Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Glee: Infuriating Fans Since 2009

Overthinking It has been making ripples across the Interwebz of late with a series of articles on one-, two-, and three-dimensional characters, most notably the Female Character Flowchart (which has its own issues, chiefly that its gigantitude arguably negates its point, but that’s not what I want to critique today). Plenty could be said about all these articles, but the point I want to pick up on is Fenzel’s remark that

If a character lacks depth and believability on the page, the actor can provide it.

Chris Colfer understands this. At this point, Kurt Hummel is by far the best thing about Glee, and it’s not because he’s written more consistently and given more interesting things to do than the other characters (although arguably he is; that creator Ryan Murphy is rewriting the gay teen experience from a perspective of both wish-fulfilment and Aesoptinum gets more evident with every episode). No, it’s because, week in, week out, Chris Colfer delivers a performance of such depth and nuance that he elevates even the weakest material. I will admit to taking a fangirl’s delight in the appearance of Harry Potter and his puppet pals in Tolerance Narnia; as ridiculous as the whole thing was, it was the least cringe-worthy aspect of last week’s episode.

That song really sucks, though. I live in a little bubble of indie, prog, and Kelly Clarkson (WHO IS THE GREATEST POP STAR OF HER GENERATION AND AS SOON AS I HAVE ANY EVIDENCE TO SUPPORT THIS ASSERTION I WILL PRESENT IT TO YOU), so my familiarity with the songs featured on the show is variable, but I like it best when they do great show tunes or interesting reinterpretations of classic pop songs. From my point of view, a lot of the music this season has been kind of terrible. It’s the missed opportunities that sting the most, though: imagine if ‘Grilled Cheesus’ had featured, instead of the not-really-relevant ‘Losing My Religion’ sung insipidly by the insipid Finn, Kurt singing XTC’s ‘Dear God’. Or Sue singing it. Or both of them singing it, as one of those neat cross-cut duets the show used to do? *dies from the thought of what might have been*

The most recent episode featured a couple of fun mash-ups, so I guess it wasn’t all bad. What was all bad was the treatment of Coach Beiste, which was a veritable shag-pile of WTF. I watched in horror as the show drained away everything I love about the walking factory of awesome that was pre-‘Never Been Kissed’ Coach Beiste. First we were invited to laugh at her in an unbelievably mean-spirited way, and then we were fed the vomitous rom-com line that every woman, whoever she is and whatever she’s accomplished, wants nothing more in life than for a boy to tell her she’s pretty – preferably in the form of a hideously patronizing pep-talk and pity-smooch from Will Douchester, who is fast becoming the show’s least likable character.

Also, she’s not gay, you know. Well, why the heck not? Kurt Hummel began life as the most flamboyant acculturation of gay male clich├ęs in TV history, and through a combination of increased airtime and brilliant acting has transformed before our eyes into the most well-rounded member of the ensemble. Why not do something similar for the gay ladies?

While I’m at it, what is this show’s problem with women, anyway? No other show literalizes the virgin/whore dichotomy so thoroughly. On the one hand, Santana and Brittany are the school bicycles, maliciously stealing the virginities of male characters Finn and Artie in between screwing every other guy in school and fooling around with each other (which is both a telling comment on the show’s portrayal of bisexuality, and the only bone thrown to the gay ladies).

However, while both Finn and Artie regret losing their virginity, they quickly get over it and certainly do not suffer in any discernible way. Contrast this with the one female character we have seen lose her virginity (since Rachel and Emma choose to stay chaste and wholesome, while Coach Beiste is actually a 40-year-old virgin – I hope she has a large and well-loved collection of vibrators). Quinn submits to pressure from Puck, who is of course promiscuous without being judged, and is punished with pregnancy, loss of her social status, and getting kicked out of her parents’ home. After spending a season paying the price for her one foray into whoredom, she has earned back her place on the virgin side of the tracks, and she’s staying there now that she’s learned her lesson. Hmmm...

That’s probably enough TV Tropes links for one blog post. (Sorry about those hours of your life you’ll never get back.) To put it succinctly:

Glee, please try harder.

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