Tuning In: Glee's "Theatricality"

As usual, last night's episode of Glee was a mixed bag stuffed to the purse strings. Unfortunately, I was unable to watch with fellow Austin resident Sara Reihani while she live Tweeted for Bitch, but we've made plans to view next week's "Funk" together. Though I've been disappointed by the second half of the season, I side with Todd VanDerWerff, who believed last week's "Dream On" to be one of the strongest of the series. The cynic in me is quick to point out that basing an episode–a series, in fact–around the crushed dreams of young performers played by up-and-coming stars and Broadway veterans is fairly disingenuous. However, "Dream On" poignantly conveyed the gulf between these characters' aspirations and their realities.

"Theatricality" carries on with this theme to an extent. Primarily, though, the episode is about defining the word "performance." This term encapsulates the ways in which people announce gender identity, sexual orientation, and affiliation with marginalized social groups. It also suggests the employment of self-delusion and the need to put on a show at all costs to cope with loneliness.

Willing the show to go on bonds Rachel Berry and Vocal Adrenaline coach Shelby Corcoran, an otherwise-distant mother-daughter pair who broke my heart in "Dream On" with their rendition of Les Misérables' "I Dreamed A Dream." In "Theatricality," Berry confronts Corcoran while spying on a Vocal Adrenaline rehearsal, recognizing that the woman singing "Funny Girl" to her students is her mother. The affinity the twosome have for musicals contrasts with Glee's commercial song selections and gestures toward Lea Michele and Idina Menzel's (the actors who play Rachel and Shelby) Broadway pedigrees. But Corcoran also sees who she might have been in Berry, who in turn sees in Corcoran who she might become. Breaking from Broadway fare, the duo sing a jazzy version of "Poker Face."

While the song's subject matter may be questionable for most mother-daughter duos, the lyrics "no he can't read my poker face" and "she's got to love nobody" are poignant for both the dejected Corcoran and the ambitious Berry. To quote Chicago's "My Own Best Friend," "baby's alive but baby's alone."

Lady Gaga is incorporated into New Directions' repertoire after Tina Cohen-Chang (Jenna Ushkowitz) meets with Principal Figgins (Iqbal Theba), who informs her that she must modify her goth appearance. Berry, Quinn Fabray (Dianna Agron), and Mercedes Jones (Amber Riley) also spy on Vocal Adrenaline after discovering that all of Lima's red lace supply has been bought up. Their suspicions confirmed, they learn that the group is performing a Lady Gaga routine and director Will Schuester (Matthew Morrison) decides the kids should use her work for inspiration.

Gaga serves as the embodiment of performance and a portal through which the characters can project themselves. It follows a logic that Madonna disciple Gaga is featured after the show devoted an episode to the Material Girl. However, I think the show improves upon the previous episode by foregrounding Kurt Hummel (Chris Colfer) in the episode, a missed opportunity commenter CL astutely noted in my entry on "The Power of Madonna."

Hummel's Gaga fandom is central to the episode's narrative. Indeed, his love of Gaga lines up with the pop star's considerable gay male following and may create parallels between the character, Colfer, and creator Ryan Murphy. I often question Gaga's politics and the potential divide between gay male Gaga fans and feminist critics on my blog Feminist Music Geek. However, I like seeing Hummel "express himself" with Alexander McQueen's armadillo heels along with the girls in their performance of "Bad Romance." I also appreciate him pointing out to a pair of jocks that their letter jackets are just as much a costume as his glitzy platforms.

Yet, I was disappointed by how obvious the episode was in using Gaga to juxtapose gay male fandom with straight male homophobia. The boys in New Directions hate Gaga. Noah "Puck" Puckerman (Mark Salling) isn't even sure what Gaga is, identifying her as a male David Bowie fan. They seem to bristle at Gaga's outlandish artificiality and fear associating with the pop star will threaten their sexuality. Thus, they strike a balance between her glam sensibility and rock's heavily constructed sense of authenticity by painting themselves up as Kiss and performing "Shout It Out Loud." (Note: Buddy comedy Role Models may be evoked here as well, as Seann William Scott shares top billing with Paul Rudd as macho Kiss fan Anson Wheeler. It also boasts a scene-stealing performance from Jane Lynch, whose Sue Sylvester was conspicuously absent from last night's episode.)

Pointedly, the guys perform as a band instead of a vocal ensemble, showcasing their phallic and technical mastery over traditional rock instrumentation and enforcing their heterosexual masculinity. Puck also uses Kiss's "Beth" to pledge to Fabray that he'll fulfill his paternal duties to their unborn daughter. Notably, Agron, who recently directed the music video for Thao with the Get Down Stay Down's "Body", (which Thao herself blogged about for Bitch) had more to do in this episode than she's been given on the show in weeks.

I'm also angry over the problematic racial dimensions of homophobia in "Theatricality." White boys like Hudson learn tolerance. Hudson's mother abruptly has them move in with Hummel's father Burt (Mike O'Malley), who she's been dating. Uncomfortable with Hummel's crush on him, Hudson lashes out about sharing a bedroom with Hummel by denouncing his defiant effeminacy as "faggy." Hummel's father sticks up for his son and ejects Hudson, who redeems himself by defending Hummel against two bullying jocks while wearing a rubber dress. However, black jock Azimio (James Earl) is depicted as hateful and violent, using homophobic slurs and referring to Hudson's interest in music and sports as an indication that he's "bisexual." YIKES.

At the end of the episode, the gleeks learn to stick together while still being individuals. Too bad Hummel and the girls come to this through Gaga while most of the guys align with hard rock to insure that their disco sticks point straight. Something tells me Gaga found her disco stick by studying both Madonna and Kiss.

Comments

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Glee's "Theatricality"

Actually I think the show did just fine with the racial dimension. Finn was shown behaving in a homophobic manner, as was Azimio. One of them is black and one is white, but they are both young, still figuring these things out, and way subject to social pressures. Kurt's dad, in contrast is older and is a straight man who has had the experience of coming to terms with his own son's homosexuality.

If you are suggesting that the correct approach would be never to have a black character be crude or violent, that is dangerously PC in ways that we should avoid at all costs. Most importantly, the show depicted Finn becoming more enlightened. Since (I think) he's depicted as a leader and a role model, that could have an impact on the other male students that could ultimately transcend racial boundaries.

I see this storyline as mostly positive, with good possibilities for further development as the season continues.

Actually I think the show

Actually I think the show did just fine with the racial dimension. Finn was shown behaving in a homophobic manner, as was Azimio. One of them is black and one is white, but they are both young, still figuring these things out, and way subject to social pressures.

Actually, I find it pretty problematic. For starters, white homophobia and black homophobia is not "read" the same way in society. White homophobes are individuals, with NAMES. Black homophobes are not depicted this way. RE: Prop 8. Unless one lives under a rock, it's pretty hard to make that statement. Black folks being painted as more homophobic than whites serves two purposes: it stigmatizes an already stigmatized group of folks and more importantly it ERASES our own queer folks.

There is nothing about this show that suggests Murphy has any grasp of racial dynamics except to how to trade in hurtful tropes. Why is he entitled to the benefit of the doubt in terms of RACE as a white male. There's no indication he's got his stuff together in that regard anymore so than he does on other -isms such as Transphobia.

He does not get a pass.

"In real life as in Grand Opera, Arias only make hopeless situations worse." - Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

but wasn't there a white kid

but wasn't there a white kid also attempting to beat up kurt/tina? there was lots of high fiving and such?

Yes, but

Hi Anonymous,

Yes, I think there was also a white football player who wanted to beat up Kurt, but that's not really the point. The point is, as snarkysmachine pointed out above, that black homophobia and white homophobia are read differently.

Also, the main white character who expressed homophobia (Finn) was portrayed as learning a valuable, transformative lesson (which isn't a bad thing or anything) while the main black character who expressed homophobia (Azimio) remained ignorant and homophobic.

Kelsey Wallace, Web Editor

____________
Kelsey Wallace, contributor

Ask me about our Comments Policy!

Yes, but

Exactly, Kelsey. I was going to chime in with snarkysmachine's comments, but you covered it. Also, I'll point out that while both a black and white football player physically threatened Kurt, Azimio was the louder, more vocal of the two and used explicitly homophobic language. I'd have to review the episode again, but the white jock (whose name I didn't catch) basically serves as back-up for Azimio's actions and behavior.

Of course, this representation speaks to a whole host of problems with regard to cultural assumptions around black heterosexual hypermasculinity and homophobia.

Alyx Vesey

Truly! Black male homophobia

Truly! Black male homophobia is often depicted as more vectored towards preserving of the myth of black male animalistic heterosexuality more so than an examination of homophobia itself. I find that incredibly problematic. It serves a variety of purposes including: erasure the real issue of homophobia, framing homosexuality as "white" in order to evoke sympathy while devaluing the struggle for sexual identity acceptance and the worst is seeking to flatten differing experiences with oppression in a misguided and problematic attempt to equate them. "See, they do it too!"

"In real life as in Grand Opera, Arias only make hopeless situations worse." - Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

Blowing up the issue

First off, I would like to state that I am personally both gay and white and both of those attributes may on some level color my opinion, but I honestly do think that making a fuss over a black guy being a homophobe in this episode blows the issue way out of proportion.

I won't deny that stereotyping can be a major issue and that African Americans often bear the brunt of such (negative) stereotyping. As an extension of that, I also won't contest that homophobia among white men is perceived differently than homophobia among black men. However, I would contest that having one black homophobe on a show that has also shown plenty of white guys displaying homophobic tendencies lends it a 'problematic racial dimension' is a somewhat absurd exaggeration of political correctness.

There are plenty of black homophobes out there. Just like there are plenty of white, asian, latino or freakin' Aboriginal homophobes out there. Pretending that not to be the case solves nothing. What exactly are television makers (and other media) supposed to do? Never ever show a black man displaying some negative character traits because it might lead to stigmatization? That would be kind of ridiculous, wouldn't you agree?

Now, if "Glee" had consistently shown black guys as homophobes or criminals and white guys as saints I'd be inclined to agree with you, but that is hardly the case. This was just one isolated scene in which the bully happened to be black. He might just as easily have had any other skin color though. To me at least, this issue seems to be more molehill than mountain.

Ravon, What you fail to

Ravon,

What you fail to understand is that this community has hated Glee since the day it started. It's always making a mountain out of a mole hill. It's easy to ignore that the other football player gay bashing was white, because obviously the black guy's lines were far more homophobic and agressive than the prop-piece white guy's. "Crip drag" was griped about for weeks, completely throwing out the normal "ableism" argument that special treatment for disabled people denigrates them, by ignoring the possibility that either no disabled actors auditioned, or God forbid, weren't as talented as the guy that can walk when he's not in character. We've heard complaints about stereotyping, even though through these characterizations we see different facets of real and deeper characters. We've heard complaints about a very real struggle for a father to come to terms with his son's homosexuality (because we know that a parent that grew up socially indoctrinated that gay was somehow "wrong", could instantly deprogram and totally embrace their child's sexuality or they're a bad parent) as being homophobic and wrong, and no parent ever has trouble with their children being sexual whether straight or gay. I'm genuinely surprised the fat acceptance crowd didn't take issue with Mercedes starving herself for Cheerios, or that her halucinations were of junk food were a clearly classist stab at the black community only being able to afford junk food. Bitch hates Glee, and they'll nitpick anything they can to make this show out to be something straight off of MTV or Spike...

And as for the person that said the principal was paying more attention to dress code than the intimidation, did you actually see any adult witness the harassment or was it after school, in isolated places. Damn that principal for playing a comedic role, and not being omniscient to the abuse taking place in his school. We know that bullying never takes place under the radar or behind the scenes. Give me a break~

Not really...

If I hated Glee, I wouldn't be watching and writing about it. In fact, I like the show a lot but have also noticed quite a few missteps and downright offenses, and because the show is so popular and watchable, I think it's important that we not turn a blind eye to them. My intention is not to "nitpick anything;" I find that the problems are often completely overt. I'll bet many of the community members participating in these dialogues share my feelings.

I'm genuinely surprised the fat acceptance crowd didn't take issue with Mercedes starving herself for Cheerios, or that her halucinations were of junk food were a clearly classist stab at the black community only being able to afford junk food.
Say! It seems that you've noticed some problems, too. Why not participate in our discussions instead of arguing against their existence?

Relax, take it easy

Maybe he doesn't participate because he was obviously being sarcastic... If you try really hard you can seen a problem in just about anything; take offense at even the most sweetly voiced compliment. In that case, however, the problem lies with the person perceiving the insult, not with the world at large.

Take the argument about Rachel's dads supposedly being portrayed as unfit parents just because they can't sow. Personally, I honestly don't know where people get an idea like that. Rachel's dads have never been portrayed as bad parents, in fact quite the opposite is true. From what we've heard about them on the show so far, the implication has always been that they are wonderful, warm, supportive parents.

All the comment about them not being able to sow is, is exactly that; they happen to be lousy with needle and thread. Hence, Rachel needed someone else to make her dress. It's only natural for her to turn to her newfound mom in that case. And let's face it, most men don't know how to sow. That's not gender bias, that's just reality. All things being equal perhaps that shouldn't be the case, but as long as it is, it does no good to pretend that it isn't.

Likewise, Mercedes starving herself for Cheerios wasn't a problem either. That's to say, the suggestion you have to starve yourself to be popular obviously is, but since that is far too common a sentiment among teenage girls, it is good to adress it on a show like Glee, targetted at just that audience. Let's not forget that in the end Mercedes rejected that particular notion and quit the Cheerios because she didn't want to be popular at all cost, sending a positive message, rather than a negative one.

As far as the 'classist stab at the black community only being able to afford junk food' is concerned, well, that is probably the most sarcastic comment of all. Mercedes hallucinating about junk food has nothing to do with her being black. It has everything to do with her being a teenager. How many teens (of any cultural or racial heritage) do you know who, if they were going to hallucinate about food at all, would hallucinate about Brussels sprouts?

The point of those comments was exactly the one I opened this post with. It's not that difficult to take offense were none need be taken. Of course ineqaulities exist in this world that shouldn't exist. Of course there are malicious stereotypes out there that should be combatted. Getting angry about every perceived slight doesn't make the world a better place though; just a pissed off one.

I'll try one more time

Yes, I'm aware s/he was employing sarcasm -- as was I, with my final question -- but that's beside the point. If you believe there's nothing gender-essentialist about Rachel's statement, "My dads can't sew; I need a mom!" that's your right, and you're welcome to argue your viewpoint when the subject comes up, or not to, as is your choice. The "you're oversensitive/it's just a show/you just want to be offended/don't you have something better to do/you must be prejudiced because you hate X" routine, however, is an unhelpful silencing tactic that disrespects others' opinions -- not to mention, it's explicitly against Bitch rules. (http://bitchmagazine.org/comments-policy)

Maybe it didn't come across in my last comment; my point is this: if you disagree with a point made, explain why. If you don't understand the need for the argument, leave it alone and respect our right to have it, because obviously we do think there's a need. Don't just jump in to call us a bunch of oversensitive Glee-haters (or say, ahem, that we all need to calm down.) As the web crew often says: Attack the comment, not the commenter.

Than this will be my last as well

I really didn't mean to be disrespectful of the opinions of others, nor was it my aim to resort to silencing tactics. Though on that matter, isn't asking someone to leave an argument alone just because he/she seeks to argue that there is no need for that argument just as much of a silencing tactic? Obviously you do think there is a need, yes, but that does not vacate my right to try and convince you or anyone else that perhaps there might not be, after all. Just like you have every right to try and convince me of the opposite.

I'm also not saying that you, as you put it 'just want to be offended' and just need to calm down, or anything of the sort. The title of my last post might suggest as much, but that was really little more than a joke. I imagine there are very few people in this world who actually want to be offended. Still, for whatever reason, some people may take offense where I personally do not see the need for it and as I said above, I am entirely entitled to both have and argue that opinion. Or I should be anyway.

That is all I was trying to do here. All I was trying to do was to point out that there's always a different point of view to consider, which everyone is than of course free to either accept or dismiss. Perhaps I use overly strong language or blanket statements sometimes, but if and when I do, it only serves to emphasize a point; not to insult or personally attack. If anyone read it that way, I do apologize.

Anyway, this is the last I will say on this matter. Either accept my best intentions or not, it's entirely up to you. I for one wish you all well and thoroughly enjoyed reading your opinions, even if I do not nessecarily agree with them.

PS I was aware of the fact that you knew s/he was being sarcastic and were being sarcastic in return. Seriously responding to such things is just part of my odd sense of humor.

A Question for Snark

I thought your comment was really interesting and, in many ways, spot on. But I was wondering if you could expound on the idea a little bit. While I agree with you that black homophobia is read differently, I was wondering how that pertains to gendered idea of "black homophobia?" There's perhaps a strong juxtaposition of opinions between Azimio and the character Mercedes, no? Certainly the show implies a shared sense of disenfranchisement between Kurt and Mercedes and the characters often are a reflection for one another in their search for acceptance (e.g. both joining the Cheerios).

Would love to hear your thoughts.

I don't think there is a

I don't think there is a "shared disenfranchised" with Kurt and Mercedes. While they both have lived experiences as marginalized identities to suggest a commonality based on that erases the ways intersectionality plays out in their lives. Kurt benefits from white privilege and Mercedes benefits from class privilege and that does effect how they navigate the world and how it views them.

"In real life as in Grand Opera, Arias only make hopeless situations worse." - Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

not really impressed

I'll preface my comment by saying I am not a regular watcher of "Glee." however, I did see last night's episode and while I appreciated some things, like Kurt's dad's appropriate anger concerning use of the word "faggy," I was upset about others.

namely, I had a problem with the suggestion that Rachel's two gay dads weren't adequate parents because they didn't know how to sew, a role that could only be filled by Rachel's "mother," who admitted herself that she wasn't really Rachel's "mom." while the people behind "Glee" might think themselves progressive for including multiple gay characters, I am frustrated that they don't seem to recognize that last night they reinforced the belief that many opponents of gay marriage/adoption have: gay parents can never be as good as straight parents because kids need support and guidance from two different genders in order to be raised best.

and, similar to what Alyx said, I was also a little dismayed that the only male member of the glee club who liked Gaga was Kurt, who in all the episodes I have seen is a stereotypical, sometimes even caricatured, representation of the Gay Male. and I was irked by even subtle, probably unintentional but no less significant moments, like when Mr Schuester told the kids to applaud "the guys" for their performance of a KISS song. Kurt had previously sung with the girls and was thus not up on stage with the other boys, so Mr Schuester's designation seemed to reinforce inaccurate associations of homosexuality with gender inversion.

all in all, "Glee" just seems too inconsistent with its messages concerning "hot" topics like queer issues, teen pregnancy, disability, and racial and gender politics for me to really praise it.

THANK YOU

that whole 'i need my mom to sew for me' thing was terrible! homophobic in the way you outlined, and also totally sexist in its gender essentialism.

anyway, when i was in high school, both my parents worked full-time - if i wanted a weird outfit, it was up to me to sew myself!

Yep

While I liked the episode overall -- Burt's scene brought me to tears -- I had those exact problems. Sewing, what? You hit the nail on the head regarding that silliness. As for the Kiss vs. Gaga plotline (which was strange in the first place because I'd hardly call Kiss an exemplification of traditional masculinity OR a counterpart to Lady Gaga) I was surprised that it ended where it did. Puck and Finn were the only ones we saw act dismayed over the assignment, then during the "Bad Romance" number, it cuts back several times to show Artie and Mike looking thrilled before finally giving them an ovation. I thought they were setting up a scene in which some of the boys would speak up against the rough categorization by gender, and against Finn speaking for them, and I was looking forward to it. Then it never happened.

Getting back to Burt speaking out against Finn...I was horrified to wake up this morning to find Glee forums overflowing with support for Finn's homophobic rant. I can't even tell you how many people seem to be saying that Finn was in the right, completely or except for the "fag" word, for condemning Kurt's "creepy gayness," and that Burt was mean or unfair for yelling at him. Incredibly disheartening.

Kurt's creepy gayness...

I'm actually annoyed with Kurt's behavior in this episode. He functions socially with the girls and hatches these little Machiavellian plots against his rivals but suddenly he's captain oblivious when it comes to Finn? Rachel's crush on Finn gave her a little more vulnerability and depth as a character but it seems like Kurt's is just being exploited to provoke someone usually Finn every time they want to do a show about gay issues or personal expression.

So much good discussion here

So much good discussion here! First off, I really appreciate am.sollenberger's mention that Rachel's parents fail as dads (and maybe, in the Glee universe, unseen avatars of gay stereotyping) because they can't sew. If we find out that Corcoran put together the Vocal Adrenaline costumes herself, and thus really is a good mom, I'll vomit. If she and Will Schuester marry and give Rachel a happy, "normal" home, hopefully I will long have stopped watching the show. Did we all catch how Schuester told Corcoran that Rachel was fragile and he wasn't sure she was ready to be a mom? Ugh. 

As for TheBadAssMuppet's comments about whether Kiss is "an exemplification of traditional masculinity OR a counterpart to Lady Gaga," I want to be clear in saying that I believe the show sets up this reading and that it's not something I'd necessarily argue outside the context of "Theatricality." While I do maintain that Kiss uphold cock rock's heteronormativity -- most notably through Gene Simmons's persona as a rock casanova, their phallocentric/pyrotechnic stage shows, and in love songs like "Beth" -- the make-up, sci-fi references, and Paul Stanley's Broadway career trouble this reading.

In addition, Gaga has declared her love of hard rock and I've long believed Kiss's glam theatricality in the 70s to be analogous with David Bowie's set-up and emphasis on high concept during the Ziggy Stardust days. Plus Kiss turned merchandising into an plastic art form that Gaga's beloved Andy Warhol may have admired. I may wrong about Gaga's fandom, but I wouldn't be surprised if she liked them. My hunch is that she identifies most with the Star Child.

Also, BadAssMuppet, who is supporting Finn's homophobic rant?!?!? Ack! I haven't run into this sort of commentary online yet and am worried about opening that door. Yikes!

Finally, I'd like to thank scrumby for admitting annoyance with Kurt's behavior, as it's something I hoped to allude to here but was fearful my words might be misinterpreted as homophobic. I feel Kurt's loneliness and despair, thought cringe at the thought of making him a tragic character. That said, I feel like the show's handling of Kurt's feelings is bungled to be kind and rightly described as Machiavellian at worst.

Alyx Vesey

Finn was right, up to a point

Obviously, Finn's use of the "fag" word was inexcusable and it should never be used to suggest that, as Burt said, being gay is wrong, a punishable offense. If anything, use of that word is the punishable offense. Up to that point Finn's rant wasn't about Kurt's 'creepy gayness' though; merely about his general creepiness.

Kurt's behavior towards Finn has been more than a little stalkerish and manipulative. Kurt is constantly manoeuvering himself, Finn, his father and Finn's mother to force himself into Finn's proximity and once there, he keeps trying to push Finn into liking him in a way the straight guy never could. He even basically says as much in his comment about making their new room represent what "I want you to be".

Kurt's romantic advances are more than a little pushy and intrusive and not seldom border on sexual harrasment. The level of manipulation and invasion of personal space he displays is just simply not acceptable regardless of gender or sexual preference.

Disagree

I'm going to tread carefully here, because the accusation of sexual harassment has been made, and I don't want it to seem that I don't take that seriously.

If you will, though, imagine this:
A teenage girl has a crush on a teenage boy. She looks forward to the time she spends with him, unsuccessfully attempts to flirt a few times, and during a school assignment in which she sings to the class, she looks at him for a few seconds.
The boy responds by yelling this at her: "What is wrong with you?! I can tell you like me, and that's disgusting! Why can't you accept that I'll never like you?! Why can't you just act like other girls and hide all your feelings?! I hate that they're sometimes noticeable!" and moves on to name-calling and throwing her possessions.

Do you really think anyone would be defending him? Suppose the boy in my scenario is gay and feels he could never like the girl romantically, or that it's a boy with a crush and a girl who yells. Still inappropriate, no?

I honestly don't think Finn's blow-up had any relation to concerns about his own safety. Even without the f-word, it was hatred of gayness and effeminate males, plain and simple, amplified by a perceived threat on Finn's self-imagined he-man reputation. "Finn's rant wasn't about Kurt's 'creepy gayness?'" Then why was it about Kurt's room being unsuited for a "real guy" and Kurt being too open about who he is?

To be honest, I find the "stalker" accusations awfully homophobic, too, regardless of the sexuality of the person saying them. I fail to see how he's "constantly manoeuvering himself, Finn, his father and Finn's mother to force himself into Finn's proximity and once there, he keeps trying to push Finn into liking him in a way the straight guy never could" when so far as we know, his entire engagement with the parents' romance was to say a sentence to introduce them. As for the decorating situation, I honestly believe it was entirely in line with Kurt's pre-established personality. Can you imagine him not trying to decorate any of his friends' bedrooms, and in such a way that it demonstrates what he feels would be their ideal persona, given the chance? Sure, it's obnoxious, but I wouldn't call it "creepy." (Not to mention, it was the privacy screen, an attempt to respect Finn and make him feel secure, that prompted the shouting, because, oh noez, the barrier was too "girly.")

Do I wish this storyline would end? Yes, because Finn's boring, and I'd like to see Kurt have feelings for someone who will respect him, even if those feelings aren't returned. But even if Kurt were acting inarguably inappropriate, Finn's behavior in this scene would be 100% hateful and awful.

So I overstated a little

Ok, I'll admit I might have overstated my case here a little bit. Obviously Finn's rant did contain elements of societally nurtured homophobia. Obviously it was in no small part triggered by the perceived threat to his status as a relatively 'normal' heterosexual male. I guess all I meant to point out is that Kurt is not entirely blameless here either.

Kurt has been hitting on Finn even though the straight guy has pointed out on earlier occasions that he wasn't interested; he has been clingy and pushy and he absolutely has also been manipulative. Perhaps his only involvement in getting Burt and Carole together, for example, was merely to introduce them, but he definitely did do so with the intention of getting closer to Finn.

Take these unwanted advances and yes, throw in a little bit of homophobia that is nearly inevitable in a teenage male from a small community and Finn's outburst, while inexcusable, is at least somewhat understandable. Finn was definitely being very disrespectful of Kurt's sexuality in this episode, but it bears keeping in mind that Kurt hasn't been exactly respectful of Finn's either.

Kurt has been trying to make Finn into somebody he's not and that gets really grating, really fast. The room was just the last straw. That doesn't make Finn's behaviour right, but I'd sooner chalk this up as a learning experience for both of them than as malicious intent.

So, yes, my initial post was too harshly phrased, I'll agree. Finn deserves a lot of blame here, but there are some mitigating circumstances.

First, please ignore this

First, please ignore this comment if I misunderstood anything; english is nor my mothertongue neither the first I learned at school. As I am not a long time reader of Bitch, and as I do not know the series (no TV), I may be missing some important points.

I was just a bit shocked by something written above:

Pointedly, the guys perform as a band instead of a vocal ensemble, showcasing their phallic and technical mastery over traditional rock instrumentation and enforcing their heterosexual masculinity.

Okay, I do know that the use of technology is related to male dominance in the patriarchal system (i.e. the use of the vacuum cleaner over the broom), so that in a way the use of an amplified instrument is more male-related than the use of vocals. But I feel it weird to see amplified instruments, and therefore amplified music, directly giving the clue of straightness, as would be definitely relevant to count this "technology" thing (any music instrument is technologic, so as a technologic novelty a saxophon in the 19th century was already a piano in the 17th), to determine orientation.Otherwise, it would mean that all gay, bi, trans men or straight women have to abandon "rock instrumentation". Or that if they love noise they are heterosexual.
Of course, a pop culture element stays on a pop culture level: what's phallic in a pop culture serie is really phallic, and I do not think there is one TV show in the world which hasn't its part of homophobic representations. But to read there that because I love instruments and technology I am straighter than singers make think we are missing the point of what music is about, expresssing feeling and ideas. The fact that loving identified "gay" music is important for the identity is obvious, but I don't think it works reverse. In music like in all arts, the most important is not the media, even if all media are not accessible to all people the same way (like have a drumkit in a small flat is a bit harsh and means that most of rock bands would be middle or upper class, in fact less and less proletarian). The most important is the music made, and what it says, in words as in sounds. Sorry I am certainly overreacting, but I read it four or five times before writing anything and I'm still upset, not at you, but at this idea that the way you build music is less important than the music audience or the technology used and that where you are going is not determining what you use.

I won't ignore this . . .

Let me clarify, Theo van. I'm not encouraging a reading that amplifcation technology and rock instrumentation is to be coded as straight and masculine at all. But I do think Glee endorsed this exact line of thinking in "Theatricality." I am arguing that Glee is perpetuating regressive cultural assumptions around the gender and sexual politics of popular music. I was specifically discussing how the show upheld cultural stereotypes around the gendering of pop and rock music as feminine and masculine. I brought up the binary specifically to criticize it.

For what it's worth, I don't think there's anything inherently wrong with all-male bands and all-female vocal groups (or vice versa). Nor do I think playing an instrument means you're a more legitimate musician than if you "just" sing. I think it's context-specific, but I wish Glee didn't so clearly adhere to this binary in the episode, especially since the only male Lady Gaga fan was an efeminate gay male teenager. Why couldn't Santana play guitar on "Shout It Out Loud" with the boys? Why couldn't Puck sing "Bad Romance" with the girls?

I wrote what you quoted above specifically in relation to Kiss, who were a hard rock act associated with cock rock, a term which should make its own phallocentrism obvious. Kiss, along with AC/DC and Led Zeppelin, emphasized the electric guitar as a physical and metaphorical extension of the musician's body. These acts were bookened by The Who and Jimi Hendrix in the 60s and a host of heavy metal bands in the 80s. That the straight boys in Glee are in a band together playing music by a band so closely identified with cock rock and the girls are in a vocal group again enforces the idea that girls are only singers and boys display instrumental mastery.

It should be noted, however, that many folks have attempted to queer rock music's emphasis on phallocentric mastery and thus destabilize its assumed heterosexual masculinity. David Bowie did this rather famously by simulating a blow job on Mick Rock's guitar while he was playing. Some queercore band tapped into rock's tension between homoerotic imagery and homophobic panic. Pansy Division most immediately come to mind with their cover of Spinal Tap's "Big Bottom" and album For Those About to Suck Cock, which takes its name and cover art from AC/DC's For Those About to Rock We Salute You. Finally, as I mentioned in a previous entry about the teen dramedy Degrassi, some female guitarists are lesbian or bisexual and shred just as much as the straight boys.  

Alyx Vesey

bullying and violence

I have been watching Glee since it began, and have become more and more appalled at how the show is devolving, reinforcing stereotypes, marginalizing already oppressed groups, and the moral is always "be yourself and stand up for who you are and everything will be okay".

In this episode, I was especially disappointed in how the school bullying was handled and by who. First of all, the straight, white, male character saves the queer character from being bullied. And because Finn challenged gender norms, it was taken as more legitimate than Kurt challenging gender norms. Additionally, there were no parallels to how the threat of physical and verbal violence (physical/verbal assault, murder, rape), based on sexuality and gender identity are a reality for LGBTQ community. The show makes light of school bullying like it isn't the same thing. At the end of the episode, Mr. Shuester and the other students were like "Phew, glad that's done with" as if the issue will never come up again, and Kurt will never have to face the threat of violence again.

"Stand up for who you are and everything will be okay"

While I agree that throughout most of the series, the theme has been "be proud of who you are," am I the only one who thought that message was blatantly missing from Glee two weeks ago in the "Dream On" episode? (If you haven't see it, spoiler alert.)

Specifically, I am referring to the show's treatment of the character Artie, who is a wheelchair user. In the episode, Artie reveals that his greatest dream is to be a dancer and the reaction he gets is "okay, well, let's get you out of that wheelchair so you can dance!" He spends half of the episode dreaming that he will one day regain use of his legs, only to be dissappointed when he is pointed back to reality--his spinal cord injury ensures he will never walk again. The episode ends with Artie sitting out of a dance number because he realizes "some dreams are unachieveable" and he will never dance.
There is no mention of any form of dance other than that done by people with full use of their legs. Yes, I realize there was already a wheelchair-dancing episode, but I find it to be an ablest message... why were other forms of dancing completely ignored? This makes the dancing in the "Wheels" episode seem like a neat trick, and not a legitimate form of dance.
Let me just note that Artie simply described his dream as to be a dancer, not specifically a fully able-bodied dancer. There was no reason to omit other forms of dance except for ableist ignorance.
Am I completely off-base here?

confidance

Artie's own response was to get out of the chair to dance. Tina only brought up the therapies/cures later as a response to Artie's rejection of her original dance ideas and his desire to walk. What bothers me is how Artie's issues with his dissability status are used as an excuse to be crule to Tina.

Not off base

I haven't seen the episode in question, but even taking Artie's desire to not use a wheelchair into account, it seems ableist that the show didn't introduce the alternative of wheelchair dancing at all as a future, which seems to indicate that there's only one REAL way of "being a dancer."

"Cute" bullying and narrow spotlights

I agree that the show makes light of bullying, and Finn's intervention, while it fit with the storyline, was problematic. On the other hand, until this episode school "bullying" consisted of '80s teen flick staples like dumpster tossing and swirlies, along with the Glee-brand slushee toss, which I think undermined the seriousness of the subject. The message seemed to be, "Sure, bullying is intimidating and embarrassing, but ultimately it's a harmless part of high school culture; plus, it's oh so cute!" The one time prior to this episode that it was treated as inappropriate (and rightfully so) was when the jocks locked Artie in a bathroom.

As for the show "devolving," though, I personally think this half of the season has been far superior to the first, both from a TV and feminist standpoint. I thought the first portion revolved far too much around two white, straight love triangles and the pregnancy plotline, while this half (probably in response to its critics,) is far more about the characters belonging to minorities. The problem, of course, is that it spends *way* too much time focusing on the fact that that they *are* minorities. Much as I've liked all of Kurt's story arcs, I hate that they've *all* been related to his sexuality (even when they really shouldn't be treated as such, like his personality clashing with his father's.) Weirdly, even Quinn's role has become all about her pregnancy. Great to see Tina have something to do this week, but if she's going to make jokes about her ethnicity, presumably she belongs to a group or groups more specific than "Asian."

the show devolving and bullying

"Devolving" may not have been the correct word in this case. I have not watched the first half of the season since it ended, and perhaps I need to watch it again for better analysis. I feel that the second half of the season is targeting specific "issues" (gender norms, sexuality, disability, sex, womyn's rights) in a problematic way and passing it off as progressive or challenging society, when it is still pretty much in line with mainstream ideology (as many of the previous comments deconstructing different scenes in this episode have done). While the first half of the show was problematic, I felt the story line was more about the characters and the story than an attempt at social commentary that the second half of the season is becoming.

With my comments about bullying, I was specifically discussing the bullying against Kurt, because of his sexuality. Many in the Glee Club get teased and bullied because they are in the club, but Kurt gets targeted and bullied due to his sexuality as well, but in the show its treated the same as the bullying against other students. This brings up a much more serious issue as the threat of violence against the queer community is present in spaces outside of school, and outside of teenage years as well. It is unfortunate that the principle of the school is taking this matter as seriously as the way Tina dresses.

I'd have to review the

I'd have to review the episode again, but the white jock (whose name I didn't catch) basically serves as back-up for Azimio's actions and behavior.