is Glee for real or are we all getting taken for a ride?
Even if it is a wheelchair chase kind of ride with three double spins thrown in, I am not at all sure what to make of last night’s episode. Artie was sincere and sweet enough, and there was something really refreshing about the spotlight on disabilities and the other abilities they allow. While the “look how hard it is to ride in his chair” montage could have been extended to emphasize more than the difficulties of securing lunch food and avoiding low-swinging bookbags, I loved watching the cast members wheel themselves around with nary a suggestion that there was anything particularly unusual going on. And I really loved watching Artie wheel hop across the stage during his “Dancing with Myself” solo. But the revelation of Sue’s disabled older sister left me flabbergasted. Like Shu, we all suspect Sue is up to any number of nefarious schemes when she puts Becky on the Cheerios. I was left wondering just how controversial and un-PC the show was willing to be, taking on disabilities through Sue’s sadistic methods. Though I loved the scene with Sue and Becky at their own private practice – in that regard, Sue was so much more right than Shu, tempering her sadism with just enough actual regard and concern for Becky that one could really imagine how profound such an approach to disabilities could be: equal treatment and regard with accommodation made where necessary.
So why, I am wondering, did I feel so manipulated when we learned that Sue is actually a real character – not just a caricature – and that all it took was the right kind of trigger to show her soft side? I think it has to do with my uncertainty about the show’s plot verses quirky side-show nature. If this is the beginning of a plot arc where we are asked to think of Sue as more than a hilarious, well-scripted monster, or the beginning of a plot arc where we are asked to pay attention to the way abilities and disabilities structure everyday experience, then I am intrigued but a little wary of the sentimentalism that always seems to lurk behind those corners. But if this is just another one-off “let’s deal with an issue” episodes, which we will all forget when Becky is never mentioned again and Sue goes back to being her old self, then I feel even more manipulated – like the writers just threw in a sister with Downs to drive home a point about disabilities. The point was a good one and one that could be made more often: that diabilities is only something to fear because we don’t know it. Get to know someone with a disabilities, love them, live with them, and you’ll see that it is no different than any other relationship. But it doesn’t seem fair to do that with a character like Sue unless we are going to be asked to think of her as a real character. Which means we are back to the discussion from a few weeks ago: is Glee taking a turn to real narrative and connected plot lines, or is it still experimenting with strange, quirky, musical number parody tropes?
I will leave it to you to talk about the diva-off between Kurt and Rachael, and the screen time for Kurt and his dad (if you want to, that is). So much to say, but I have rambled on too long as it is.
Just for our tracking: Mercedes is denied the main female lead again, this time with an explicit though not very well justified rejection. The count down to sectionals may be on, but I am counting down to her spotlight.
I do wish I had one of those cupcakes though…
I too left last night’s episode with some ambiguous feelings wondering, “do I really like this show? Is it doing something really interesting or is it just silly?” And, like you, I’m still trying to figure it out. It has these terribly un-PC moments that then get wrapped up with a balance of humanity. I’m never sure if it’s offensive, idiotic or honest. And so the messiness of it does emulate life in a way I find both uncomfortable and refreshing…but then I wonder if I’m just giving it too much credit.
Like you, I was struck especially by the Sue/Becky/Sue’s sister, Jean, story. I wondered if something like that was about to happen when Sue snapped to Shu that he really doesn’t know her at all. And we keep getting these glimpses of Sue’s humanity as the shadow explanation behind whatever monster type thing she’s done that week. What I’m longing for, though, is for these shadows to connect. Why keep repeating the same trope – she’s a monster…no wait, she’s human…no wait, she’s a monster… – if those human moments aren’t going to add up into something more, into some sort of narrative that moves us somewhere? That being said, Jane Lynch played that scene with her sister so perfectly, I found myself a little choked up with her. As she subtly held back her own tears, beginning to read the story we imagine she’s read a thousand times before, I found her humanity shocking and in its shock, beautiful. And the use of Little Red Riding Hood wasn’t an obvious metaphor for anything really, and yet I found it so poignant in its lack of obvious reference and consequent surplus of meaning – it functioned simply as a snapshot of real, beautiful and complex life…and that was only possible because of Lynch’s genius acting ability.
Yes – again, no Mercedes. I am seriously sick of this! I gasped when Mr. Shu told her he’d find something for her to dip in chocolate – which just seemed dirty to me, and terribly inappropriate for a teacher to say to a student. But then, we had the preview for next week with Shu and Rachel’s crush and I found myself excited to see his own inappropriate behaviour with the students come back to bite him on the ass. It remains true, though, that I find myself always excited more for ‘next week’s episode’ than I do for the one I’ve just watched – the previews always seem to promise more than they end up delivering!
Kurt and Rachel intrigued me much less than Kurt and his dad, which I continue to find to be a lovely arc. Kurt’s dad is trying so hard, and it was good to see Kurt try back in a way that didn’t undermine being out of the closet, but did seek to ease the transition for his father. The thing I love about Kurt and his dad is that they’re both trying to put the other ahead of themselves and it creates a genuine bond of love between them, as well as a mature and profound sense of moral agency in Kurt himself. I was left wondering though how in the world Kurt could afford an Alexander McQueen sweater – I could barely afford his line when it was at Target…if Kurt’s got that kind of $$ kicking around, surely he could have helped much more practically with the bus situation.
Which leads me to one more gendered read of the show – last night we had an expansion of the storylines of women with secrets. First we have Terri with her secret fake-pregnancy. Then we get Emma’s secret love. Quinn’s secret pregnancy and lies about the father. Last night we learn that Tina fakes her stutter (that was a heartbreaking scene!). And, one secret that’s sweet – Sue’s sister. But why are all these women so duplicitous?! And with the men we have this arc of needing to find money – Shu needs to raise the funds for the bus , and Fin and Puck both find various (also duplicitous) ways to get the money together for their kid (as Shu has had to do in the past). I’m not sure yet if this is just a recycling of plot-lines, or if something more interesting is going on here that will play itself out over the course of the whole season. Women and secrets; men and money – they’ve developed as themes all along and I’m curious to see where they go.
Ok, favourite line in the whole episode – Artie saying to Tina, “I want to be very clear. I still have the use of my penis”. It’s moments like that that make the show for me!
Let me know if you track down any of those cupcakes – at a buck a piece, they sure were a steal!