really can’t let the Sue Sylvester thing go. You’ve been so very inconsistent with her character that she’s no longer going to be effective for you. She’s not an accurate reflection of my sibling experience. I can imagine that there might be sibs out there who have given in to the anger, fear, hurt, worry, or whatever else might be negative about not knowing how to handle a loved one’s differences. I can imagine that they might shut anyone except that sib out. I really can. But to waver back and forth between hating everyone, including oneself? It doesn’t even hold up to a satire version of my sibling experience. (And yeah, just speaking for myself here.)

And in fact, that’s my concern with you in general: you have a ton of great props, and only a couple of characters. Unfortunately, the characters are…Will, Finn, Rachel, and Sue. And Will, Finn, and Rachel? As others have pointed out: white, talented, heteronormative. Will has grown as a character a little bit, but not really, and certainly not enough. (WTF – he asked Emma if she’d slept with her boyfriend? And then has the audacity to say he loves her, when he clearly did something that showed zero compassion, understanding, or love when he shut her down for not being ready for sex on a first date? Or violated her privacy by asking about her sex life out of his own jealousy? NOT COOL.) The story seems to always come back to the pretty white kids singing their autotuned lungs out while everyone else fades into the background. ALSO NOT COOL.

I really do feel like everyone else is basically just a prop, a representation for Something Society Should Learn About. But by leaving these characters as props (not even fully sketched caricatures!), you’re effectively endorsing White Heteronormative Middle-class Americans congratulating themselves for acknowledging that they don’t understand the experiences of anyone else…without bothering to examine their privilege, and without being forced to confront those other people as people, or in any other way earning the right to congratulate themselves for learning something.

My sister is not Blindness. She is not Wheelchair User. She is not Epilepsy or Hydrocephalus or Behavior Problem or Weird Looking Person. She is Lily. Would your audience understand that? Or would they assume that she, like Artie, as a wheelchair user only desires typical mobility? That her anger is like Mercedes’ anger – something society would prefer to calm/silence, not understand? Someday I will be my sister’s legally designated representative in court, at the grocery store, in the mall, and I hope like hell that the people I encounter can see her as a person and not as a single adjective. My fear is that your show will not help her be seen as Lily. My fear is that a fan of your show will be proud of themselves for showing interest in her life, even if they do that little “ask the typical family member while ignoring the PWD” thing that led me to the first post (and title) of this blog, and they will walk away and never think of her again. And I will be left to try to comfort Lily in her unhappiness with how she has just been mistreated – because all appearances aside, you’d better damned well believe she knows when she’s being mistreated – and what the hell is there for me to do or say, when even I struggle daily with my own privilege and fears and biases?

So thanks for the great reminder that I own a lot of awesome music, Glee. I hope the young performers on the show get to keep living their dreams – it’s a really awesome feeling to know that you’ve made people smile. I hope that they are able to learn the lessons the characters they play seem to be missing. I won’t know. I won’t be watching next season.


2 Comments on “Glee revisited (2 of 2)”

  1. Lynne says:

    I think that because Glee is soooo deliberately campy and kitschy and cheesy-musical, it’s been a really stark and kind of perfect Example Of Television. It takes the stereotypes and stock characters and plots that sitcoms always use and ramps them up to such obvious extremes that you can’t ignore it anymore. Not that they don’t deserve to be called on bullshit, of course, but I’ve kind of found the show interesting that way. The problems with how tv and culture in general portray, well, almost everything are so in-your-face on Glee that it basically caricatures itself, and then caricatures itself as a caricature of itself, etc., and along the way I lose track of where it’s intentional and where it’s stepping in it. What I really mean is, I haven’t been surprised by a single thing the show has done. And I also wholeheartedly agree with you that this show (and tv and movies in general) portrays such shallow and problematic representations of people’s roles in society that it kind of beats me over the head with Everything Wrong With Media. And this is a good summary of a lot of the things that are wrong.

    • Elysia says:

      along the way I lose track of where it’s intentional and where it’s stepping in it
      Yes, yes, yes! Exactly! All of what you said is spot on, and I’ve had some similar thoughts. I think that’s why I’m so sad that I ended up being so disgusted by the way the season ended: the use of the extremes, of the stereotypes, fell apart. And they worked some too hard (as I’ve said about Sue several times – they used her in too many ways and have, I think, ruined a lot of her power as a characater).

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