Glee: Acafellas

So, I had a mixed response to Glee this week, which is decidedly better than how I’ve felt about the first two episodes. I think that the show is done in kind of a hipster -ism style, and that’s what has been grating on me about it, because that’s not a style I like. It thinks that it’s making social commentary and lampooning the things that it portrays, when really it’s just reinforcing stereotypes. That said, I think that the show has cleaned up its act a little.

For example, I thought it was awesome that Mercedes got to sing a solo, and to lead a piece. It was really great to see that, and I especially liked what they costumed her in: form-hugging clothes that showed off her body, unlike the shlubby, baggy stuff which had hidden her body before. It was terrific to see a larger women loving her body and feeling confident. It was a bummer that the key feature of the camerawork I noticed was a long pan along the crotch areas of the cheerleaders, but, you know, you can’t win them all. Speaking of which, the highly sexualized cheerleaders at the carwash scene? I rolled my eyes so far that my left one almost fell out of my head.

Mercedes also had a great line when she made the comment that “just because he has nice clothes, doesn’t mean he’s on the down low.” Kurt is a stereotypically gay character, and, as we learn at the end of the episode, he is, in fact, gay, but I liked that Mercedes pointed out that someone who dresses and behaves like Kurt isn’t necessarily gay. I think that the line was kind of supposed to show that she was deluded, but I decided to read it as a comment on reading people. It gives me some vague thread of hope that the gross stereotyping of the other characters is a set up for something greater.

It was unfortunate that the Mercedes-Kurt storyline also involved the shooting down of a minority as a viable love interest. And, I’d like to point out that just because Kurt is gay, doesn’t mean that we will actually see a gay relationship. Given that he’s in love with a straight character, I think it’s safe to assume that he’s going to be a neutered gay character.

Another thing I liked was seeing Will’s dad as an older student. Old men of that type are generally relegated to roles on the sidelines; here’s dad, trotted out for family dinners, and I liked that he made the decision to go back to school despite his age because he was inspired by his son. I thought that was a positive and empowering message to send.

So, some things I didn’t like. I didn’t like that Tina stutters. I mean, I guess we now know why she doesn’t talk, because Pete Forbid that someone with a speech impediment be allowed to speak. I’m having a tough time with the characterization of her character, and of disability in general. Mocking a workplace injury that costs a man his thumbs? Icky. Making alcoholism seem funny? Also icky. Although it was nice to see the wheelchair user actually controlling his own chair, for once, illustrating that he wears bike gloves for a reason.

I was also bummed that Ken, another larger character, was described as seeking food for comfort when he was upset. I am not a fan of repeating stereotypes about fat people, and it was a cheap shot to take, and it pissed me off. Yes, please, let’s reinforce the idea that all fat people inhale food when they are sad because it is the only way they know how to deal with their pain. Yeah. Great. Thanks.

Speaking of stereotypes, I could have done without the choreographer and the gay sex predator. The choreographer was an exaggerated version of the imaginary Hollywood Choreographer, right down to his sizeism and ableism. Which was then used to segue into a little Lifetime Movie Moment in which the “unwanted” minorities asserted themselves and told him to go stuff it, which I might have liked, except that they seem to spend the entire series being backup set dressing, so that moment didn’t feel very empowering to me. Like, yay, you can stand up to the dickhead choreographer, but you can’t actually break out of the boxes this show has put you in. And the stereotypically gay sex predator in the form of Sandy? Please. Ugh.

I also said “oh no you d’int” about the whole cougar thing. The characterization of sexually assertive older women as cougars already irritates me, as does the stereotype about high school boys who chase after them, and I really could have done without that storyline. This is a great example of the hipster -ism style that the show seems to be going for. We’re supposed to find it funny because it is a grossly exaggerated stereotype which plays upon a common trope used in film and television. Only, it’s not funny, it’s just sexist and gross.

I’m also taking bets that there’s going to be a fake miscarriage as Terri attempts to dig herself out of the hole she’s dug. We’re going to see her frantically trying to get pregnant, realize that the timing is not going to work out, and then “losing the baby” and I have a feeling it is really going to piss me off.

Over at Adventures of a Young Feminist, Laura also reviewed “Acafellas”. Go check it out. She has some great thoughts on the theme of confidence, and what kind of confidence the show is modeling for viewers.