Blog Post #10: Glee, Hyperlinks
I feel like I should begin with a warning. From its inception until mere months ago, I was a faithful Glee viewer. Despite its lackluster (often plot-hole filled) writing, my mother and I stuck through, waiting patiently for the “good” episodes – the episodes that didn’t make us cringe; the ones where the music was inspiring and the writing was (at least) palatable. But months ago, I couldn’t take it anymore. I’d watched the show with a “pleasurable consumption” mindset: I was critical of its many flaws, but enjoyed certain aspects. A few months ago, the show did the thing that I really, really loathe. [Spoilers] They had a situation in which one of the girls (Marley) faints on stage, having made herself so ill because of her bulimia. Her mother is overweight and is mocked for it (though Marley defends her because she isn’t a complete tool – at least since I’ve last watched – unlike certain other characters), and another classmate (a cheerleader, of course) has taken to sewing up all of Marley’s clothes so that they’re getting smaller and smaller, so that Marley will think that she’s gaining weight, which prompts her to basically stop eating, rehearse non-stop, and induce vomiting (also brought on by the cheerleader). Although the Glee kids run off the stage to help her (and are disqualified from the competition), instead of being, you know, nice people, they blame her for their loss, making her feel worse (without anyone taking any action against her bully), and finally, in the last minute, they do the “right” thing and go to sing with her. And I was furious. Because they know better. They could have been, you know, decent people right off (or at least some of them could have), but they weren’t and it was just awful. They took a girl who was already a wreck and basically made her feel a million times worse. And I was done. After years watching the show, I’d come to hate it (or at least aspects of it).
Rewatching these episodes has not really re-ensnared me. Too many plot holes. Like the slushies. If anybody – anybody – in my school had thrown a slushie in someone’s face, they would have been suspended so fast their head would spin. And no one would let Sue talk to the kids like that. But they were right about the lack of enforcement on bullying, which is still a major problem today. Will was basically useless. From what I remember, he never even tried to talk to Karofsky himself, merely coming up to Kurt after and asking him if he was okay. And I think that is probably true of a lot of high school teachers. They don’t really deal with it in a productive manner. Instead of having some kind of restorative program for the bully, the kid gets a slap on the wrist (or, more likely now that it’s a major media issue, some over-the-top punishment). Rather, maybe some therapy or anger management classes would do better. Or at least, maybe, making the kid come once a week after school to talk about his or her bullying, think about it from their victim’s point of view (write about it, maybe), and try to instill some empathy in the kid. (I have my own reasons for disagreeing with any legalized punitive actions, because giving the police more power is just opening a new can of worms; and God knows the majority of the people they arrest would be teens of color, because that’s how the system works, which could possibly tie to Rose in her discussion of how original hip-hop was a form of resistance – and how it should still be, because that stuff still happens).
This post is already getting a bit long, so I’m going to tie the latter two Glee episodes to the Kimmel reading. Karofsky (a middle class white boy) bullies Kurt because he feels his masculinity is threatened. He acts out violently (and threatens to “kill” Kurt) because he’s afraid of his own sexual orientation. This falls right in line with Kimmel’s discussion that gender and masculinity are major factors in school violence. Karofsky was so deeply socialized to believe in the hegemonic masculine role (straight, white, Christian, male, etc) that he lashed out. If the he hadn’t been brought up to see homosexuality as some kind of “othered” threat to his masculinity, he wouldn’t have acted the way he did.
Glee does connect to the course theme Media Matters. Glee has many opportunities to promote positive messages. The show is extremely popular and reaches broad audiences of varying ages. In fact, I think its promotion of LGBTQ characters is further than many shows on today (for example, Santana had a wonderful character development, for the most part, if I remember correctly). I think it sometimes drops the ball, but usually it does well in this regard, and was one of the reasons I watched it for as long as I did.
What do you think of Glee’s overall messages? Positive portrayal of characters? Bad writing aside, do you think it makes a difference?