8 responses to “Glee: The Halfway Point: Women and Race on Glee”

  1. Heather

    I’ve watched Glee from the beginning. The pilot episode amazed me.. a musical every week?! I was so excited! The more I watched it the more depressing it became depressing and disappointing. I couldn’t relate to a single character although I could relate to some aspect of each character. Although Will’s character is obviously supposed to be the victim in the adult roles- manipulated, tortured by not being able to have the woman he loves, trying to make the glee team work for the sake of the kids… it became obvious fairly quickly that what he was doing was cheating on his wife and often times making the children suffer for his own selfishness.. and of course, as this mentions, I had someone of a panic attack when the abusive kitchen scene came on. I was horrified. That’s the only real word I can find for it. I’m not so sure abuot the race issue as I don’t think any of the motivations are racial.. we see Tina and Mercades far more than we do some of the other white background characters but less than the main characters.. which seems pretty normal… although I will say that the school itself seems unusually white overall. Overall this was a great- and enlightening- post. Thank You.

  2. notthemarimba

    These posts are so spot on. From now on, whenever someone gets all OMG BUT GLEE IS THE BEST WHY DO YOU NOT LIKE GLEE on me, I’m sending them here.

  3. Kaitlyn

    notthemarimba – I’m not sure about that working with some people.

    My sister said it wasn’t abuse, and she’s watched every episode.

    I told her lots of people disagreed with her. “Do I know them?”

    And she did what the husband did to my mom to show me it wasn’t abuse. Mom was not pleased, as it hurt.

    “Well, she hit him!” Mom – “So she had it coming? Is this fictional? Oh, it is? Then he didn’t do it, he just read the script.”

    I agreed that their marriage was a mess, but as you say on your site, he’s the hero. She’s bad already, of course she hits him. Just another wacky comedy woman!

    That was *one scene*. I might be able to discuss ableism on TV with my mom (she sees it when she sees how her students are treated) and she may listen to me babble on about the sexism of that ad, or whatever.

    But if it’s something my sister likes (or doesn’t care about)? She will shut me down. It’s not important, it’s just fiction, etc. And I don’t have the emotional spoons for it.

    Glee didn’t look good from the promos, but now I’m curious about the show and know it’s on Hulu. I may watch the pilot, BUT I’ve got two movies from Netflix on the table!

    (And I do watch problematic shows – Gossip Girl fan here! But I wouldn’t mind discussing the problems with the show – if I’d seen anything past the first season.)

    These promise to be a very interesting series of posts, meloukhia. And I can’t help but chuckle at the timing of Glee’s popularity and the start of this blog – for somebody interested in disability/race/gender/etc issues at the 101 level, Glee is great start point, since there’s a chance ou watches it.

  4. Travis

    Excellent post, though a quick correction, Santana is Latina.

  5. lauren

    I think Terri is one of the most difficult characters to get a grip on. I know a lot of fans love her (and her sister) for being “batshit crazy”. Others hate her for being a manipulative lier.
    I am not sure that everything she did could be explained away. Because faking a pregnancy, and taking it as far as she did, was incredibly cruel. And the character only offered “I do not want to lose my husband” as a justification. Add to that the way she dismissed Will’s work and put unreasonable demands on him, she was easy to dislike. The question, to me, is why the writers decided to write the character like that. Why couldn’t the have given Will a wife who wasn’t a complete charicature? Because Will had to be able to end the marriage and get together with Emma without being a bad guy? It’s a clear case of the character being written according to the story line, instead of haveing a story line develope naturally because of the characters. And as the glee writers often do, the character that was turned into a stereotype to make the story work was a woman.

    I find her sympathetic because I read her in a sympathetic way, thanks mostly to the (great, I think) actress and the few scenes we got where she wasn’t being manipulative. The scene at the ob-gyn, for example, when she desperately asked Will to always remember that they loved each other, or the moment with her sister when she almost decided to tell Will the truth.

    And then came “Matress”. I am still not sure how I feel about that entire episode. Either the writers were aware of the way this scene would read to many viewers as one of domestic abuse, in which case the way they resolved it- by having Will be the injured party- is deeply troubling. Or they were unaware of the violent (under)current of the scene, in which case they are disturbingly unaware. Either way, the scene and the resolution of the story line, made the already erregeous characterisation of Terri and the Schuster’s marriage so much worse.

    I have read that the shows creator is known for taking his supposed “heroes” apart, showing their flaws and faults. I keep hoping that this will happen with Will. It has been hinted at a couple of times, when Will would let his ego get in the way of doing what was right for the glee kids, and the way he flirted with Emma despite both of them being in relationships. But unfortunately, his treatment of the kids always seems to be forgiven by the end of the episode, and his behaviour as a husband is often forgiven (by fans, at least), because after all, Terri and Ken are so wrong for them, and Terri especially is a manipulative liar. I guess what I am trying to say is that, while I certainly see him as a deeply flawed character, I think the show is being too subtle about it, compared to the extreme way the other (female) character’s flaws are always made glaringly obvious. The actors and the more alert viewers might be able to see his faults, but they are to easy to handwave away for those who just want to “squee” and “enjoy the funny show”.

  6. Zeo

    I stopped watching after a few episodes because of all this stuff; I didn’t even get to the “Mattress” episode you’re discussing here, or the wheelchair dance fail I’ve heard some about, so I dont feel I can comment on that.

    I do note though the way in which camp performance is used in the show, that the writers were trying to go for camp (knowingly or not), and the white actresses in the show are largely very conscious of that and play their campy roles very well. The white men are played “straight” (as in as is, not as in heterosexual) and valiant, men of color played “straight” and pathetic,and the women of color could have been large cardboard cutouts playing miscellaneous lines taped from other shows.

    The effect is that, where camp plays with the awful bits of reality, twisting them into absurdity, in order to turn oppressive tropes in their head, Glee portrays as absurd certain bits of the writers’ realities that they perceive as the most awful, and since the writers’ realities are pretty similar to mainstream tropes on and off TV, nothing is turned on its head. Camp is used in the show to reinforce the same oppressive structures.

    Buuut that’s what too commonly happens when folks in the mainstream get hold of tools of the counterculture. Hot Topic selling anarchy-branded crap as the simplest example.

  7. Sasha_feather

    This post has been included in a linkspam at Access-fandom. Thank you!

  8. Nina

    I realize this isn’t a recent seres of posts, but I just want to say that your thoughts are spot on!

    I too loved the pilot episode, but I was hoping that as the series progressed, the characters would become more complex and layered. Rachel is undoubtedly the main character, yet how can the audience connect with a character who continues to be so annoying and manipulative? Kurt has yet to shatter the stereotype of the homosexual male as a prissy, snarky diva, who identifies with women more so than men, and is perpetually pining for a straight male to “recruit”. Mercedes has yet to be something other than a curvaceous, finger-snapping lady of colour.

    The show is starting to bring Santana (yes, who is Latina) into the spotlight a little more. She even got to sing in last night’s episode. However, what’s also deeply troubling about this new (if small) emphasis on her is that she is starting to become the most ruthless and conniving of the glee kids (even though in the midseason finale, she and Brittany stated how much the enjoy glee, and that it’s the best part of their days…and now that Quinn is off the squad, these two have become Sue’s main henchwomen, and are hellbent on destroying the club? I thought they loved it! Consistencyfail, Ryan Murphy!). Her characterization as a mean and promiscuous character has not lessened, I’ll say that much! While some people would say,

    “Well, Santana is a nasty and loose girl who just happens to be Latina, the writers aren’t implying that all Hispanic people are like that,”

    I think that in our multicultural society, where TV is still sadly so imbued with token ethnic characters, that the writers should be much more sensitive to the characterization of their characters of colour.

    Again, love the criticisms, and I hope to see more as the second half of the season progresses!