Lessons to Unlearn from Glee – Season 3, Episode 14

You know what, show? Fuck you.

This episode is making me unaccountably angry and I’m not sure I have a full handle on why.

When I saw where things were going with Karofsky, my first instinct was to be angry because this show simply hasn’t been written well enough to ask for my emotional buy-in to that plot line. And what was especially angering is that the show got it anyway, because, what, I’m not going to feel for the kid who’s being tormented; I’m not going to get choked up when a good actor does the things he needs to do to convince you he’s in the kind of emotional pain that would lead to a suicide attempt? No, obviously, I’m going to buy in, but it’s cheap and dirty, show, because you’ve done nothing to earn my fucking tears, alright?

Yes, by the way, I got this mad crying while watching The Notebook because it’s a stupid fucking movie with a stupid fucking premise and it pulls out all the little tricks to jerk tears from one’s eyes without doing a thing to earn them. But I digress.

The problem is bigger than just this plot line. The problem is that you’ve got an incredibly talented cast. Chris Colfer, Lea Michele, Jane Lynch, and even underused Max Adler (Karofsky) are phenomenal actors, and at least three of them are amazing singers as well. My love and adoration of Naya Rivera is pretty well-established. Heather Morris and Harry Shum, Jr. – goddamn can they dance. Amber Riley? Holy hell, Amber Riley. You’re amazing. Darren Criss, my husband has a little bit of a crush on you. Which is completely justified. Mark Salling? Uh . . . call me. I could go on, because the cast is just terrific, but I think I’ll stop there. My point is that this is a collection of incredibly talented people, being backed up by some great production design, and they have you people for writers. It’s a shonda, is what it is.

You didn’t even do a good job. You brought this topic – teen depression and suicide and the bullying that often triggers it, especially as it relates to homosexuality in teens – and you fucking dropped the ball. Because you had to get in Regionals. And Finn and Rachel’s wedding. And Sue’s f-ing pregnancy, not to mention her 47th complete character turnaround. Characterization. Plot Structure. Pacing. These are Fiction Writing 101 topics. Try to learn something about them.

Oh, and maybe Quinn dies at the end but probably not? That’s the cheapest storytelling ploy in the book. Class up your fucking act.

And that little tease? That little “. . . how are we going to tell the students . . . that David Karofsky attempted suicide . . .” Just fuck you. That’s not a place to tease. Especially since why would they need to make an announcement to the student body that David Karofsky didn’t die? Wouldn’t his thankfully unsuccessful attempt at suicide be a pretty fucking private matter?! Wouldn’t his parents be involved in that discussion? I mean, this kind of thing, this total lack of connect to the fabric of reality is fine when you’re making up some fictive “tenure slot” which somehow propels a half-assed plot about Ricky Martin, but suicide? You don’t half-ass a script about fucking suicide.

Maybe I’m just emotional today. I haven’t read how this episode is being received by others; maybe I’ll read something that will change my mind. But as it stands now, I might be done with this show. I’ve got “Smash” now; I don’t need you.

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It’s Not Surprising

Wow, I’ve had a lot to say this week, haven’t I? I’ll tell you the truth – I’m procrastinating on other writing I should be doing.

There are three loosely connected things bouncing around my head right now, and that loose connection is the fundamental misunderstanding of terms when it comes to how one side of the issue (“liberal,” or, in these particular cases, “normal, rational human beings”) understand the terminology in use by the other side (“conservative,” or, in these particular cases, “crazypants.”)*

1. How come it’s okay with alleged “social conservatives” that Newt Gingrich has two ex-wives and had long-term affairs while married to at least two of them? (I mean, for all we know, he’s also cheating on Callista, but he told Marianne that Callista would be accepting of that, right?) This question comes up because social conservatives are allegedly for marriage, and therefore, they must not be in favor of adultery, right?

Well, to the extent that “social conservative” can be conflated with “strong believer in the Ten Commandments”, I suppose, but I think that conflation is not necessarily accurate. Social conservatives are in favor of protecting the status quo, and the status quo – since approximately the Industrial Revolution – is that marriage (for rich people) is an institution in which a woman fulfills a man’s needs in the home while he goes out into the world to make money and amass power. And the more power he has, the more shit he can get away with. So Newt’s done exactly that. What’s the issue?

Furthermore, apparently conservatives just hate women, as we’ll see in . . .

2. How come alleged “family values” guys are trying to make domestic violence harder to prosecute in New Hampshire? Haven’t heard of this yet? Here it is. Now, I try really hard to see both sides (or all sides) of a given issue. I might still strongly disagree with one side or another, but I try to understand why a rational human being might believe in the side I disagree with. And most of the time, I can get there. I can understand; I can even sympathize. Like, for instance, I’m pro-choice. But I really do get that if you honestly believe that life begins at conception, then yeah, abortion is murder. Of course it is. Yes, even in cases of rape. Because the fetus didn’t rape you. (On the other hand, I have no patience for arguments that don’t allow for abortion even when there is a threat to the mother’s life. Because you are allowed to kill those who are threatening your life.) Now, I think that the question of whether life begins at conception is too nebulous and philosophical to be legislated, and on a practical level, I know that abortion being illegal is dangerous for women for many, many reasons, so I still disagree with the pro-life platform, at least insofar as they are focused on legislating against abortion, but I get the position and I even have sympathy for it. And yeah, I know, a lot of the pro-life (or anti-choice) movement sounds purely like they’re invested in punishing women for having sex, and I don’t have any sympathy with that, but I know that’s not the entire story.

I can’t figure out what the entire story is with these New Hampshire bills. I just can’t imagine the other side. Let’s review. I get the abortion thing. “I’m pro-choice because when abortion is illegal, women suffer.” “Well, I’m pro-life because a fetus is a life and you can’t murder it.” Right. Both valid points.

But here we have, “I’m in favor of comprehensive protections for people who are being abused by their partners.”

“Well, I’m in favor of-” What? What’s the other side? “I’m in favor of rights for abusers?”

I just don’t see how there isn’t here a basic hatred for women.

But I don’t think that’s antithetical to what “they” really mean when they say “family values.” “Family values” may sound warm and fuzzy, but it really means a support for the rights of families to run their own affairs without government interference. And by “families,” I obviously mean, “Dad.” Dad can decide who gets what kind of education, what happens to the money he earns, and how he “disciplines” members of his family, without government interference.

(Because you and I may know that men can be abused, too, but I assure you that the authors of this legislation do not. And if you told them it happened, they’d call any man being abused by a woman a faggot.)

Another word that doesn’t mean what liberals think it means? “Choice.”

3. When the Christian right talks about how it’s a “choice” to be gay, they don’t mean it’s a choice to be attracted to members of your own sex; they mean it’s a choice of whether or not you act on it. And even us liberals or progressives or normal, rational human beings can acknowledge the basic truth of that. Your thoughts and feelings, your attractions and identity, they come from inside. How you behave is your choice.

“Homosexuality is not a choice! It’s not it’s not it’s not!”

Again, I know that being attracted to members of your own gender, and wanting sexual and/or romantic relationships with members of your own gender, is not a choice. But acting on that attraction is a choice.

Let’s give an example with which we can all agree. I’m straight. That means I am attracted to men. I’m also married. So I’ve chosen one particular man with whom to have an exclusive romantic and sexual relationship. I can’t help it if I feel attracted to another man. But I can help acting on that attraction. And I should stop myself from acting on that attraction, because I’m married, and it would be hurtful and wrong for me not to stop myself.

Now, I don’t think that acting on attractions to members of the same gender as you is wrong. So I don’t think people who are attracted to members of their own gender should choose not to act on their attractions.

But the people who talk about homosexuality being a choice do think it’s wrong, just as adultery is wrong, and for the same reason – it says so in the Bible. They’re not saying (to the extent that “they” are a monolith and that all of “them” have coherent thoughts about it) that you can choose not to be attracted. But they are saying you can choose not to act.

The difference between us and them is that we don’t think they should choose not to act and they do.

Now, it’s a hypocrisy when the same people who claim that it’s wrong to act on homosexual feelings support known adulterers like Newt for president. And it’s hypocrisy that people who claim that it’s wrong to act on homosexual feelings are adulterers, like Newt.

But it’s still important to understand what they mean by “choice,” as it is important to understand what all the terms of a debate mean to the people using them, so that our arguments do not continue to devolve into both sides shouting slogans at each other that are only comprehensible to their own side.

And a codicil –

“Open marriage” is what happens when two people who are married decide that, although they are each other’s main squeeze, they do not want to or cannot be sexually and/or romantically exclusive with each other, so they work out an agreement wherein they can have sexual and/or romantic relationships with others. Sometimes one person may take more advantage of that than the other; sometimes they decide to keep each other informed and sometimes not; sometimes the two of them develop a sexual and/or romantic relationship with a third party together, as a unit and sometimes that never happens. But the key is, they both are getting what they need in terms of sex, romance, and exclusivity (or at least they’re trying for that); it’s an arrangement that is negotiated beforehand and agreed upon by all parties for the benefit of all parties.

What Newt Gingrich demanded of his second wife was not an “open marriage.” He just wanted to be able to keep a mistress without her getting all up in his grill about it. I know she used that term but she’s an old lady and probably, um, not very cosmopolitan in her awareness of non-traditional relationships. But the journalists who keep using the term wrong know better, or should.

 

*No, I don’t think “conservative” is always synonymous with “crazypants”! But in these three cases, the connection seems to be there.

Lesson to Unlearn from Glee – Season 3, Episode 7

Look at how timely I’m being!

The lesson: By “we want you to be yourself,” we mean “we want to decide who you are and how you express it, and if you don’t like our definitions or methods, it’s because you hate yourself.” Look, this was a Glee classic in terms of presenting a totally bonehead, asshole, ridiculous notion as if it were The One True Path. So last week, Finn announced to a crowded hallway that Santana was into the ladies, and then there was going to be a political ad about it for some asinine reason, and Santana was so righteously angry at Finn’s careless public outing and the lack of control she now had on a major part of her life, so she smacked him hard across the face and the audience cheered because seriously, Finn? Seriously?

Only this week it seems that Santana was wrong to smack him and she’s going to get suspended (even as she quite rightly points out that no one who’s slushied the Glee club has gotten suspended) until Saint Finn rides in to her rescue on one condition – that she listen to everyone else tell her who she should be and how she should express it and then pretend she thinks it’s empowering. So they all sing lady-songs at Santana for some strange-ass reason and Finn blubbers at Santana about how he’ll never forgive himself if Santana kills herself, and then Santana finally breaks down and realizes that all this public outing and pressure to fit into the Glee club’s definition of how she should express her sexuality is right, and she spends the rest of the episode outing her own damn self, mostly off-stage, and once to her abuela, in actually a well-acted and affecting scene, although, Ryan Murphy, dude, not everyone who hates the gays is themselves gay. (What, you didn’t think her abuela was clearly implying that she herself was a closeted homosexual? Come on.)

The truth: Finn was a jack-hole. Nothing he did or said was in any way right. He is totally the Dawson of this show, in that the creator of the show clearly has a major hard-on for him and believes that the things he does are saintly and “nice” and perfect, whereas the rest of see an self-involved, egotistical jackass. So, listen, kids of America – people get to come out on their own schedules. They get to decide who they are, who they want to tell about who they are, and when. You don’t know their lives, their feelings, their needs, their fears, and their preferences better than they do. This is actually true of anything your friends say or think or feel, whether it’s “I think I’m gay,” or “I think this poem I wrote is really good.” But obviously publicizing a poem, while scary, does not have nearly the social consequences or life-altering effects that telling people you’re gay does. So while you should not force your friends to express any part of themselves publicly that they don’t want to, you should really, really, really not publicly out someone. I don’t care why; if you do, you’re an asshole, even if the creator of your show loves you.

As long as we’re all here, I must address the music in this episode, because it was very mixed for me. I love to hear Kurt and Blaine singing together, so that was nice. I liked hearing from Coach Bieste. And I think hearing Mark Salling sing Melissa Etheridge’s “I’m the Only One” got me spontaneously pregnant with his babies. But when I see “I Kissed A Girl,” my first thought is always of Jill Sobule’s “I Kissed a Girl,” and I like that song so much better. Not in the least because it’s a lot less insulting to actual lesbians. I mean, it’s still about two heretofore heterosexual girls getting it on, but, unlike the Katie Perry song, they don’t have an audience, they’re not drunk, and instead of expressing the hope every six seconds that their boyfriends are enjoying the spectacle, they are instead expressing dissatisfaction with their boyfriends. I mean, the girls were adorable in this number, and the encounter  with the doofy jock that starts off the song – the one who’s all, “Lesbianism is hot because it just means you need a dick like mine to straighten you out” – that’s real life. I have a friend who came out our freshman year of college. I think she encountered that guy, like, at least ten times in the process. But still. I hate that song, and I hate it more for not being the “I Kissed a Girl” I do want to hear.

And the less said about Finn’s execrable, ballad-y rendition of “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun,” the better.

Lessons to Unlearn from Glee – Season 3. Episode 2

Sorry (to anyone who cares which I imagine is zero people) for the lateness of this. I was in NJ for Rosh Hashanah and didn’t watch the episode until Saturday night. This of course caused my sister to delay her post, which can be found here.

I must say, the writing is better this year. They keep this up, and I won’t be able to make these posts anymore. Which, if anyone over at “Glee” headquarters is reading, would be GREAT. But this episode still had some troubling lessons.

Lesson: A baby who was adopted ALWAYS needs his/her biological parents in their lives.

So in this week’s episode, Idina Menzel (whose character name I refuse to remember, especially as it implies that a woman who looks like Idina Menzel is, of all things, Irish) is back for some cockamamie reason involving that new character I keep hoping I can forget exists, and has also apparently decided that it is necessary for a) her own character growth, b) their maturation, and c) the baby’s emotional development that Quinn and Puck be involved in the life of the baby Idina adopted from them at the end of Season One.

(I’ll ignore for a moment that Quinn and Puck have made no mention of the baby from then until now, when suddenly she’s the single emotional driving force for both of them. I get what happened. The new writers came on and said, “Look, this was a major storyline and you dropped it like it was Puck’s pants, so let’s go back there.” And the producers said, “Lea Michele and Idina Menzel singing together is solid gold.” And so it was written. And so it was done.)

So Puck cleans up his act (He’s only drinking beer, now, people!) and Quinn pretends not to be a Skank anymore (after one episode) and everyone acts like this is the most logical, normal, emotionally healthy thing in the world. (Well, Quinn is planning on getting her baby back but . . . I promised not to comment on the fact that she hasn’t mentioned this baby in over a year so I’m not.)

The truth: Look, I don’t know what the truth is. I’m sure that, as regards adoption, in some cases, maintaining the involvement of the biological parents is a fabulous idea, and in some cases it’s a neutral idea, and in some cases, like for instance if there’s a chance that the boundary between “person who donated a gamete” and “person who is responsible for raising the kid” isn’t going to be respected, it’s a fucking awful idea. (And in case you’re confused, that last thing, that’s how it’s going to play out here, until the writers/producers realize that a story line like that doesn’t really go with dancing to pop songs and belting out Streisand tunes.) But I am absolutely certain that a) the kid’s needs come first, not the need for emotional growth on the part of the dopey-ass teenage gamete-donators, and b) presenting the option of biological parent-involvement in adoption as THE ONE TRUE PATH is fucking irresponsible. I am also sure that the writers don’t really know what the truth is, but for some reason, the characters on this highly campy, highly satirical television show about teenagers who sing have to stand on their high horses about some random-ass thing once a week, and this week, they decided it was this. I hope they drop it soon.

Lesson: Only one thing defines who you are, other people get to tell you what that is and how it manifests itself, and if you don’t celebrate it, you are ashamed of it. This week, Kurt a) wanted to be Tony in West Side Story but fey-ed around to a Barbara Streisand song instead of singing anything a heterosexual male love interest would sing, and then tried to make up for it by performing a scene from Romeo and Juliet, which I thought he did a fine job of, but which was apparently also far too effeminate, because Shakespeare is for girls, doncha know, and b) started his campaign for senior class president (which apparently wasn’t decided last spring at McKinley High) and argued with Britney about posters using pink and sparkles and unicorns (yes, literally) versus using a black-and-white faaaaaabulous photo of Kurt. In the end he chose the unicorns so as to embrace his fully gay self.

The truth: We are all multifaceted creatures who do have and should use the power to choose how we define and represent ourselves. And homosexuality is not just about glitter.

I have nothing to add to that, so instead I will leave you with a family anecdote. My mother ran for (and won) freshman class president. She only ran because the boy who was running smugged to her that he was sure he was going to win and anyway there was no way an icky-picky girl was going to beat him. So she did. And she made some awesome Peanuts-themed posters to do it. Go, Mom! (Then she hated being on student council and didn’t run again. But that’s not the point.)