Are you watching Glee tonight?

glee-cast.jpg

Glee, the show we either love or love to hate, depending on who you ask, is back tonight after a several-week hiatus. Are you going to tune in for the diverse cast and catchy dance numbers? Or has the misogyny and stereotyping of Glee danced its way out of your heart?

The Pros:
Glee is a fun show with a lot of dancing, singing, and high school drama. (A formula for success, obviously.) The song choice and the performances are top-notch. In addition to the fun, Glee also stars a pretty diverse cast that includes a wheelchair user and several characters of color. Oh, and Jane Lynch, who is hilarious and amazing.

Topics-wise, Glee doesn't shy away from issues like teenage pregnancy, sexuality, or religion the way many prime time shows choose to. The high schoolers on the show are from different backgrounds (single parents, gay parents, and low-income scenarios abound) and a recent issue dealt with subtle racism in the school system. Not the kinds of things we're used to seeing on Fox on Wednesday nights.

The Cons:
Glee, for all its diversity, makes pretty poor use of its cast. The black girl is sassy, the wheelchair user is silent, the Asian girl is also silent, and the Asian guy is a quasi-silent breakdancer. As for the adult women on the show, well, apparently Glee hates them and wants us to join in. Shuster's wife Terri is a lying, materialistic shrew who has convinced her husband she's pregnant and is going to take a glee clubber's baby to prove it. Emma, the guidance counselor, is an insecure germaphobe who is in love with a married man yet is marrying someone else out of – well, who knows why she is doing it? Sue, the cheerleading coach, is an ambitious racist who is willing to blackmail and cheat in order to further her own career. Even the young women on the show are portrayed as needing the agency of men in order to exist (except the black girl Mercedes – she's too darned sassy).

Topics-wise, Glee may tackle tough issues but it does so in a mean-spirited, stereotypical way. The gay teacher is a pedophile who can't be around the students (hilarious!). The cheerleading coach divides the students up by race (it's not segregation if it's funny!) and condemns the pregnant character as a disgrace. Sure, we're supposed to think this is all a satire poking fun at the status quo, but in reality a lot of the jokes are reinforcing the status quo instead.

Obviously, Glee has a lot going on, some of it good and some of it not-so-good. So what do you think? Which side of the Glee fence will you find yourself on tonight?


For more discussion of Glee and its many good/bad/questionable/annoying qualities, check out this episode of Bitch Popaganda.

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Comments

9 comments have been made. Post a comment.

I think I can speak for the

I think I can speak for the entirety of the Transcontinental Disability Choir when I say that I will be watching, but with dread. The Very Special Disability episode has a high probability of Extreme Fail Factor.

Nope

I personally will be tuning in to Top Chef tonight, even though this season has been a tad boring.

My objections to Glee have been nicely summed up in the "Cons" section of the post!

Reinforcing the Status Quo

I enjoyed your article about the pros and cons of Glee. I love the show, but there are definitely some things that I would be happy to see change.

However, I wish you would have backed up this final thought in your article:

"Sure, we're supposed to think this is all a satire poking fun at the status quo, but in reality a lot of the jokes are reinforcing the status quo instead."

That is a big statement. If they are poking fun at the status quo, how are the jokes reinforcing it?

Good point.

You're right Cali, I could have been a bit more specific. I think the ways in which Glee deals with issues of race, sexuality, and class aren't as progressive as they could/should/pretend to be. For instance, many of the jokes we're meant to laugh at are actually at the expense of the culturally marginalized characters on the show as opposed to the clueless administration. (An example of this would be Sue Sylvester's jokes about the wheelchair user being "half" a student.) Instead of poking fun at offensive cultural norms, I find the show often just reinforces them (women really ARE outrageous and difficult, black women really ARE sassy and nonsexual, gay men really DO identify as women, Asians really ARE silent acceptance-seekers, white men really ARE the best people, etc.).

Though I watch Glee and will most likely tune in tonight as well, I wish the show pushed these boundaries instead of operating within them.

Thanks for getting me to clarify!

____________
Kelsey Wallace, contributor

Ask me about our Comments Policy!

As long as the

As long as the marginalization of a community of people is culturally acceptable, jokes at the expense of a marginalized group are reinforcing this social norm. Indeed, some viewers actually actively believe in the values/beliefs which are supposedly being mocked by the show, and they find these jokes funny because of it. In the case of Glee, these "jokes" are being made by a creative team which is notably lacking in members of these groups, which makes the problem even more obvious.

As Kelsey points out, Glee operates within very safe and familiar boundaries for the creative team and the target demographic. The show isn't using offensive stereotypes to try and break down stereotypes, it's using offensive stereotypes because it knows that people think they are funny. And why do people think they are funny? Because they have internalized the values behind those stereotypes.

I have to admit, I'm ashamed

I have to admit, I'm ashamed of how much I like/love Glee. The singing, the dancing . . . it's such a FUN show . . . til you look at the Cons and yup, there's the guilt.

I thought it peculiar too how they addressed the racism in the glee club . . . and then proceeded to not change a damn thing. Great opportunity was lost there.

Not for Me, either

Glee is just too "syrupy/sappy" for my "riot grrl" sensibilities. It's a shame because I adore Jane Lynch, but not on this show, sad to say. She deserves better than this.

I think I will watch South Park (despite my disdain for that shows' creators' libertarian politics. The humor is more often than not spot-on and makes me laugh, anyway) and then switch over to Current right after to watch the premiere of "Porn 2.0" on Vanguard (I also have it on cable). Is that Susie Bright I'm seeing in the preview?

re: not for me either

Updating this - without giving away any spoilers - I have to say last night's "South Park" was perhaps the best episode I've seen in a long time!

That is not Susie Bright on the Vanguard report Porn 2.0. It was still interesting, relevant, discussion-provoking ... but there was indeed more to the story that wasn't told on that.

Thank you, Kelsey, for

Thank you, Kelsey, for reminding us that just because we enjoy something doesn't mean it's bereft of problems AND that just because something has problems, it doesn't mean it can't (or shouldn't) give us pleasure.

I enjoy Glee, in fact it gives me so much pleasure that I guess I've willfully overlooked its issues - something your post has forced me to admit. And I agree that its treatment of the Other could be handled more responsibly (or with more complexity) particularly because at its core, Glee is a show about difference. I'll be interested to see what readers have to say about tonight's episode, particularly after TV Critic Maureen Ryan praised the episode for its handling of that very issue. http://featuresblogs.chicagotribune.com/entertainment_tv/2009/11/glee-fo...

Jennifer K. Stuller
[email protected]
http://www.ink-stainedamazon.com/