I made the probably unwise decision of watching Glee first thing in the morning today. And happened to mention on Twitter (sorry, merideth, I swear it’s relevant!) that I thought it wasn’t possible to be any more infuriated by Glee, and I was wrong. And was promptly told that I am entirely too sensitive and why can’t I just settle down and enjoy the nice fun television show?
Well, I’ll tell you why I can’t settle down. Because Glee is filled with fail.
Four things really stuck out in this episode for me, and I’m going to bulletpoint them for your convenience:
- Making fun of “weird” Black names
- The handling of Kurt
- The epilepsy jokes
- The Deaf choir
Let’s take these one at a time. The Black name thing was a quick throwaway right at the beginning of the show, so Glee pretty much led with pissing me off this week. We’re introduced to a Black teen in the “school for bad girls” named Aphasia. Ha ha, those Black people pick the weirdest names for their kids! Let’s all chortle together, shall we? (And don’t even get me started on the framing of the school for juvenile offenders, I am trying to keep this review short.)
The handling of Kurt. Kurt, as we know, is in love with Finn. Which makes him GAY! GAY GAY GAY! GAY! So, how does Kurt deal with this? He tries to sabotage Rachel, who is also in love with Finn. This came complete with a scene in which it is made clear to viewers that Kurt is manipulative and mean and…just like a girl, basically. Yes, folks, it’s true: Being GAY! makes you exactly like a girl. The stereotypical trope award of the episode goes to Kurt, guest starring as Catty Bitch.
The epilepsy jokes. Now here’s the part where people tell me I’m being “oversensitive.” Another throwaway moment; someone uses the word “spazzing” to describe the sort of movements which should be made in the hairography number, and then goes on to say “It’s like cool epilepsy.” What the forks?! And, you know, I get it, this is the character who is supposed to be “dumb” and maybe we are supposed to laugh because “she said something not ok,” but here’s the thing, people use “spazzing” all the time and they also make fun of epilepsy. This isn’t some sort of cleverly embedded commentary on how ableist language is used in our society, it’s just…icky.
Finally, the Deaf choir. Now, I have seen numerous quotes from people (able people, mostly) about how Inspiring this number was. Look at them, singing “Imagine” together. People actually said that they bawled during this scene.
I had the opposite reaction. But maybe not for the reason you think.
Here’s the thing. I saw the Deaf choir start to perform, and I thought “gee, it’s funny how when you are Deaf, you cannot move while singing/performing.” But, you know, whatever, this show is so faily at this point that I just sort of swallowed it. Especially because I was also thinking “ooh, exciting, Glee is finally allowing us to see the Deaf choir performing, I may have to give them some points for trying even though they are doing it very badly.”
And then, to my shock and horror, someone from the glee club started interrupting the Deaf choir to sing. Ok, now, I have not sung in a choir, but I consulted a real live person who has performed in choirs, and I was informed that, no, it is not actually conventional or acceptable to interrupt a choir while they are performing. Choirs do indeed have jam sessions and mashups where they sing together. But when you are performing, it is definitely not ok for someone to just jump in and start singing.
Why was it ok here? How was it inspiring to watch the Deaf choir’s performance being interrupted and co-opted by the glee club? Because the Deaf choir were doing it wrong? Because “the poor impaired folk need normal people to fill in their defects,” as Lauredhel said when we were chatting about this episode?
I wasn’t inspired or moved by watching the two choirs perform together. I was PISSED. Because it was framed as perfectly acceptable for the glee club to just jump in on another performance. And for this to turn into a Special Learning Experience, look at how they can all sing together and be happy! Yes, folks, totally erasing people with disabilities and not allowing them to perform is Inspiring!
The Deaf choir has been a running joke in this series. (Because everyone knows that Deaf folks can’t sing, or dance!) And now, in the scene where we finally had a chance to see them performing, they were treated with complete disrespect and condescension. They were framed as a failure, until the nice glee club came in and rescued them. But, you know, nice try, Deaf choir!
The one bright spot in this episode: Tina actually being allowed to solo in the final number.
Incidentally, check out Gallaudet Dance if you want to see actual Deaf people actually performing and being amazing in the process. Further reading over at Adventures of a Young Feminist, where Laura also reviewed “Hairography.”
ETA: Read the comments before commenting on this post. Especially this comment, which discusses Kurt’s characterization in detail. (Hint: I’m saying Kurt is “just like a girl” in the context of how the show depicts women.) Seriously. If you leave a comment which clearly indicates that you have not read the comments, or in which you use violent and offensive language, it will not be published. No matter how valid you think your “point” is.