Glee: Ballad

Y’all, I am so Glee‘d out.

I can’t even begin to express it. I feel like all I’ve done in the last week is talk about Glee, Glee, Glee all the time. And deal with the viciousness of people who really don’t like it when you harsh their squee. So this review, it’s going to be a short one.

But I want to lead with a few things:

  • I’m not saying you’re a bad person if you like Glee. In fact, I know lots of folks who like the show. I don’t think that they are bad people. Let me repeat this, for emphasis: Liking something that someone else is critiquing does not make you a bad person.
  • I am examining the problematic content in the show. And I think it’s fine to like the show and recognize that content and talk about it; I personally don’t like Glee very much, but, you know, that might be because I’m tired of being attacked for critiquing it, and also because it’s just not my kind of show. But you, you are allowed to like Glee, and I’m not gonna stop you. I honestly do not care if you like it or not, ok?
  • I do have a problem, though, if you don’t recognize the problematic content.
  • Which brings me to my final point. I’ve been getting a lot of pushback for focusing on disability issues in Glee. Uhm, people, I have been talking about the problematic treatment of race, gender, sexual orientation, etc. for kind of a while. Like, since the pilot came out. Yeah, I’ve been focusing on disability issues a lot, most notably when I wrote it up for Bitch last week, but that’s because, uhm, I’m blogging as a member of the Transcontinental Disability Choir at Bitch. As in, we were asked to guest blog about disability issues. As in, our posts have word limits, and I was writing about the Very Special Disability Episode (VSDE), as in, I did not have time to talk about all of the problems with that episode. So I don’t want to hear any more of this “but how come you don’t talk about the other problematic content” crap because I do. All the time. You might not be reading, but I do.

“Ballad” marks the return to the able bodied white people1, now that everyone’s had their special episode. (But a show has to have main characters, meloukhia, you say. Yeah, that’s why Glee is billed as an “ensemble.”)

One of the nice things about the VSDE was that it gave us a little break from the ongoing ladyfail which has been dominating Glee thus far. That was back in full force this week, within the first two minutes, actually, as we saw Rachel transferring her affections to Mr. Shu in an extremely creepy duet. (Which was actually clearly meant to be creepy, but, you know, it was still fail; depicting something which should be creepy as creepy doesn’t mean that you should have written it into the plot in the first place.)

It pretty much all went downhill from there. Mr Shu actually literally called Rachel “crazy” in his internal monologue, and we watched her stalk him around with novelty ties and casserole for the duration of the episode. Because, you know, those ladies, they’ve got to attach themselves to a man or they feel incomplete, and since Rachel knows her love for Finn will never be fulfilled, it’s time to move on to a new man. Have we noticed this theme, gentle readers? That none of the women on Glee feel fulfilled without a man?

(Oh HAI did anyone else like the incredibly painful scene in which Mr. Shu attempted to beat back the ladies with a stick song while they sat in little chairs staring at him with googlyeyes?)

And there was some pretty terrific gayfail in there too, with Finn and Kurt being forced to OMG sing a DUET together EW how can Finn ever do it everyone KNOWS that a dude singing to another dude is the. gayest. thing. ever. And Finn, of course, is struggling with teh horrorz of teen fatherhood, which is, of course, why he chose to sing a serenade about being a babydaddy while at dinner with Quinn’s parents. (Who promptly kicked her out, which was one of the few things in the episode which didn’t send me into a towering rage because, well, I know girls who got pregnant as teens and were kicked out by their conservative parents. So, you know, points for accuracy, Glee. Also, Quinn informing her mother that she’s pretty cold was pretty win, because, I mean, yeah.)

You know, y’all, the way the women in this show are handled bothers me. It bothers me that Quinn is manipulative and icky and is trying to trap Finn into taking care of a child she knows isn’t his. It bothered me last week when she was pressuring him to get a job (and when he faked a disability to get a  job, because we all know that the best way to get a job is to pretend to be disabled). It bothers me that Rachel is depicted as this selfish, self-absorbed, manhungry shrew. (And, yeah, I do have a problem with making the Jewish character a shrew, in a pretty major way.) It bothers me that Terri is a manipulative harridan archetype. It bothers me that Tina didn’t have any lines this episode and that she almost never has lines just like it bothers me that the Glee producers thought that it would be a good idea to have her faking her stutter. It bothers me that Mercedes is such a troped and stereotyped character (and it’s pretty clear that they are pushing the straw-fatty-who-doesn’t-realize-she-is-fat angle).

It bothers me that they literally said “other Asian” when talking about Mike. Yeah, yeah, I get it, it’s supposed to be us making fun of Will for not being more “sensitive about the minorities.” But the fact that most Glee viewers don’t know “other Asian’s” name suggests to me that the show isn’t exactly combating any stereotypes, here.

I’m sorry, did I say this was going to be short? Hah. I didn’t even cover all of the things that I wanted to cover, but I’m at almost 1200 words now, so I think it’s time to stop. (Yes, people, this is called a word limit and sometimes it means that there is not room to talk about everything you want to talk about, which is why criticizing people for not talking about every little thing is really annoying. Especially when you are viewing something as a standalone, instead of as part of a long series of posts in which numerous different issues are critiqued at different times. Kinda how like when you read teevee reviews in the newspaper, they build upon ideas discussed in previous columns? Because the columnist kind of assumes that ou has a regular readership? Yeah. That.)

Why yes, I am grumpy today, why do you ask?

  1. Thanks, I am well aware that Rachel is Jewish. “Jewish” is both a racial and a cultural identity, and it’s unclear to me if she’s supposed to be racially or culturally Jewish, or both, and it’s pretty clear to me that her character is meant to be read as white. Oh yes, I also know that she has gay dads, thanks for asking, but, guess what, having a character with gay dads does not make your show a perfect cake of happiness instead of a troped pile of stereotypes. Just like having a sister with Down’s Syndrome does not magically mean that you are not a bigot, Sue Sylvester.

7 Comments on Glee: Ballad

  1. I was done with Glee after the pilot and they had Mercedes say she wasn’t going to be satisfied with anything less than the lead since she had the voice for it. Except just this once. Knowing full well, as a consumer of pop narrative, that Mercedes’s having the lead was going the be the rare exception and not the rule. After all, she was the Sassy Fat Dark Black Woman, not even the Skinny Light Black Woman With Good Hair. They weren’t going to make her the focus of the show, not with so many conventionally attractive white folks around. Clearly she was part of the freakshow supporting cast. Later, when I heard the show’s creator interviewed on Fresh Air going on about how the characters were archetypes but they were all, y’know, ironic and fresh and hip and new and it was the same tired bullshit? Yeah, that. So I hammered a few more nails in the fucker and buried it. Since then I’ve just enjoyed the train wreck from the sidelines. You’ve got fortitude, sibling. It’s more than I could watch without massive brainsnarlies.

  2. The more I read about Glee, the less I want to see it.

    Unfortunately, all of my theatre-folk friends continually rave about it, and I still struggle with finding a way to articulate my reasons for having zero interest in the show while still not attacking them for liking it. It’s rrrggghhy.

  3. It’s especially difficult when you haven’t seen a show because everyone goes “well you haven’t even seen it! How could you know if you like it or not!”

  4. Sasha_feather // 19 November, 2009 at 9:10 pm //

    This post has been included in a linkspam at access-fandom. Thank you!

  5. Thank you! I’ll probably keep watching Glee for the musical numbers, but it is so frustrating to read commentary which blithely pushes aside these kinds of concerns. The “it’s just silly musical theater” defense is nonsense. It would be nonsense if the show was only positioning itself as silly musical theater, which it is not. The show is clearly trying to make some kind of social message, but is doing so in an outrageous fashion.

    And thank you for addressing the “But Rachel is Jewish” defense of the show’s “diversity.” Because that does not really help the show’s case at all, when we’re evaluating how stereotypical it is. It really, really doesn’t. As a Jewish woman, I hate that they made Rachel Jewish. Glee earns a few points for having a non-stereotypical Jewish male character in Puck, but that hardly outweighs the other problems. (Funny how it’s easier for the show to step outside of stereotypes when writing a *male* Jewish character.) Seeing Rachel used as a defense for the show’s problems with stereotypes and representations is really quite mind-boggling.

  6. There’s also another male Jewish character (very minor) who is totally stereotyped…guess they couldn’t leave well enough alone with Puck. And you raise a really good point here, Sarah, talking about the way that the show is positioning itself. Glee thinks that it is making some kind of profound social commentary, and, uhm, no.

    P.S. I have been loving your posts on Glee; some really great insights in them! (That’s a hint to other readers to GO TO SARAH’S BLOG!)

  7. What’s wrong for calling people out for liking fucked up shit? The fact that Glee has been sold as “progressive” and “refreshing” to a group of folks who should KNOW FUCKING BETTER is embarrassing. The fact they’re buying what’s being sold is down right shameful.

    The way Glee positions itself as pomo and some kind of smirking insidery set up is appalling. This is not a cultural insider critiquing images of his community. This is another white person reinforcing dominant narrative tropes for consumption. The joke is not only *on* us, it is US.

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