I made the inadvisable choice to watch Glee when I was feeling a bit pissy, so everything about this show which grates on me grated with extra force this week. It was sort of microplane level before, and this week was like…paper shredder. Ok, enough grating metaphors.
Let’s talk about how, within the first eight minutes of the show, we had yet another dance number in which Artie is pushed in his chair. People, the wheelchair user is not a prop. When you have him not even talking, and being spun/driven around by other characters, it’s cringe worthy, truly.
Oooh, and how about the bathroom panic 32 minutes in, in which Kurt is rushed into the girl’s room by the women, and the camera lingers lovingly, almost fondly, on the gendered sign on the door? There were some pretty heavy implications going on there, people.
I also want to touch upon costuming. One thing I’ve noticed about Glee is that the cheerleaders are never seen in street clothes. Now, I don’t have a lot of experience with cheerleaders, but my understanding is that their uniforms are expensive and dry clean only. Hence, they tend to don them for games/competition, and to wear, you know, normal clothes the rest of the time. In fact, cheerleaders wear things like warmup gear and athletic clothes at practice, rather than their uniforms.
So, I feel like Quinn and her cheerleader buddies are being further boxed in by the insistence on only showing them in uniform. It suggests that they have no identities and personalities beyond that of “cheerleader.” It doesn’t help that their uniforms are also pretty sexually suggestive; they aren’t just cheerleaders, they’re abstinence-club teases who wear “slutty” uniforms to torment the guys.
Seeing Emma in a wedding dress was also painful. Mainly because it’s clear that she’s feeling forced into this wedding, and it’s frustrating to see her being steamrollered into this. She’s one of the most problematic characters, for me. I hate that her clear mental illness is being made into a topic of humor and mockery, I hate that she doesn’t assert herself, I hate that she’s rolling over into this wedding. I hate that these scenes with the wedding dress just make Emma look pathetic and tragic, obviously fantasizing about marrying Will.
This, of course, plays into the continuing theme with the show, that the women lie and “settle” for the men they don’t want because they find them safe/reachable. Which is just…it’s so infuriating. I hate the norms that Glee establishes, and I hate the way in which they are expressed. Women cannot, apparently, be happy with one person, they are fickle, they are willing to settle for whatever they can get, because they are so desperate for attention/a baby/etc, but they will forever lust for the lost love.
And the men are getting just as bad. Look at Ken, sabotaging Will as he subverts their fight over Emma. So much for friendship, for connections. This show seems like an endless torment of bad communications. Instead of talking to each other and working shit out, people in Glee are passive aggressive and cruel.
In a way, Glee almost seems to be making fun of its viewers. Will, the lead, fetishizes high school and longs for his lost glory days. Shows like this are totally designed for people who idealize their high school days; either they were these people in high school, or they identify themselves with these people, so they enjoy escaping into that world for an hour every week. But Will himself is actually a pretty pathetic and woeful character. Indeed, he’s made laughable by his longing for his high school days. Are people aware that they are being mocked as they watch the show? Or are they thinking that they are above Will?
So, how could Glee improve?
Let’s start with making the minorities more active characters. Not giving them Special Learning Experience storylines as throwaways in early episodes, but making them a key part of the plot.
Let’s see Artie actually dancing. Let’s see him as a person who can be sexual! He’s a teenage guy, you’re telling me he’s not interested in the sex?
Let’s give Emma a spine.
Let’s see women on Glee doing something other than lying about pregnancy, lusting after men they can’t have, and being framed as pathetic shells of human beings.