Glee: Sexy

Wondering why this review is going up a week after the episode aired? You can complain to ATT and UPS about that[1. Short version, first ATT broke my Internet, and then UPS delivered the next day air package containing my new wireless gateway five days after it shipped. Yes, I am grumpy about this. Yes, I will continue to be grumpy about it until the end of time.]. So anyway, yes, here we are, clearing the decks for this week’s Glee, which apparently involves Regionals. I for one can hardly contain my excitement about having to watch Glee two days in a row. Look at my party hat. LOOK AT IT.

Last week on Glee, viewers learned that celibacy, while a ‘valid choice’ for teens, is actually just the result of frigidity and/or fear of sex. I’d heard that the episode featured asexuality, which it thankfully did not, because if there’s one thing Glee does badly, it’s pretty much everything, and I could have done without a horrific slew of stereotypes about asexuality. Instead they were just implied in the discussion about celibacy! Hooray.

‘Sexy’ appears to be The Very Special Sex Education Episode, which…well…let’s just say that it was handled absolutely as awfully as all the show’s other very special episodes. Whether we’re talking about a reinforcement of the idea that bisexuality doesn’t exist, shaming people for being ignorant about sexuality (Brittany is the show’s running joke for ‘hahaha look at the stupid blonde!’), or telling us that people who practice celibacy are naive, Glee made sure to make the topic of teen sexuality as titterworthy and unoriginal as possible, insulting teens copiously in the process.

I see Glee also decided to go the easy route with cheap shots at Southerners in the discussion about the lack of sexual education and ‘kids these days’ that served as the setting of the scene. Discussing a rash of teen pregnancies, Holly makes sure to reinforce that, you know, it is Tennessee. Oh, you backward Southerners and your lack of sex education and streets teeming with pregnant teens! Hardy har! Let’s all have a guffaw.

One could say that this episode was poking fun at the commonly held idea that sexual education is dangerous, and that exposing teens to actual information about sexuality will, of course, lead them down the path of sin. Except that it didn’t quite ring true to me, because the episode, as usual, was a hot mess.

I got the sense that we’re supposed to find the sexually active characters more sophisticated and aware than those who are not, as a general rule. Holly Holliday tells Puck and Lauren that she’s pleased to note how ‘comfortable they are in their bodies,’ like there are no obstacles to that (especially for fat teens) and people are are uncomfortable are that way because they’re, you know, frigid and scared of sex. Go them! Being all edgy!

Yet, the show’s Very Lonely and Very Damaged Sex Educator suggests that being sexually active and also knowledgeable is bad. Glee drew bright, shiny lines between sex and romance, shaming pretty much everyone in the process. If you don’t have sex, you’re a fool, if you do, you’re damaged goods doomed to relationship drama or an eternal search for romance that you will never be able to satisfy.

The show spent a lot of time making fun of people who choose celibacy, implying that they are ignorant and naive. Actually, it did more than implying by having Emma select ‘Afternoon Delight’ as the celibacy club’s anthem. Look at all the clueless frigid celibate people who are too stupid to know what that song is about! Naturally, no one chooses celibacy for informed reasons, no one who is celibate is educated about sexuality, and celibacy is rooted in ignorance and fear.

Emma, of course, was back in full force as the show’s OCD poster girl, who thinks sex is dirty and bad and gross because of her case of the crazy and the torch she still carries for Will. They really came down on hard that one, reiterating her distaste for sex repeatedly in a way that’s supposed to be funny, to viewers. I’m sure those lines were being played for laughs, given the rest of the way her character is played. We are, again, supposed to think she is funny because of the way the symptoms of her mental illness express themselves. Hahaha, she freaks out about sex and grapes!

Speaking of ableism, Holly Holliday appears to be the show’s ableism foil, judging from the content of pretty much every other line out of Gwyneth Paltrow’s mouth. Oh yes, Glee, you are so edgy and progressive! You are especially progressive when you make sure to tell us that wheelchair users can never have children, through Artie telling the glee club that he couldn’t imagine being a father when they think Brittany is pregnant and everyone finding the idea of Artie being a father highly humourous.

The serious sex talk between Kurt and his father felt ridiculous, even though I really don’t think it was meant to. The show has spent most of the episode belittling and mocking people who choose celibacy or choose to wait, and then tries to counteract that with the feelings talk and Kurt being told that he should wait to have sex until it’s right because he matters. Which is absolutely true, but Glee’s mixed messages of sarcasm, mockery, and serious business do not play nicely together and the show needs to stop trying.

Glee really needs to make up its mind. Either it can be a teen comedy, or it can be an after school special, but it cannot be both. The show’s messages constantly contradict each other and are, at time, dangerously wrong. For a show claiming to be exercising social responsibility and educating people, Glee is treading very perilous ground.

One more note: Glee, I’m pretty sure that if you have to autotune a capella, you’re doing it wrong.