Glee: Throwdown

(Read Laura’s review/recap of “Throwdown” over at Adventures of a Young Feminist.)

Ok, first off. The autotune/pitch correction needs to stop. It’s really starting to get irritating; it takes it from the level of a group of high school kids performing and into the realm of the ridiculous. I’m sorry if the actors aren’t very good singers, but it feels highly fake and unnatural, and it’s really distracting. And I am basically tone deaf, so if I’m noticing it and I think it’s jarring, it’s a problem.

On to this week’s episode, which was laden with ableism and racism. And sexism, of course, thanks to the ongoing baby plot, which is so painful I don’t even want to think about it. Terri, Will’s wife, is…gah. I want to find the people on the writing team responsible for her characterization, sit them down at my table, bring out a delicious smelling pie, wave it under their noses, and then take it away.

Oh, PETE, the ableism. Right in the opening line, Will uses “idiot,” and the ableism is rife throughout the entire episode. This kind of ableism is careless. It’s an example of thoughtless word use, and it’s one of the things that really irritates me about the show. The normalization of ableism, the constant affirmation that it’s ok to use ableist language, is incredibly grating. Clearly no one on the show is thinking about disability issues. The ableism certainly isn’t some sort of backwards hipster commentary on ableism, in which viewers are supposed to recognize it and privately be amused.

And the racism in this episode was a torment. One of the key plot points involves Sue singling out the minorities in the Glee Club with the goal of trying to divide it. And it is painful. Oh, so painful. It exploits and manipulates pretty much everything that infuriates me about the tacit racism in this society; the idea that minorities get chosen for things because they are minorities, that minorities need to be singled out and separated to be recognized, etc. Here’s the thing, for all those people who think that this is deliberate and funny: PEOPLE BELIEVE THESE THINGS. Including “colour blind” and “anti-racist” hipsters. They believe them because they have internalized them, even if they will not admit it. And this means that when they are used as plot devices, they are reinforced in the hive mind.

I get that people think that the show is doing this as a commentary. But, again, this is part of the whole hipster -ism framework. Hipsters find this sort of thing acceptable because it’s a witty social commentary or some such nonsense, but it really is just offensive. It’s not a commentary, it’s just a mirroring of the society we live in, and a reinforcement of very damaging social norms.

“Oh, but they’re just using humour to defuse tension when dealing with complex issues.” No, they are not, they are using humour to avoid dealing with complex issues. People who really think like this watch Glee and have their norms reinforced, the takeaway from the show being that, yeah, being racist and ableist and sexist is fine and dandy. People who don’t share these norms get to watch Glee and not have to confront the realities of how damaging these norms are, because the show glosses over them to make them all fuzzy and family friendly.

Here’s the thing: When you are in a position of privilege, you really do need to be reminded of that. You need to see the way in which your privilege can be harmful, can be a tool of oppression. If you don’t, you aren’t going to learn about how to manage your privilege. Glee does not make people uncomfortable (unless they are extremely aware of these issues). It just uses oppression as a humour vehicle. Which, can I say, yuck?

8 Replies to “Glee: Throwdown”

  1. Wow! I watched the first 2 or 3 episodes of Glee. I actually liked the initial ep, but it quickly went downhill from there. I couldn’t put my finger – exactly – on what bothered me, though. Sue (?), the villainous teacher of the cheerleading squad, made my skin crawl. Terri, lying about being pregnant. Huh? But, you hit the nail on the head. I stopped watching several episodes ago.

    In the way back machine, I had much the same feelings about All in the Family. Of course, Norman Lear was known to be a Liberal and this show was meant as satire about bigots. But, still, I felt there would be many in society who missed the satire and would cheer Archie on. I think, for the most part, All in the Family did pull off the intended messages sent in the episodes, and maybe the creators of Glee think they are doing much the same. But, I’m with you – and think Glee has missed the mark by a very wide margin.

  2. Yes, Connie, this is the problem; Glee is clearly trying to be satire, but it’s not understanding that you can’t satirize bigotry if viewers don’t understand that it’s bigotry! For viewers who do understand, it’s just sad to watch.

  3. Even beyond your points, I think it’s pretty evident that Glee in just its portrayal of characters is racist. All the screen time has been going to the four white, able leads, and most of the focus goes on them.

    But then, let’s make racism into a joke. Because, you know, we’re not acting racist at all.

  4. Oh, and racism isn’t a problem in our society at all! So it’s a terrific subject for “satire.”

  5. There were two things that really bothered me. One was in the episode where the adult woman returns to the high school glee club. She is talking to the teacher who runs glee club about her life of dissolution, and she mentions having a mixed race baby. As if that were something that brought her low. I can’t believe there was no outcry over it.

    The second was in the “Mashup” episode, when that horrible woman who coaches the cheerleaders was doing her little TV spot and she was talking about how she supported marriage between people and dogs. In the current climate of anti gay marriage, it’s tasteless at best.

  6. I do not understand how people can say the show is being ironic or that there’s no harm in it. I really don’t. I wrote a long rant about the things that are wrong with the show and got told I was missing the point because it was ironic. Whatever. It doesn’t work that way!

    The worst part of this particular episode for me was at the end when Will talked to the kids and said he realised he had been wrong, blah blah blah, but then he said that they’re all minorities because they’re in glee! So being in the glee club is just like being a person of color or being gay or being in a wheelchair! There’s nothing ironic about that. It’s the take-home message. Ugh.

  7. What’s bothered me is little lines like when Terri is about to tell her friend that she’s been faking her pregnancy her friend says with horror on her face “Is the baby black?”

    Then when Will is asking April (the high school dropout) what happened to her – why had she sunken so low – she talks about her highschool sweetheart having had an affair with another man and that she herself had “a set of mixed race twins.”

    Really subtle but ugly racial comments all the same. Also, completely unnecessary. It would never have occurred to me to stick them in and don’t think they add much to the humor of the show.

  8. Yes, the casual and subtle racism which is supposed to be read as “funny” but actually is not. Grating, ain’t it?

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