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

Take My Wife!!! (& Glee, I guess)

I don’t know what it was about Glee, but I was uncomfortable the entire time I was watching it, particularly because of the virginity narrative. The fact that Blaine wanted to rush into having sex because he was playing a character that went through a sexual awakening was really upsetting. I don’t watch the show, but it seemed like Rachel and Finn’s experience was aligned to a normative, non-deviant path, while Kurt and Blaine’s was not. Of course, the ~gays~ had to end up at a gay bar, with a figure causing a rift between them with the implication that Blaine might cheat. Of course one of them had to get drunk, and obviously it was impossible for them to not use fake IDs or do something illegal. Did Rachel and Finn go through any of this? No! They got a narrative of love and special moments, and what got in the way was Rachel’s “ambition” (which is kind of an iffy portrayal of women, but more on that some other time). Yes, there was the connection to sex and intimacy for both couples, but their path to that was clearly different, and I’m fairly certain sexuality had a lot to do with it.

Now for Take My Wife. I LOVED this episode, and it’s not just because they were cute lesbians and I’m biased. I appreciated that they didn’t fit exactly into the masc/femme binary, their relationship wasn’t cringe-worthy, and they seemed like two happy, fairly well-adjusted lesbians who were trying to figure life out. It wasn’t hypersexualized, the dick jokes were on point, and everything else was funny and light. Just the kind of queer television I’m looking for. I felt the discussion on women in comedy was important, and the components of social media on the show were a great reflection of our current culture. Since I liked this first episode so much (and will likely keep watching it, to be honest), I started thinking about what exactly makes a comedy show funny and successful.

In the last couple of years, the most popular comedies tend to portray “real life”, daily settings and situations with a comedic twist. These tropes are so popular, in my opinion, because people see themselves in these worlds, yet there is comic relief, there is “wackiness”, there is excitement, no matter how ridiculous. It is the normative world they know with a little laughter infused. So yes, I enjoyed watching Take My Wife, but clearly, these women are set on a path to domesticity, and this comedy follows lives that are not entirely normative, but not degenerate either. And while it is great that queer people are achieving some form of representation in these comedy tropes, the question of what is “positive representation” that we brought up in class applies once again. What would constitute positive representation of a non-heterosexual relationship? Can these representations be truly positive if they are still enforcing the heteronormative ideal of a family, and the “end-goal” of marriage and reproduction that we talked about when discussing Obergefell v. Hodges?

I want my happy gays. I want my gays that don’t die. But how can that be achieved without subscribing to the same values that oppress us?

Looking forward to the discussion!!!

Leticia

Glee

The episode, as the title suggests, is about having sex the first time. Virginity is depicted as something that is given or taken, with the individual with power doing the taking. Lea Michelle’s character even says something along the lines of “you’re going to get something that no one else can say they got,” reinforcing the idea that the man takes something that the woman has to give up. Since both these characters are depicted as being virgins, Lea Michelle is also ‘taking his virginity,’ not just the other way around.

The episode also suggests that intimacy is a prerequisite to losing your virginity, in both the heterosexual and homosexual sexual encounters. From our discussions, we know that intimacy is closely tied to ‘the end’ goal of marriage and children. This implies that you must lose your virginity to ‘the one’ that you end up with, which almost always is never the case. The fact that society frames these broken relationships as ‘failures’ shapes its citizens’ belief system as well.

In addition, this episode reminded me of the conversation we had in class about innocence and losing innocence. Virginity in our society is synonymous with innocence, and you are no longer ‘pure’ once you lose it. Yet this ‘purity’ is only applied to women. Would like to interrogate this idea more.