Mattresses Aren’t Just for Sleeping and Fornicating Anymore
Ain’t that the truth! They’re also for office-floor sleepless nights after leaving your wife and getting kicked out of Glee. So Kathryn, were you, like me, totally freaked out by Mr. Shu’s turning on Terri in the kitchen? I know what she did was awful. It was. But as Emma pointed out, her intentions were understandable. And it unnerved me a little that I found myself taking her side in the fight with Shu. All of a sudden, it made sense. She’s a little unbalanced to being with, desperate to keep his love (although, really, God knows why these women love him so – I mean, Sue’s right, his hair does look like it’s got lard in it). And things just sort of snowballed from there.
Yeah, yeah, she’s in the wrong. But when he stormed into that kitchen and viciously ripped the fake-belly off of her real belly, flung it at the stove and then backed her into the wall like he was going to hit her…he looked much too much like a wife beater for my liking. Any why, oh why, did they push the camera in for that close up of the two of them breathing heavy against each other’s faces? Why was that the most erotically charged moment we’ve seen between those two in the whole series?
Here’s the thing. Everyone hates Terri – some of the stuff I read about her on blogs and fan-boards is shockingly violent. And I began to wonder how many viewers last night cheered as Shu backed her up like that. I wondered how many times I would have to read today that a viewer wished he’d just hit her. Glee has made her so hate-worthy (although I think she’s brilliantly evil and great because of it) that the logical conclusion becomes to smack that bitch up. And this is the problem with some of the games that Glee plays.
Its characters become such parodies of themselves that they cannot become fully orbed or, if they were to do so, the consequences would be unacceptable. Terri is wretched and Mr Shu is a childish control freak; their relationship works (Terri’s right) because he feels bad about himself…their marriage is marked by such abuse in both directions, that when a real image of that abuse surfaces for a moment, it’s shocking. And it’s wrong because it can’t be taken seriously but it also can’t be played out in the humorous, playful context of the show.
And some version of this might be true of all the characters. Except that we also get these glimmers that keep me interested in this show. Last night it was during the filming of the mattress commercial for me and it lasted only a second. Kurt was running backwards through the beds, his hair flung over his face like a ‘50s teen idol, playfully beckoning at the camera to follow him as it pushed back on him. It was the first truly real moment for that kid. He wasn’t a parody of gay anymore – he was, instead, a sweet kid, living into his sexuality, figuring out how to perform it and managing to do so successfully in a flirtatious, delightful way. For a moment he was the Kurt he’s always striving to be and I wish the show would let him be.
Our sense that there’s no real plot development on this show was affirmed for me last night with the ‘last week on Glee’ section at the beginning. To be honest, the info they gave could have been given any week: Quinn’s pregnant, Terri’s faking a pregnancy, the Glee club is in danger of being dismantled. Um, that was the like first couple of weeks, right? Shouldn’t we need more specific filling in than that? No, not with this show. You can jump in at any point because it just doesn’t matter.
Ok, I’m being too negative, I know. So in addition to liking Kurt’s moment, I also liked seeing Rachel get what she wants – being the star of her own school picture – and then realizing she doesn’t want it. That was great. And while I didn’t like the Lilly Allen cover (that’s a sassy break up song, not a duet, and he wasn’t kissing that girl next door – he was doing something else to her that rhymes with ducking and, yes, my mother reads this blog so I can’t write the real word), I did like the final rendition of “Smile While Your Heart is Breaking” playing while those mean kids smiled their malicious smiles and defaced the Glee Club picture.
Ok, this is way too long – what did you think? Am I over-reacting to that kitchen scene? How do you feel going into the final next week? What are we going to do with this hiatus?
Nope, you are not over-reacting. The scene between Terri and Shu was just plain disturbing. Not only did it border on domestic violence, it was definitely the expulcation of all the angst, anxiety, and dislike that has been building against Terri. But that very disgust toward her is part of the internal contradiction of the show, which was on full display in that scene.
We’ve talked all along about how many soap operatic conventions the show is playing with, and there is nothing as obvious as the fake pregnancy line. Even I, with my limited soap opera exposure, know the trope. When I watched General Hospital a bit as a kid (with my mom in the afternoons while other siblings were napping. don’t ask) there was a fake pregnancy storyline. And when I got hooked on As the World Turns reruns while living in Zimbabwe for four months there it was again – faked pregnancy. There was something sort of amazing about Glee embracing this convention and playing up its zaniness, absurdity, and the malicious, wicked, conniving woman it requires. I can’t say it always worked, and I was as worried as anyone else about how they were going to get out of it, but on the other hand, they were up to something really interesting. Namely, asking just how far they could stretch the conventions of drama that are often campy and unconvincing but when played straight we’ll accept them. In a show like Glee and a character like Terri we had no choice but to stare the absurdity in the face.
Last night was clear proof that the show has caved to the conventions – but maybe in doing so, it took one last parting shot? The scene was disturbing, in large part, to me, because it was so forced and faked. We haven’t been given any realistic indications of a real relationship, so to see Shu wipe tears from his eyes and Terri attempt to look forlorn and abandoned clutching the door Shu had just stormed through while dramatic music swelled around her felt as forced and silly to me as the faked pregnancy. I would like to think that the creators of the show decided to play it up for all it was worth to show us that even though most viewers couldn’t stomach the absurd plotline they had created, the alternative wasn’t much more compelling.
I’m not sure I buy that generous read, however. Which brings us right back to our ongoing discussion – do the creators know what they are doing or are they just stumbling their way through the hodge-podge pastiche of a show they have created? Last night I though about the other side of this question: do we, as viewers, know what we want in such a show? As audience members do we want to have our cake and eat it too – getting the feel good buzz of a musical comedy and wacko high school drama, with all the sentimental conventions of strong plot lines, sappy romances, and clearly drawn characters? What if the show just went for it – as much zany, unconnected, flamboyent meta-c0mmentary on all the genres it is mashing up, without any regard for our delicate sensibilties as viewers? Personally, I’m not sure I’d like the result. But I’d kind of like to see it.
OK, this has become its own kind of meta-commentary and has become divorced from the particulars of last night. I promise to delve in next week and pay extra attention to Kurt’s flowing hair and to Sue’s one-liners (which have been far too far and few between for my liking).
Maybe the hiatus will give the creators a chance to pull up their pants and get serious about not being serious at all.
Ok, realizing that this is completely upending our usual protocol here, I have to respond one more time – You are so right about that scene! It was so forced and fake that I have been taken aback today by how many blogs and reviews laud Shu’s and Terri’s acting in it. It needs to be said, that if this were a scene played for real on a serious show on, say, Showtime or HBO, or even on a respected, dramatic network show, there is no way that would get characterized as good acting! It makes me wonder what it is about Glee that lets folks interpret that as great acting skill. And all I can come up with is an agreement with your meta-critique; that because Glee won’t settle on any particular form or mode of performance but instead wants to play with multiple forms, it doesn’t manage to excel at any one of them – it’s not fully a soap opera, a drama, a comedy or even a parody. It’s some weird mash-up of all of them.
And so if I were to follow one Glee trope and sing to the show something fitting, it would have to be Alison Krauss’ great song, “The Lucky One”: “You’re the lucky one always having fun, a jack of all trades and master of none. You look at the world with a smiling eye and laugh at the devil as the train goes by…Were you blessed, I guess, by never knowing which road you’re choosing? To you the next best thing to playing and winning is playing and losing.”
That being said, I do wish Glee would master one trade, at least one and, for once, play to win rather than just play for the sake of playing. I don’t need to have my cake and eat it too, but at some point I’d like to be able to have some sense of the flavour that’s on offer.
Now I’ve got that song stuck in my head!
Thanks for indulging my extra post.