Not So Glee-ful Representations on “Glee”

Hi everyone!

I should probably start by saying that Glee used to be one of my favorite TV shows. I’m definitely excited to be the resident Glee semi-expert for the purposes of providing context during our upcoming class discussion. That being said, it’s a real task looking back on a show I wholeheartedly adored and learning to criticize it. Back in 2009, I was originally floored that the show represented minorities in the relatable setting of a public high school. But in retrospect, I’m beginning to realize why I needed the show in the past versus why I can’t be satisfied with it in the present.

A commonly expressed complaint about Glee’s format by critics and the general viewership is that it tries to accomplish too much. That is to say, its cast has a host of “token” characters that act as monolithic representations of their respective narratives. The main cast is an eclectic ensemble of identities, with one or two characters that are uniquely of a certain race, queer identity, or other disadvantaging characteristic (for example, there’s a boy in a wheelchair, a teacher with OCD, and a cheerleader who has to deal with her teen pregnancy). The show is flawed in attempting to flesh out every single character, instead of having less dimensional roles to support the multi-faceted principle storylines. Though the show offers representation for a lot of groups, it falls flat of satisfactorily developing any of the characters. That’s just what I’ve taken away from my own long-term experience with the show.

This connects to my thoughts after rewatching the episode, “The First Time”, which primarily follows Rachel and Blaine’s decisions to have their first sexual experiences with their respective partners. It’s problematic for Kurt and Blaine to be the only established gay couple in the show, who are strung along the more immoral path of the two narratives to get to the title “first time”. Leticia already pointed out this disparity between Rachel and Finn’s story and that of Kurt and Blaine. The fact that the sanctity Kurt and Blaine’s relationship was threatened by a competing gay, Sebastian, as well as by the “impurity” of the gay night club and nonconsensual advances, is especially scandalous when paralleled with Finn and Rachel’s less sinister misunderstanding. To see these two stories against one another strongly implies a difference in expectation of how *The Gay Relationship* and *The Straight Relationship* are meant to play out.

So, a little about queer comedy. One thing I found interesting about the comedy aspect of both the Glee episode was the tendency for humorous one-liners to be mere supplements to the overarching drama. It seems more necessary for the characters to be treated with serious storylines in this show, and much of the satisfaction in watching it comes from watching them overcome their unique problems. For example, I chuckled at Coach Beiste hastily evacuating the room when Artie suggested more sexual passion to his actors, but this comes back later as the key point that Beiste has never felt sexually attractive to anyone. The Take My Wife episode was a little more successful in providing comic relief separate from the main conflict; in this, it felt more natural in contributing a queer narrative to a mainstream genre.

I wish I could write more about Take My Wife but I feel like this is getting long, so I’ll save my other thoughts for the class discussion!

peace out,
Martina

“Moonlight”: A Mainstream Mediator for Minority

Hello! I really adore movies and, after having watched the beautiful film Moonlight, I’m so ready to add it to my list of favorites. I have a lot of thoughts about it, maybe too many focusing on the cinematography, but I’ll try my best to link it back to the topics at hand.

The creators of Moonlight have such an intelligent method of storytelling that allows for a subtle, more natural realization of love and identity than many mainstream films. All aspects of its production point at conveying specific and nuanced tones throughout the film, exploring so much of its own themes without explicitly declaring them. My favorite example of this is the entire diner scene in which Kevin and Chiron finally reunite as men who have had the chance to experience their individual ups and downs. The use of dialogue or sometimes the lack thereof when they react to each other’s admissions is outstanding, as they each show how relieved they are to meet again and how much they have thought about each other over the years. For example, Kevin is visibly disappointed that Black has been dealing drugs and indirectly tells him so, saying that “that ain’t [Chiron]”. Black’s subsequent indignance at this points to the conflict that has been ever-present in Chiron’s life: he knows he isn’t himself as a “hard”, hypermasculine drug dealer, but he’s also so aware of the impossibility of behaving otherwise in the face of society. Even the hopeful conclusion of the movie is not explicitly stated, which is fitting since even with coming out and finding requited love, Kevin and Chiron’s share an embrace embodies both the relief in finding someone to share one’s true self and the support one needs to face a hostile future.

Moonlight has the power to feel real and relatable to an underrepresented intersection of identities, and so existence as a previously untold queer narrative is crucial. It’s interesting to consider that Moonlight’s value is not only in its representation of a gay black man in a community that follows traditional ideals of masculinity, but also in its exceptional beauty as a film. Perhaps a combination of its novel subject matter and its skillful handling of such was necessary to bring the movie to the mainstream, and this popularity allows it to speak to a wider audience and generate more social discussion. It certainly adds a unique and important voice to the entire body of film that is out there for us to consume.

I’m excited to talk more about this film and its implications in class. As for Sabina Vaught’s piece, I certainly found it more challenging to understand but that’s even more reason to figure out Vaught’s intentions with other people.

peace out,

Martina

Vaught Ought To Know

This is one of the hardest articles I’ve had to read, and it’s not necessarily because of the content or the flow, but mainly the language that’s being used. It took me until about halfway for the article to start making sense, especially when certain words and phrases were being reused. This is what I got out of it:

  1. Structural liberalism is just a natural offshoot of the kyriarchy (the overarching social system that legitimizes oppression) in which we all live and have to navigate.
  2. By creating labels of “perpetrator” and “victim”, it becomes easier for the educational system to deal with problems on an individual level, consistent with the underlying philosophy of the system.
  3. This leaves the educational system–and the kyriarchy as a whole–blameless, since the focus is on the individual and not of any contribution by or from the system in place to influence these human interactions.
  4. Structural liberalism uses labels.
  5. These labels are essentially restricting because they do not allow for alternative perspectives (i.e. there has to be a norm in place, and the educational system has to enforce the norm).
  6. This leaves specifically gay Black men as just “perpetrator” because the system cannot accommodate the intersectionality of these three identities (and subsequently the inherent contradiction of considering “Black” as “criminal” and “gay” as “victim”). In other words, there has to be a place for everything and everyone.
  7. Even though the law enacted in 2010 has good intentions, it fundamentally upholds the kyriarchy, and therefore does not fundamentally change how the educational system works.

If anyone’s wondering, I did this mainly for everyone, because the language in this article is very hard to understand. It would’ve been nice if there were context from the author as to what she was trying to argue, because not everyone is familiar with the terminology she uses. (Nevertheless, I like that she uses it). Hopefully this is helpful.

Also I want to mention one quote on pg. 156 that mentions the difference between “marginalizing” and “privileging”. This reminds me of many conversations I’ve read that are trying to rediscover the identity politics within the LGBTQ+ community and the debate over “coming out” vs. “inviting in”. For anyone that doesn’t know, “coming out” is considered problematic to these groups of people because essentially you are announcing your deviance from heteronormativity, which sheds light on the potential of being marginalized. Privileged groups do not change just because there exists other, non-privileged groups. “Inviting in” (or that idea) is hailed as the solution, since it would fundamentally allow for the “norm” to be widened to “include” LGBTQ+ people. Therefore, LGBTQ+ identity would be normalized and accepted per se.

One question I have about this, though, is if there is any space for queerness if the goal is to “normalize”. If not, what does this say about the kyriarchy?

Hope this makes a bit more sense now,

Josh

 

Moonlight: Tenderness in a Harsh World

Watching Moonlight was quite an experience, and I feel it a beautiful film that all kinds of emotional chords for many reasons. It is undeniable that mainstream cultural representations have characterized Black men as hypersexual, hyper-heterosexual, and aggressive perpetrators of violence for centuries. After reading Vaught’s work, it was quite clear that the movie wanted to dispel this deeply ingrained and racist perspective, as well as the “extreme structural liberalism” found in the anti-bullying Act and so many other pieces of legislation which systemically erase the “collective existence of Black gay youth in schools”.

By following Little, Chiron, and Black’s life, we are exposed to dangers of a system that has continuously placed Black youth in danger and forced them into the role of “perpetrators”. Being from Miami, I am familiar with Overtown and Liberty City, two historically Black neighborhoods that have suffered innumerable blows at the hands of the government. Overtown is actually quite close to the Wynwood Walls which are now overrun with tourists and bourgeois citizens who couldn’t care less about the history of the area and the people it once belonged to. It was a relief to see that the movie accurately portrayed these areas and was true to the struggles of its residents. 

From the beginning of the movie, I felt a great amount of sympathy for Little and even for the other boys who he played with, especially when it was shown that the ball they were playing with was made of paper. These boys were thrown into a vicious cycle before they were even born, a cycle perpetuated by white supremacy. It was interesting and saddening  to see how stereotypical masculinity was such a key aspect of all of their lives, that they had to constantly  prove their “manliness” to one another in order to fit in.

Despite such prominent and toxic views of masculinity that colored the children’s lives, one of the most striking aspects of this film was the fleeting tenderness that characterized certain scenes regardless of them taking place in such a harsh world. Juan’s character was so important (shout-out for representing Black Cubans!!!) because a stereotypical “”thug”” figure, a drug dealer, a “perpetrator”, was portrayed as having a deep emotional connection with Little which unfolded in their conversations on the beach and in his home. He was not homophobic and did not shame Little for his questions. He gave him the strenght to be who he wanted to be. He allowed him a piece of innocence in a world where Black kids are not given the chance to be kids.

On a different note, I really appreciated the fact that this film portrayed queerness that isn’t hyper-sexualized. While I love steamy gay sex scenes as much as the next guy, I am always happy when queer characters are (rarely) not reduced to, as Vaught says, “their individual sexual predilections”. Even when Kevin gives Chiron a handjob, there wasn’t that icky feeling I get when it’s pretty clear a queer character is being hyper-sexualized. It was innocent, and another important scene characterized by a light tenderness, something which I was very grateful for.

Another message I took away from this movie that really hit home is the fact that sometimes, life is so fraught with chaos that you have no choice but to put your queerness on the back of your mind. Chiron, myself, and many other queer people who are layered with other marginalized identities sometimes don’t even have the privilege to focus on unpacking your queerness, because to do so would simply be too overwhelming. Repression becomes an unhappy means of survival, and when you are finally given the room to breath and be who you are, relief is immeasurable. The last scene, where Kevin caresses Black and we see Little reveling in the moonlight was incredibly moving, and I found myself letting out a breath I didn’t know I was holding.

Like I said, this movie brought on a wave of different feelings and I have so much more to say, especially about his mother, Teresa, and the role of women in this film. I’ll stop talking for now though, and I really look forward to this week’s discussion!!

Yours truly,

Leticia