Alright... It's time for me to come clean about something... I'm a not-so-closeted gleek, and I feel like it's high-time I shared it with you guys.
I love Glee. I love the music, the over-the-top drama, the comedic timing, the great talent, the fast-paced narratives, the sets, the pretty faces, the 3D concert movie. I follow all of the stars on twitter. I have a shrine to Darren Criss on my bulletin board. I want to be Jane Lynch when I grow up.
But here's the thing... despite all of that, there is something about Glee that really, really irks me.
It's the cultural stereotypes that they perpetuate -- YES perpetuate, NOT disintegrate. For all of the good that Glee has done for raising arts-awareness in schools across North America, for all the attention it has brought to the difficulties of ostracized kids or hard-done-by educators, Glee STILL perpetuates far too many stereotypes for it to be doing much good at all.
The cheerleaders are stupid, bi#©hy, or knocked-up at 16. The Quarterback is more than a little dim. The Guidance Counsellor has her own undealt-with Mental Health issues. The black chick is a total diva complete with finger-snapping attitude and quips about her weave. The gay guy isn't just flaming, he's completely on fire... I can do this for every single character on the show, because the show does it to itself.
And sometimes, it is absolutely hilarious. I understand that stereotypes are a fast way to make a joke that everyone can laugh at, especially if the person you're laughing at is laughing too (that's how it works, right?). I understand that you need to reduce a cast of dozens into easily-identifiable traits so that viewers can keep track of everyone. In fact, the episode when Sue Sylvester does a roll-call for every minority student in the Glee Club is a self-conscious reference to what the show does every day:
"Wheels! Gay Kid! Asian! Other Asian! Aretha! Shaft!" she calls, inviting each student to join her "Rainbow Tent" of acceptance.
But here's the thing. When Sue does it we know it's funny, because her character is CLEARLY racist, mean, and slightly sociopathic. No one needs to call her out on being those things, because she knows them about herself.
But what about when Mr. Shu does it? Why does Mercedes only get to sing Motown classics or belt out the high notes after one of Rachel's solos? The show makes a joke about it every other episode... but they've been doing that for three seasons and still haven't changed it!
Why does Kurt ALWAYS sing Broadway Showtunes or songs written for women? (One of my Out friends told me the other day that Kurt's character does absolutely NOTHING to help the plight of "his people"...) Why does Santana ONLY sing songs that reflect her struggle with her sexual identity? SURE that's a huge thing she's going through, but there's more to her than that!
And here's the problem... alternating viewpoints mean that characters are continually getting slammed on the backburners. Unless the episode is focusing on their one specific storyline (Kurt's relationship to his dad, Santana and Britney's relationship, Artie's handicap...) and they get the spotlight for half an hour, each character is just left to sway in the background (like props) and are LUCKY to have a joke about their stereotype thrown their way. Oh... today is the Kurt and Blaine show? Well, we'll have Britney say something stupid and have Santana look at her lustily... that'll keep people interested in them! Finn and Rachel episode? Make Puck say something about Lauren being hot and fat, and show Artie's new flashers for his wheelchair!
This week's episode is called "Asian F". Mike (the OTHER Asian), receives an A- on an assignment, which apparently is the equivalent of a Fail for Asian students. His parents want him to quit the Glee club and focus on his schoolwork.
Funny, right? But is that because he's Asian, and all Asian kids have more parental pressure to do well in school than other students? We haven't heard ANYTHING so far about Mike being scholastically-inclined -- he's always been The Dancer. Is this a chance for character-development or just another stereotype to use as comedic fodder before we lose track of Mike again?
And does any of this even matter? Am I thinking WAY too much about a show that doesn't promise anything more than a little bit of fun and music for an hour a week? Are my hopes too high? Am I wrong and these stereotypes ARE doing some good in a twisted, backhanded way? Am I completely losing it and this is the whole POINT of the show???
And if you're like me, and you just can't get past the LOVE part of your love/hate relationship with Glee, get your fix today from the Calgary Public Library! We've got everything from CD's and Sheet Music (for your OWN budding Show Choir) to full Seasons, guidebooks, and novelizations!