Drug Testing for the Glee Club?
We’ve been talking about how Dexter’s exhaustion lets us peek into his sub-conscious (for the conversation on Dexter see, here). What fun to see a similar thing happen tonight in Glee! When Fin becomes the gateway to the glee-club’s pseudoephedrine addiction, his insomnia is caused by the pressures he feels to perform for others, as well as the internal angst he feels as he is torn between two girls. But why do the rest of the boys take it? Seemingly, to be like Fin! And why do the girls take it? To be like (and beat) the boys!
In the end it all comes down to the gendered competition, the precise nature of which is revealed in Rachel’s song-and-dance intro speech. The boys take the drug because of inner angst caused by external pressures (and interestingly enough, they perform, quite literally, Fin’s own personal problem – a mash-up of a hyper-masculinized desire to live one’s own life while confessing to knocking up a girlfriend). The girls criticize this internal focus, instead taking the pressure Rachel puts on herself and turning it outwards to God and country: “If there are two things America needs right now, it is sunshine and optimism. Also, angels”. Hilarious!
Eventually we realize that they’ve all been performing the gendered battle between Terri and Will, though. Of course it’s easy to blame Terri for the kids taking drugs – she gives them to them! But Principle Figgins is right: it’s Will who created the culture of competition that caused the kids to want to take them in the first place. Once again, Terri seems evil, only to end up being not so bad as we think – did you like me think she actually made a lot of sense as she called our sweet little Emma for what she really is: a woman so innocent she’d steal a man away from his pregnant wife without ever seeming to be in the wrong.
And so my own little mash-up to conclude things – everything else I wish we had time to discuss but don’t! Two weeks in a row we get jokes about mixed-race kids (Chenoweth’s mixed-race twins and the threat of Ken’s fondue-pot nationality-caused genetic problems). I don’t want to be too sensitive, but as a mixed-race kid myself, I’m starting to notice an uncomfortable pattern here. I have to wonder if a racially charged climate surrounding our own mixed-race president is creating a small surge of this type of humour. We should pay attention to if we’re seeing it elsewhere in pop culture. Also, we had lots of questions about marriage – pitted between the awkward separate lives of Emma and Ken and the all-of-a-sudden too close living of Terri and Will (which reminded me of an amazing story in Slate last year – 2 journalists attempt to live within 15 feet of each other for a full day in emulation of a Buddhist couple who does the same – for the story, see here). And while the girls’ routine thoroughly exhausted me, it must be noted that the key thing I learned from the boys was: damn that Mike Chang can dance!
With great anticipation for the ongoing gender battle – to be taken to the next level and beyond next week as Will meets his match in Sue Sylvester (I can’t wait!).
You’re right that we get a full out battle of the sexes and within the sexes this episode – but I couldn’t help but feel like the “kids take drugs to manage their exhausting lifestyles and the pressures of middle class teendom” plot line was one more gleeful sendup of the dramatic story-lines that would unravel slowly and with building ominous seriousness in a “normal” teen drama (like, say, 90210 (the old or new version), Gossip Girl (a bit more tongue-in-cheek perhaps), or even, in more innocent days, Dawson’s Creek). As I try to get my head around the strange genre mash-up of this series, this seems to be a huge part of it: take a potential drama (using drugs to get ahead, trying to get a scholarship to leave your working class roots, getting knocked up by the school’s quarterback) and turn it into either a one-episode innocent lark (taking drugs for a day – wasn’t that a wild ride! But we sure learned our lesson) or an insanely surreal twisted circus plot (the solution to a faked pregnancy – take the knocked up cheerleader’s baby!).
What is sort of fantastic is the mix-up of teen and adult drama conventions. I mean, faked pregnancy is a must-have plot device in any self-respecting day-time soap, and it is about as convincing a possibility there as it is when Terri pads her stomach with increasing layers of whatever the heck she is using to get her fluctuating waist-line. I am not entirely sure, still, what Ryan Murphy is up to, but at least part of his fun seems to be showing us just how thin the line is between juvenile melodrama and the motivations that drive the so-called adults. In fact, Rachel, with her terrifying daily routine and Terri with her “I’m not built to work five days a week” constitution are strange inverses of each other – adult responsibility and teenage immaturity misplaced by a few decades.
All of this comes to a head for me in Will, who is exactly not the fully mature, sane, responsible adult he is supposed to be and yet absolutely the most level-headed person on the show (save but for Principal Figgins, perhaps). We are supposed to look at Will and think “straight-man” – the one sane person in this loony bin. But almost every week the plot is driven by some hair-brained scheme Will hatches to try and recapture the glory of his youth or recreate it for his students.
Which brings me to your fantastic point about the dysfunctions of marriage – Will and Terri pitted against Ken and Emma. As you say, this was the heart of the gender competition all along. Even more so, Terri vs. Emma was the real drama. Terri’s nailed sweet Emma’s motivations correctly (and remember, Emma came pretty close to forcing some sort of response from Will when she asks him if she should accept Ken’s proposal). But the irony of that office scene was that Terri is in fact not the pregnant wife she claims to be! We know just what a manipulative phony she is when she makes the “hand’s off my man” speech, giving Emma’s one insufficient barb (“Will deserves better”) more heft than poor Emma could ever know.
I am going on too long and I haven’t even touched your mash-up: mixed race anxiety indeed! Definitely something to keep track of in these troubled times. The joke about Kristin Cheonwith’s washed-up past was definitely playing off the idea that there was something more desperate and bottom of the barrel since the twins were mixed race, which is pretty much the exact same humor Terri’s stab at Ken’s genes was drawing on. Something to pay attention to…
I can’t wait for next week and I pray, pray that the showdown between Sue and Will will not be a one episode object lesson. This is where the whole season should go to me – and what I’ve been hoping it would build to. Bring it on!