Trigger Warning: This post includes a graphic description of a scene in which domestic violence occurs.
I am somewhat amused at the fact that the only shows I write about these days are the ones that are pissing me off.
This episode continued the theme of depicting the women of Glee as manipulative, blackmailing, selfish, generally mean and awful people. Pretty much across the board, including some slut shaming from Sue Sylvester (but it’s funny because we’re supposed to read her character as bigoted, and wasn’t it hilarious when she said all the uglies and fatties should say home, because of course no one actually thinks that way, so it’s just funny, ha ha ha) and some woman-on-woman hate, courtesy of Emma slagging on both Rachel and Terri. Because nothing says sisterhood like cutting your sisters down, right?
But there’s one thing about this episode. There’s one, central thing which I found hugely upsetting. And that’s the thing that I want to write about today.
“Mattress” marked the Unmasking of the Deceptor; finally, Will learned the truth about Terri’s pregnancy. And what happened? Did we have a touching scene in which she confessed that she was worried Will was going to leave her, and she thought she was pregnant and she panicked when the doctor said she wasn’t? Did we have A Serious Conversation in which they talked about what was happening with their marriage? (Perhaps as a warning and sobering counterpoint to the doomed marriage Emma is about to embark upon.)
No, we did not.
We learned why Terri is so frightened of Will. We learned, in fact, that Terri had good reason to be terrified of Will, and to be afraid of the consequences of confessing the truth about her pregnancy.
We had domestic violence. We had Terri in the kitchen, cooking (of course, that’s where women should be, right?) and Will stormed in. There was screaming. Things were thrown. Terri was backed in the counter, trapped, physically overpowered by Will. He grabbed her wrist, quite harshly. And screamed some more.
“You’re scaring me,” she said, and Will kept right up with the violence.
The scene ends with Will, Righteous Deceived Will, storming out of the house.
“Come back,” Terri sobs.
This is a scene that plays out every day in households all over America.
And we’re supposed to view Will as a sympathetic character?
Evidently we are, because the rest of the episode featured him. We never saw Terri again. And everyone made sure to sympathize with poor Will and his tough family life, because of course Will didn’t mention the fact that he physically and verbally assaulted his wife.
I have no doubt that some Glee viewers glossed over that scene and had no problem with it, and that others may have thought that it was perfectly acceptable because Terri was a manipulative liar. That Terri, in fact, deserved what she got, because Will’s such a good guy. A stand up, all-round, Nice Guy and how could his wife be so mean and evil and not appreciative?
Glee, you have just crossed a line you cannot come back from. I thought that line had already been crossed, but I was wrong. The minute you depicted domestic violence and cast the abuser as the hero of the piece, you went irrevocably to a Dark Place. There is no redemption from here; I don’t care how Will’s character is being set up and how he is supposed to be read, in this episode, he was a Wronged Man and a Tragic Hero who assaulted his wife. And the way in which it was framed did not, in any way shape or form, suggest that what Will did was wrong, or that he’s a slimy skeezeball. Nope. He was lily white and innocent.
I’ll leave you with this quote from Patrick Stewart’s amazing piece in the Guardian:
She did not provoke my father, and even if she had, violence is an unacceptable way of dealing with conflict. Violence is a choice a man makes and he alone is responsible for it.
ETA: I’m closing comments on this post, because they are getting completely unproductive. Sorry to folks who actually wanted to engage with the conversation! Maybe I will reopen them at some point. (Note to trolls: Comments here are moderated. So, really, spare yourself the effort of finding another post to troll on because you’re all riled up that you can’t comment here, because your comments won’t be published there either.)
Kathleen at MySistahs also wrote about this episode, and kindly sent me a link when she realized that comments were closed.