(Read Laura’s review/recap of “Throwdown” over at Adventures of a Young Feminist.)
Ok, first off. The autotune/pitch correction needs to stop. It’s really starting to get irritating; it takes it from the level of a group of high school kids performing and into the realm of the ridiculous. I’m sorry if the actors aren’t very good singers, but it feels highly fake and unnatural, and it’s really distracting. And I am basically tone deaf, so if I’m noticing it and I think it’s jarring, it’s a problem.
On to this week’s episode, which was laden with ableism and racism. And sexism, of course, thanks to the ongoing baby plot, which is so painful I don’t even want to think about it. Terri, Will’s wife, is…gah. I want to find the people on the writing team responsible for her characterization, sit them down at my table, bring out a delicious smelling pie, wave it under their noses, and then take it away.
Oh, PETE, the ableism. Right in the opening line, Will uses “idiot,” and the ableism is rife throughout the entire episode. This kind of ableism is careless. It’s an example of thoughtless word use, and it’s one of the things that really irritates me about the show. The normalization of ableism, the constant affirmation that it’s ok to use ableist language, is incredibly grating. Clearly no one on the show is thinking about disability issues. The ableism certainly isn’t some sort of backwards hipster commentary on ableism, in which viewers are supposed to recognize it and privately be amused.
And the racism in this episode was a torment. One of the key plot points involves Sue singling out the minorities in the Glee Club with the goal of trying to divide it. And it is painful. Oh, so painful. It exploits and manipulates pretty much everything that infuriates me about the tacit racism in this society; the idea that minorities get chosen for things because they are minorities, that minorities need to be singled out and separated to be recognized, etc. Here’s the thing, for all those people who think that this is deliberate and funny: PEOPLE BELIEVE THESE THINGS. Including “colour blind” and “anti-racist” hipsters. They believe them because they have internalized them, even if they will not admit it. And this means that when they are used as plot devices, they are reinforced in the hive mind.
I get that people think that the show is doing this as a commentary. But, again, this is part of the whole hipster -ism framework. Hipsters find this sort of thing acceptable because it’s a witty social commentary or some such nonsense, but it really is just offensive. It’s not a commentary, it’s just a mirroring of the society we live in, and a reinforcement of very damaging social norms.
“Oh, but they’re just using humour to defuse tension when dealing with complex issues.” No, they are not, they are using humour to avoid dealing with complex issues. People who really think like this watch Glee and have their norms reinforced, the takeaway from the show being that, yeah, being racist and ableist and sexist is fine and dandy. People who don’t share these norms get to watch Glee and not have to confront the realities of how damaging these norms are, because the show glosses over them to make them all fuzzy and family friendly.
Here’s the thing: When you are in a position of privilege, you really do need to be reminded of that. You need to see the way in which your privilege can be harmful, can be a tool of oppression. If you don’t, you aren’t going to learn about how to manage your privilege. Glee does not make people uncomfortable (unless they are extremely aware of these issues). It just uses oppression as a humour vehicle. Which, can I say, yuck?