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Glee: “That’s why we call it dismissing legitimate concerns instead of acting”

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28 responses to “Glee: “That’s why we call it dismissing legitimate concerns instead of acting””

  1. Book Girl

    `“Wheels” is all about empowering people with disabilities and sends out an uplifting message to the disabled community.’

    Oh, FFS. I don’t want to be “empowered” or “uplifted” by ANYONE, much less priveleged, clueless ablebodied people.

    I really wanted “Glee” to be good, I was the PWD in my HS’s musical theatre department. I LOVE that stuff. I was also the isolated, marginalised PWD in the school itself, I would LOVE to see that experience satirised and analysed in pop culture. “Glee” doesn’t even come CLOSE. I remember a number of shows in the 80s had much more rounded and sharper portrayls of disability and prejudice. There was one kids show in NZ that had a main character who was a young woman in a w/chair (can’t remember the title of the show, think it was kind of scifi/fantasy, with a fictional organisation called WHO), where one episode dealt with her deciding whether or not to disclose her disability to a male pen friend.

    21 Jump Street had more than one episode dealing with disability and prejudice, one episode – guest starring Geri Jewell, probably the most famous actress with CP – also dealt with violence against women with disabilities.

    In the 90s Australian TV had the series “House Gang” where most of the main characters had disabilities.

    We’ve gone severely downhill.

    Excellent post, Anna. And SUPERLATIVE blog, bloggers and commenters, I’ve just been overwhelmed by the constantly high quality posts and comments, to the point where I’ve been too busy reading to actually comment – don’t know where to start! Severe lack of energy hasn’t helped. :-(

  2. lauredhel

    from your Fancast quote:

    And did I mention that the episode featured not one, but two actresses affected with Down syndrome? We defy you to find another show airing in primetime that would deal with one of these issues, let alone all three in one episode.

    Secret Life of the American Teenager, for all its (massive, overwhelming) feministfail, has a young white man with Down syndrome and a young black woman with an intellectual disability. They are in a romantic relationship, who are considering making it a sexual one.

  3. OuyangDan

    Umm, Anna. If this is you angry, I like it.

    I haven’t even seen this show. Fuck! I mean, wow. I wanted it to be good! I did! I wanted it to be fun and all the things everyone keeps telling me to relax and see it as.

    Out of the park. <——- What you did!

  4. CatherineJay

    “And did I mention that the episode featured not one, but two actresses affected with Down syndrome? We defy you to find another show airing in primetime that would deal with one of these issues, let alone all three in one episode.”

    Just because you’re apparently the only prime-time TV show portraying particular issues doesn’t excuse you from having to do it well. Thanks for articulating all the things that were giving me squinky ableist vibes.

  5. lauredhel

    A Failblog entry is particularly appropriate today.

    if you can walk you can dance

    Description: A dance studio with a large banner saying “IF YOU CAN WALK YOU CAN DANCE!!!” In the foreground sits a bearded man in a wheelchair, leaning his chin on his fist with a wry expression. The image is captioned “Inspirational Fail”, and carries the comment “Went to my first and last dance instructional appointment with my wife at the Dance Doctor in Santa Monica, CA”.

  6. Zoe

    “It should also be noted that the series now has a recurring character with Down’s Syndrome (who it is will surprise you)”

    On top of all the fail of Glee, that quote bugs the hell out of me because it’s WRONG. It makes it seem like a main character is revealed to have DS, which…did not happen. Nor do we know for sure if the DS characters we DID see will be recurring. On top of everything else, being that inaccurate is just irritating icing.

    Ok. Now I have a question for the commentors–I recently begun watching “Friday Night Lights”, a show that I think does a much better job with the whole disability thing. However, I am very much TAB and don’t want to assume just because I think it’s ok, it is (the actor, for example, is TAB himself). Does anyone know of a blogger who has seen that show and written a review? My Google-fu is not good enough to find anything.

    Now back to “Glee”: From the second I saw the shoe tying, I was cringing, Ugh.

  7. softestbullet

    Ughh, those are some seriously vile quotes, especially the “fit-throwing” one. How deftly ze uses activist-speak to say “STOP MAKING ME FEEEEL BAD.”

  8. Mother of a stutterer

    I have never thought of myself as part of the community of people with disabilities. I, myself, have no discernable disabilities, but I have a child who stutters. Stuttering never really gets discussed much outside of stuttering circles, so I didn’t really see the intersection clearly. But this episode of Glee really upset me. On the one hand, it was kind of nice to see a smart, intelligent character with a stutter (although the actress clearly hasn’t heard any real stuttering). She wasn’t mocked for it, so that was good. But then, they had a scene with her not stuttering, and the teacher saying, “Look! You felt so confident you didn’t stutter!” Stuttering has no connection whatsoever with feeling confident. In fact, often, when a person who stutters is feeling confident around someone and not ashamed, they may stutter MORE because they aren’t afraid of being judged. But the only portrayals of stuttering in media are of people who are not intelligent, often deranged, often evil.

    But then it was all fake! And Artie was upset. I actually thought Artie’s reaction to her faking the stutter was the only honest part of the show. I don’t think he would think it was awesome for everyone to ride around in wheelchairs for 3 hours a day. But the idea that it is more shocking that Artie would be angry than it is for the stutter to be fake was strange to me. He wasn’t attracted to Tina because they were both “broken,” (I have seen angry comments accusing Artie of discrimination because he “only” liked her for her disability). They had shared experiences, those experiences often pushed them together, she liked him (which is also attractive), etc. But if someone you really liked had always portrayed themselves as a particular religion that matched yours, and suddenly you discovered it was a lie so they could get special treatment, you would be pretty pissed off, too. And for Tina to say “I want to get out of this chair” right before she “gets out of” her stuttering, it is just so dismissive to his experience.

    It is hard enough having to explain to EVERY new person how stuttering works (please don’t finish sentences, please don’t turn away, please don’t imitate my child) and have them insist it is due to stress or confidence or whatever. Now it is just fake and abusive and easy to get rid of, too.

    So here I am. I now fully recognize my place in this community. I’m sorry I didn’t see it sooner.

  9. Haddayr

    Thanks for posting about this; I’ve been feeling very ambivalent about it, and this really helps clarify things. Much appreciated!

  10. jfpbookworm

    Things that have annoyed me about Glee:

    * There were as many people faking disability (Finn using a wheelchair and the threat of an ADA lawsuit to get a job, Puck claiming he had a spinal injury to get medical marijuana, Tina faking her stutter) than there were people represented as having actual disabilities (Artie, Becky, and Sue’s sister). On top of that, the fakers get more screen time and their plots are more likely to recur (do you think we’ll ever see Becky or Sue’s sister in a speaking role again?).

    * Tina’s faking the stutter because she’s shy and wants people to leave her alone. Where this hit me wasn’t where it hit most of the other people I’ve heard talk about it – I’ve been shy all my life, and shyness has never worked that way for me. Shyness doesn’t mean you want people to go away (if it did, it wouldn’t be nearly so bad for me); it means that you have difficulty doing the things that would keep these people from going away. And while I understand that it’s debatable whether shyness should be considered a disability, I was annoyed at the writers who claimed (through Artie) that, if Tina didn’t actually stutter, she didn’t have a disability, never mind that they just revealed her shyness was severe enough to cause her to fake a stutter for several years.

    * The segment of the fandom that is either hyperdefensive or clueless or both when it comes to their show and diversity issues. No, it’s not “diversity” to give the straight white folks plot arcs and “solos” (i.e., entire songs), and give everyone else a Very Special Episode. No, it’s not enough to say that the producers wanted Kevin McHale in the show so badly that they had to put him in the role of Artie (it’s an *ensemble cast* – you can write an able-bodied role for him and cast a full-time wheelchair user as if you really wanted to).

  11. Kaz

    This post is awesome. :)

    Also, Mother of a stutterer, you have no idea how glad I am to read your comment! For one, as far as I can tell I’m pretty much the only person talking about this who is primarily viewing it through the lens of stuttering, and I’m starting to feel kind of uncomfortable and as if I’m making a big fuss (curse that socialisation!) :( . For another, in general I’m the only stutterer I know of who considers it a disability – as you said, stuttering usually only gets discussed in stuttering circles and those don’t really overlap with disability rights circles at *all*. I’ve seen a whole discussion on “is stuttering a disability?” where there was no mention of the various models of disability, or of ableism, and basically every single person said something along the lines of “it’s only a disability if you let it be one!” So, you know, very glad to see someone at least connected to the whole thing around here! :D

    I’ve not been able to see any of the show, although I have been hunting for clips of Tina talking (anyone have a link? :( ) after seeing someone mention that the stutter sounded very fake. Now you’ve mentioned it too and I want to see just how bad it is! *g* I think this is another thing people don’t think of when it comes to crip drag – that just because *abled people* think the actor is portraying the disability realistically, that doesn’t mean it’s actually realistic, or that people with that particular disability won’t be laughing at the sheer absurdity. E.g. a lot of people have mentioned that “oh yeah, Tina’s stutter was totally fake because she forgot to do it every now and then” – but although I haven’t seen the scenes myself, it’s completely realistic for a stutter to wax and wane a bit (although I would expect some regularity in it – e.g. stuttering less/more when she’s with friends as opposed to strangers, few people as opposed to a big crowd, etc.) On the other hand, there’s the type of sounds she stutters on, secondary symptoms, avoidance behaviours, speech fears, what type of blocks she has, how long they usually are, and a ton of other things that I’d be expecting to see – stutters are very individual, but they do often follow certain patterns – and if *that* is too off, or if there are other giveaways like her not seeming to put any pressure behind the stutter or acting surprised by it or other such things, I will have a very hard time believing a stutter is for real. I haven’t seen *anyone* mentioning this kind of stuff, and I doubt most people would know to look for it.

    Whiich is a long-winded way to say that really, just because Abled McAbleson thinks that an actor is doing a totes fine job of portraying a given disability, that doesn’t mean it’s true.

    (I still can’t actually think about the whole “was Artie justified in being angry?” question because every time I try I just wind up getting so upset about the faking issue.)

    I think you’ll discover that “Wheels” is all about empowering people with disabilities and sends out an uplifting message to the disabled community.

    Thank you, but last I checked I still had the right to my own opinions, nice abled person. You do not get to rewrite our thoughts for your shiny uplifting moment.

    Also, re: crip drag – I still have trouble buying the “but he was just sooo talented!!” explanation, for the simple reason that – Glee is about singing and dancing, right? But McHale can’t dance. Zero on that part. They could’ve looked for wheelchair dancer actors, who would’ve certainly trumped him on that front. But oh, no, let’s have our disabled character played by an abled actor and bring in a wheelchair-using stunt double. *frustration*

  12. meloukhia

    “it’s only a disability if you let it be one!”

    This is, officially, one of my top ten least favourite things ever that people say. It goes right along with “you’re only a victim if you let yourself be one” and “if you just tried a little harder all your problems will go away.” Because, yes, social oppression can be overcome by personal willpower!

    Has it occurred to any of those people that pretty much every one of us wakes up and goes “wouldn’t it be nice if ableism just went away” and that, strangely enough, it hasn’t?!

  13. MK

    *I think you’ll discover that “Wheels” is all about empowering people with disabilities and sends out an uplifting message to the disabled community.*
    This is hilarious to me, in an awful sort of way. I would assume (erroneously, clearly) that the disabled community itself would be the best judge of whether or not the episode was empowering and/or uplifting.

  14. K

    I thought that the ending of the episode (where Artie basically told Tina to get lost) was amazing.

    However, I had a whole list of issues with Tina and her “stutter”. First of all, her fake stutter was pretty obviously fake. I honestly thought that she was just a bad actress. Faking a disability is never okay, but faking something that many people are told that they’re faking really sucks. LIke, of course once we’re more ‘confident’, it’ll go away!

    1. Most people don’t stutter when they sing, so it’s not a huge deal that she didn’t.
    2. There are many people (myself included) who do have speech impairments and you wouldn’t even notice it, for a while.
    3. Many people (myself included) stutter worse when under a lot of stress. Just because I don’t have the same amounts of fluency all of the time doesn’t mean that I’m faking. I am fairly fluent now, but I hold no illusions that I’ll always be at this level, especially if/when I can enroll in law school.
    4. There are many, many people who stutter and can “hide” it. You wouldn’t necessarily always know.
    5. Most people who stutter and have other speech impairments live happy, full “normal” lives, with relationships, both friendship and romantic. So when Tina mentioned that she faked because it “kept people away”, it kind of really annoyed me.

  15. K

    Anna:

    I really don’t consider myself to have a disability, but some PWS do. I don’t need special assistanceor anything like that, and it doesn’t prevent me from doing anything. The only accomodation that I’ve ever needed or received was for a professor to “recap” a presentation I gave because my fluency was very bad that day and it was hard to understand me. She was incredible about it, though; for my class, she requested that all papers be e-mailed to her before the class started so that she could read them over, and I think that it was likely that she did it because of me.

    I did very well in that class, and my speech didn’t harm my grade. It actually only has in a speech communication class, and that was fair to me.

    It always surprises me how people (including those close to me) see speech difficulties and stuttering. My friends are quick to tell me that I’m “not like” what they picture PWS to be like because I’m “cute”. Most PWS I have met are nothing like the way that they’re shown on TV, which is why I liked Tina so much. Tina has the same style that I do, although she was incredibly quiet, which I’m just … not. I am fortunate because I was diagnosed with a “mild” stutter, and also because I have a fair amount of control over my speech. I am also fortunate because it didn’t really make me much of a target.

  16. Coble

    As a feminist I have many other issues with the show as well. But when I talk about them I’m surprised at the number of feminists who tell me to “just accept that this is a broad satire” or something like that.

    Meanwhile this show presents as entertainment any number of anti-woman popular songs and gets a lot of laughs by making fun of women or marginalising them in stereotypical roles. You know the ones–ballbuster, gold-digger, emasculating bitch. There isn’t a single well-rounded female character in the entire cast.

    It came as no surprise to me when I found out that one of the show’s co-creators is also one of the brains behind Nip/Tuck another ‘dark comedy’ misogyny-fest. It also came as no surprise to find out that the show’s tone was “originally a lot darker” according to an article in EW. I think it’s actually still pretty dark.

    And as an overweight disabled woman I don’t see why I’m supposed to find a show that mocks the overweight, the disabled and women to be a whole lot of fun. Satire or no.

  17. Mother of a stutterer

    Hi Kaz and K!

    Anna, for me, I think the value in the term “disability” in regards to stuttering is that it gives it a physical nature. Lots of people seem to see stuttering as a matter of will power or attitude- be confident, don’t be stressed, love yourself, whatever. But the truth is that stuttering is actually a physical act. When I watch my daughter stutter, it is clear that it is something her body is doing, rather than a decision she is making, if that makes sense. People also don’t really get that it is an actual medical diagnosis, not just a vague term. So including stuttering in the spectrum of disability might help people who don’t stutter understand that. But I don’t have a problem with how a person who stutters might choose to identify themselves.

    Also, as K pointed out, the effect stuttering might have on a person depends on the person. K has a mild stutter, while my daughter has a severe stutter. However, as K also noted, fluency (the rate of stuttering) varies within an individual, too. Someone with a severe stutter can have days with absolutely no stuttering. And the stuttering may just be annoying, or it can mean someone can’t talk on the telephone at all.

    Oh, and Kaz, the problem with Tina’s stutter is that it lacks that “physical” nature. It is just another syllable when she does it, sort of like when someone says “va-va-va-voom”. It is clear that isn’t stuttering because there isn’t any tension or force behind the sound, if that makes sense.

  18. K

    Mom (hope it’s okay to call you that! If not, I will type out your full name in the future):

    Re: Tina – YES EXACTLY! When I stutter, it almost looks like I’m sneezing most of the time. It’s hard to describe to a person who doesn’t stutter, but you sort of feel it coming on, and there are definitely physical attributes, like you’re forcing out the words or sounds, almost.

    I actually agree with everything you’ve said. I’ve never seen a person who does not stutter understand so much about the subject! I do think it should be up to the person how they choose to identify, and I would never tell a person that they are or are not disabled, because it’s so not my place (or anyone else’s, really)..

  19. Kaz

    Word to the physical aspect! My personal analogy for this: speech is like a road you are running along. As far as I can tell, what most fluent speakers mean by stuttering is tripping over things when they’re not paying attention or going too fast. I? Have these huge damn walls all over the place. I can see them coming up ahead of time (i.e. feel where the block is going to be), but I can’t do anything to make them go away, so my options are to either find my way around them (i.e. rephrase the sentence to avoid the problem word) or just try and bash through (option c) for me nowadays is try to apply therapy technique, but that is horrendously complicated). This is what a block is; I am trying to physically force the word out. Which means that a) advice that goes along the lines of “just watch where you’re going so you don’t trip!” (e.g. “slow down!”) is completely useless because hello? Walls? and b) if I see someone who *doesn’t* have that sense of physical pressure in their blocks I am seriously going to wonder what’s up with them.

    Also, word to the varying frequency of stuttering, which I probably should have mentioned – tbh, it does worry me when I see people say “well, you could tell she didn’t really stutter because she forgot to do it sometimes!” Maybe her stutter was sufficiently constant that it was glaringly obvious, but *still* stutters can vary a lot. I average more on the middling-severe end of the scale, I’d say, and I’ve been everywhere between almost totally fluent and stuttering so badly communicating via writing would have been quicker; this was over a prolonged period of time, but there can be rather extreme changes simply depending on situation. People don’t tend to get that; it frustrates me when I tell people my worries about whether I’ll be able to give lectures and have them tell me that my speech sounds absolutely fine they don’t know what I’m worried about! Yeah, it sounds fine when I’m speaking in a group of few trusted friends in a relaxed environment, but that has diddly-squat to do with how I speak when I’m up at the blackboard in front of an audience.

    I’m also going to point out that I think the effect a stutter has on the psyche of a person doesn’t really need to be correlated with how severe it is (although how much ableism you experience from your surroundings probably is). In some ways, I feel quite happy to have had a stutter that was almost always severe enough that a) it was immediately apparent and b) I wasn’t able to play the word-substitution game to avoid stuttering at all. Because people do that – it’s called covert stuttering (and here’s another misconception people tend to have, that you have to go through the physical act of stuttering in order to be a PWS) – and I’ve heard horror stories about how mentally and emotionally taxing it can be to pass as fluent.

    Also, re: disability – I like calling my stutter a disability because I don’t believe in the idea that something has to be a huge issue requiring care and whatnot to be a disability, and because I think the disability rights movement has a lot of ideas that a lot of the stuttering movement could *really* benefit from. I still sometimes boggle at how different things look when I look at stuttering through the social model – e.g., that it isn’t my stuttering that’s the problem, it’s how people react to the stuttering. (I mean, when you get down to it, all stuttering means is that I may need a bit longer to say things. All the rest of it was heaped on top by other people.) Or recently I had the eureka moment of – hey, maybe I *don’t* need to do everything just like a fluent speaker. Maybe it’s fine if I use textphones instead of calling people – I suspect most speech therapies would consider this blatant heresy, considering how wild they can get about desensitisation! Or maybe I should try and see how I can work my stutter into my presentation (e.g. develop back-ups in case I start stuttering too badly to be understood) instead of essentially just hoping it won’t be an issue. Or would learning sign language be an option in order to have an alternate means of communication? That kind of thing.

    But it’s really up to everyone how they identify, and I totally respect it when PWS do not consider themselves disabled. I do, however, get a bit frustrated when it seems as if they have a completely wrongheaded view of what disability actually entails (cf. the “you’re only disabled if you think you are!” attitude, or the long discussion in which no one mentioned the social model) – but it’s still their choice.

    @Anna: ILU. :) Video is really not my happy shiny place, but if you could find a clip or the time when Tina starts to speak in a longer video that would be amazing!

  20. Mother of a stutterer

    If you go here (http://www.fox.com/fod/play.php?sh=glee) and watch the episode called Throwdown, there are two examples of Tina stuttering at about 10:00 and 10:58. They are both very short.

    And by all means, call me Mom! I’m very glad that my understanding matches you both, K and Kaz. It is actually kind of fun to talk about it, since there is no one else around IRL who understands at all.

  21. Mother of a stutterer

    One more thing. I actually do often enjoy Glee (full disclosure). And I think the girl who plays Tina is very talented. She just doesn’t know how to stutter. :)

  22. lilacsigil

    I chose not to watch this show when reviews of the first episode made it obvious that the gorgeous fat black girl was going to be permanently in the background in favour of the skinny white girls. Nothing I’ve seen since has changed my mind. Sometimes it’s just easier (if lazier on my part, I admit) to watch shows that don’t even try to engage, rather than watch them try to engage and get it horribly, painfully, proudly wrong.

    I don’t understand the part about the actresses with Down syndrome, though – are they saying that a regular cast member is played by an actress with Down syndrome?

  23. amandaw

    lilacsigil, the actress with Down Syndrome is Sue (evil villain coach)’s sister. It’s supposed to surprise you because it’s supposed to make her more sympathetic, or something. Because we all know abled family members of PWD are saints and can never ever be criticized, right?

  24. Kaz

    @Mom – Thanks! It’s unfortunately only viewable for US denizens (*shakes fist*) but luckily Lauredhel and Anna are completely awesome and organised a clip for me. <3x\infty

    And.

    I mean, I know you were saying it was blatantly fake, but I didn't realise it was that bad. I mean. What the hell. Has she ever heard someone who actually stutters speak? (Aka: that’s not how you stutter a w.) Or seen, given the complete and utter lack of any secondary symptoms, not even closing her eyes or looking away which something like 90% of stutterers do?

    I am still boggling.

  25. lilacsigil

    Oh, thanks for explaining, amandaw! Yes, obviously the evil villain coach is actually just nursing ****secret pain**** (and if we still had geocities, that could sparkle in a totally non-accessible way!)

  26. Sasha_feather

    This post has been included in a linkspam at Access_fandom. Thank you!


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