Glee FAIL, Crossing The Line!!

September 11, 2009 § 33 Comments

Last night I decided to stay in and watch the second episode of the new TV show, Glee. The pilot episode was pretty interesting, with over the top high school characters, cheesy dialogue and intensely bright wardrobes. This was all intentional, similar in style to Ugly Betty. The pilot was entertaining enough, and I’m a huge dork and LOVE singing on television, so I thought I’d give episode two a try.

I’m glad I did, because now I know I will NEVER watch that show again. Glee simply took the high school stereotypes way too far, to an extremely uncomfortable level! I was shocked!

Examples:

The gay kid, in a ridiculously high-pitched lispy voice exclaimed that he refused to mess up his facial. Everyone knows he’s gay. It’s perfectly fine, in a show like this, to emphasize that fact… but seriously? He needs to have SOME unique characteristics. I don’t even know his name. He is known as the gay kid, without any other personality traits. Guess what? Homosexual is not a personality type! That was the first indicator of extreme prejudice among many examples.

Perhaps more offensive was the portrayal of the only black girl in Glee club. Obviously, when the club tackled Kanye (which was pretty fantastic, unfortunately), “black girl” took over the lead. Because she’s black, of course. She was teaching everyone else in the club some finger-wagging riffs. Additionally, the black girl (I don’t know HER name either, same story as above, NO personality except “ghetto”) is the only girl on the show who isn’t stick thin. Because black girls must have booties… but I haven’t even got to the bad part. When she was angry about the impending termination of Glee club, she threatened casually to bust her knife out. WHAT THE FUCK???? Way to support the belief that black people have an inherent predisposition to violent behavior.This show is really quite sickening.

Glee also decided that episode 2 was the right time to insensitively deal with really devastating teen issues, such as bulimia. The show poked fun at the ridiculous pamphlets in the guidance counselor’s office, once again crossing the line. There were several pamphlets, but the only one I distinctly remember said, “So you like throwing up?” Let me tell you, I wanted to throw up RIGHT THERE.

Interestingly enough, the lead female of the Glee club crashes the celibacy club and spouts some knowledge about the negative effects of teens practicing abstinence. This was sort of cool because the celibacy club hardcore judges those who choose to involve themselves in sexual behavior, so they deserved some sort of attack, however, I was slightly uncomfortable that the lead girl was telling everyone to give into their desires point blank. Not that there’s anything wrong with doing that, but I think it’s something that does take a certain amount of rational assessment.

And if you thought only high school students were victims of the condescending blows, think again! The older generation on the show has their own set of ridiculous incidences as well. Most offensively, the show really belittles the terrible phenomenon of hysterical pregnancy (this is the term they used, anyway, I’m not sure if it’s the appropriate one). They actually turned the false pregnancy into a comedic plot. I wanted to cry.

All in all… EW. I warn you, do not watch Glee. It’s not even entertaining enough to be a REALLY guilty pleasure.

§ 33 Responses to Glee FAIL, Crossing The Line!!

  • Twyst says:

    I hadnt seen the pilot, but the bf and i decided to watch, cuz there had been buzz. I didnt make it past the Kayne song. For all the reasons above, i will never watch this show. The bf and i were then trying to think of the other 6 horrific stereotypes that they will fill out the rest of the club with. The gang members that just love the music so much, etc etc. Terrible.

  • Caroline says:

    I’m glad you wrote this. Everyone else was squeeing over what a fantastic show it is and I felt like I was missing something–now I know that I’m not! I like my TV to be a place where I can see stereotypes being upset, which is why I love Buffy, Queer as Folk, etc. I don’t need reinforcing of the things I work so hard to fight.

  • E.G. says:

    People like Glee because its OMGZ MUSICAL THEATRE ON TV!!!!!!1111!!!!!111!1111!!

    (yes, I’m the one theatre major in the universe who doesn’t like Glee)

    Truth is, there definitely is conflict and drama among the theatre/choir/dance kids at high schools, but it’s more complex (and entertaining) than these stupid stereotypes.

  • jess says:

    I disagree completely. I thought it was really fun and it actually reminded me of true moments that happened in my high school. The only part I found retch-worthy was the blanket scene at the end…blech!

    There are non-stereotypes as well, including the muscular, older, belligerent cheerleading coach and affable, compromising indian principal–why not focus on those instead?

  • Phoebe says:

    I actually really liked the celibacy club scene. I don’t think she’s encouraging people to just completely give into their sexual desires. I looked up the quote and she says:

    Our hormones are driving us too crazy to abstain. The second we start telling ourselves that there’s no room for compromise we act out. The only way to deal with teen sexuality is to be prepared. That’s what contraception is for.

    And I agree with everything you’ve said about the stereotypes, but I’m not quite ready to give up on it yet.

  • MrE says:

    The point of Glee is to BE stereotypical, in order to point out the problems with stereotypes. It’s portraying this in a humorous fashion so the watcher can see how stupid these stereotypes are. The jokes are supposed to appear blunt, and come off as stereotypical because it’s not serious, in fact by being stereotypical the show is helping to rid stereotypes.

  • [...] Last night I decided to stay in and watch the second episode of the new TV show, Glee. The pilot episode was pretty interesting, with over the top high school characters, cheesy dialogue and intensely bright wardrobes. This was all intentional, similar in style to Ugly Betty. The pilot was entertaining enough, and I’m a huge dork and LOVE singing on television, so I thought I’d give episode two a try.I’m glad I did, because now I know I will NEVER watch that show again. Glee simply took the high school stereotypes way too far, to an extremely uncomfortable level! I ………… Full story at http://womensglib.wordpress.com/2009/09/11/glee-fail-crossing-the-line/ [...]

  • Adam says:

    @MrE: The problem with doing that is that it has to be done subtlety. If it isn’t incredibly self – aware of this fact, then the whole point of it is lost.

  • ruthelizabeth says:

    I completely understand the idea of exaggerating stereotypes to display how ridiculous they are… however, I don’t think the show did a good job of conveying that these stereotypes are, in fact, deplorable. Perhaps if the characters were not entirely devoid of other personality traits and showed some sort of depth, the choice would have been better executed.

    This is why I titled the post “crossing the line.” The idea of commenting on stereotypes is not a bad one, but the execution went in the wrong direction. This is made most obvious by the pamphlet scene, I think. Imagine if you suffered from bulimia, and you were watching Glee. that would be so so so awful.

    thank you for sparking this interesting comment debate!

  • meloukhia says:

    Yay! I’m glad to see someone with a negative reaction to Glee, because I was beginning to feel like the only one when I wrote about it on Thursday and the only references to the show I could find were dripping with fawning praise.

    One thing I’ve noted about exaggerated stereotypes is that they tend to reinforce the ideas/cultural values they claim to be mocking. That really feels like the case with Glee; I just thought it was offensive, not a brilliantly structured social commentary.

  • jarant says:

    Really interesting post. I’d like to counter one or two points.

    1) I think the “so you like throwing up” pamphlet was more a spike on the incompetency of HS guidance counselors. Responding to a serious problem like bulimia with a pamphlet is ridiculous, regardless of that pamphlet’s title. The fact that it was titled “So You Like Throwing Up” underscores how clueless the “Let’s Help Kids Today” field can be. To be honest, the more offensive part of that scene was the manner in which a discussion about an eating disorder morphed into dating advice.

    2) You are spot on about predictability of The Black Girl opening The Rap Song, HOWEVER the WHITE male music teacher sang lead on it. The entire performance was a racial mixed bag.

    3) In terms of gay characters, The Gay Student isn’t the only homosexual in the show. The student female lead has two dads. So far, they have only appeared in family photographs, so it’s difficult to gauge what their characters will be like and if they provide some kind of counter point to over the top gay stereotypes.

    The show is intended to be a musical comedy, a genre which, historically, relies on camp for laughs. Think about Mama Mia or The Pajama Game: their jokes are waaay to “big” to work in a straight comedy by say, Neil Simon. But I think you have a valid point: camp doesn’t require characters to BE stereotypes, it just needs to PLAY with those stereotypes. It would be nice if Glee’s writers found a way to mock high school personas without turning the supporting characters into 2 dimensional cardboard cut-outs. And speaking of which, I hope the “back-ground” characters get story lines of their own (beyond The Gay Kid getting routinely roughed up by The Jocks, etc.) Overall, I liked Glee and am looking forward to the next few episodes. It would be fantastic, however, if the writer’s took some of your points into consideration and found a better way to skewer stereotypes than simply embodying them on screen.

  • lo says:

    Spot on! Spot on!

  • Rob Hill says:

    Funny that you guys are bagging on this, referring to them by their stereotype epithets – “the black girl”, “the gay guy”, etc. – rather than the characters’ names.

    Look, I’m down with your concerns. But making the stereotypes over the top and obvious gets that whole identification out of the way, actually allowing people to see them as individuals. And you know what? Some black girls are strong, and have attitude that comes in a culturally-identifiable package. Some gay guys want to be showy. Is that not OK? Is the only way to be sensitive to black or gay people to show sanitized, “acceptable”, white-bread versions of them?

    I know it’s a fine line, I just don’t think this show has crossed it.

    Now, there is a problem with the fact that none of the guys are really great singers, and you can hear the lousy processing of a lot of the voices…

  • ruthelizabeth says:

    The reason I referred to each character that way was because, at that point in the series, they were SO about the stereotypes that I couldn’t even remember their names. At that point in the show, they had NO other character traits. I realize that the characters have developed over the season and do, in fact, have personalities. My qualms with Glee are mainly with that single episode, because I have not watched others. It seems to me that it IS a worth while guilty pleasure, the music is really fun and sometimes the jokes are really funny. I am not urging others not to watch, as long as people stop and think about what exactly they are watching. Which all of you are. Hooray!

  • Rob Hill says:

    Gotcha, and I’m right there with you! Ironically, I was watching them online last night, and Mercedes (The Black Girl… OK, “Mercedes” is pretty… never mind) said something about, “I might be a strong black woman, but I am MUCH more than that!” In fact, the whole episode made it seem like the writers had read your blog…

  • baslow says:

    Well, Joss Whedon has signed on to direct an episode:

    http://edition.cnn.com/2009/SHOWBIZ/TV/10/20/joss.whedon.glee

    Looks like I’ll be watching “Glee” again…

  • Lisa says:

    Well I must say, that’s how it is today. I’m in high school, and I’m stereotyped everyday. I think glee has a good message of fighting back those stereotypes and looking at us as individuals. It pokes fun at reality. Sorry, the whole world insn’t for celibacy, and yes, this truly is the reality of high school. I’m in theatre at my school, and we’re treated pretty much the same way, with a few rivals and even a few “jocks” (now don’t shoot me because I used a stereotype!) in the mix. If you had to go through the same smack we do as a organization, you’d want to make a show that reveals it all.

    And why is it getting bashed so much? It’s just a show. Calm down. Some act like it’s the devil’s bible. It’s a good show. Period.

  • chiffonade says:

    OMG, so much GLEE hate! It’s a shame. It’s an excellent show.

    No, homosexuality is NOT a personality “type” but Kurt is representative of that kid who had enough b*lls to march to his own drummer in order to be true to himself. Mercedes is that “heavy black girl” who is so incredibly talented that no one ever notices she’s overweight. As for being black – for crying out loud, who the heck else is going to belt out And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going??? The song was made famous by a black woman and there are certain vocal inflections that would have been missing were it not a black woman singing it. (No, I’m not afraid to say that.)

    Puck is that seemingly one dimensional jock character who finds it in himself to broaden his horizons. Finn is not the sharpest knife in the drawer but he can do TWO things with heart – he can play football and he can sing. Artie is that disabled kid you always saw as THAT DISABLED KID but now he’s THAT GLEE CLUB KID.

    The dweeb cheerleaders long to be part of an organization that is NOT appearance driven. Mr. Shuster – OMG, we all could have been better off had we ONE teacher like him. (I’m lucky enough to have had an industrial arts teacher who saw the value in a girl who could make jewelry.)

    Rachel. Undeniably and equally TALENTED and ANNOYING, she is the complete show biz geekazoid who FOR ONCE is the most gifted in SOMETHING that matters.

    Fox isn’t running it anymore on their site but if you ever get the chance, see the episode where Kurt tells his dad he’s gay possibly entitled “Diva Off”). It’s a gut wrencher from beginning to end and may demonstrate why the characters are SO defined and SO extreme – and why this works.

    Maybe it helps I grew up in NY…? Such a “melting pot” is not foreign to me. I have no delusions I’ll convert any GLEE haters here but thought it might be nice to point out some of the show’s excellent aspects. Peace out.

    • ruthelizabeth says:

      Hi chiffonade, thank you for commenting, you made a ton of valid points. I’ve pointed out to others who have commented that my problem with glee was in the pilot. I didn’t watch the rest of the show because it didn’t particularly interest me. However, I’m well aware of the fact that the characters have developed significantly since then. By all means, keep watching glee and feel free to keep me updated on the complexity of the characters! I think it’s pretty commendable for a show to actually have such a turn around from the first episode.

  • chiffonade says:

    Woo hoo! I had my asbestos suit on, ready for a royal flaming! If you are of a mind to, go to fox.com and watch the season finale. It doesn’t leave you with a lot of questions and a couple of things are finally brought out into the open. As a matter of fact, the opening sequence (where they “catch you up”) will fill out the picture for you if you watch the rest of the ep. The singing is some of the STRONGEST all year.

  • Shetu says:

    I agree with MrE; the show’s creators are fully aware that the characters are stereotypes, and they’re playing on these stereotypes. If you watch more episodes, you’ll see that the characters are not at all 2 dimensional cardboard cutouts – and that’s in fact one of the show’s strengths. In most high school movies/tv shows, a character like Quinn – a pretty, blonde, popular cheerleader – would just be a mean girl everyone is supposed to hate. But in Glee, we actually get to see more of her – and we feel for her. Even the characters we love to hate – Jane Lynch, captain of the Cheerios and Mr. Schuester’s wife – have different, human sides to them. By making audiences see PAST high school stereotypes, it’s actually one of the most progressive shows on TV – I don’t think it even comes close to the line.

  • Salome says:

    Your critique would have made sense if Glee were in the middle of its season, but this was the SECOND EPISODE. The show has an ensemble cast; it’s going to take a while for them to round out all the different characters, and a lot of them did seem like just badly-drawn stereotypes. If you had waited a couple episodes, for example, you would have seen them focus more on Kurt and his coming-out, and give him some traits that aren’t stereotypically “gay.” You would have seen them develop the other “stereotype” characters as well. (Mercedes is the lone exception to this, but again, the show has only had half a season and I’m hoping maybe she’ll grow as a character when it comes back in April.)

    Judging a show when you’ve only seen two episodes is a bit like judging a movie based on the first 10 minutes. I think if you had continued to watch Glee, you would have had a better impression of it. It’s a shame you checked out so early, because if you had given this show a chance, you might have liked it.

  • VeganSweetlove says:

    so after reading the article and all the comments…i still hate Glee. hate it, hate it, hate it. im more of a subtle person rather than what they put out on the show. i dont like the obvious stereotyping, the bright colors, the terrible lypsyncing that makes Ashlee Simpson look like a pro, and the acting that makes me so uncomfortable that im squirming in my seat like my bottom is hemorrhoid ridden. Maybe my IQ is too high to be entertained by this technicolor crap, or maybe i dont like it cause im not a ” cosmo drinking, sex in the city watching” girl. either way, id probably be happier to stick drywall screws in my eyes than have to watch 5 minutes of Glee.

  • Chiffonade says:

    Well, I guess it goes to show you can’t please everyone. Glee features some talented heavy hitters such as Lea Michelle who is a long-established Broadway star. I still love the wide array of high school students and am glad the underdogs are finally celebrated.

  • MaryTodd says:

    Why do the producers and casting directors of the hit show ‘Glee’ insist on ALWAYS presenting Black women and girls as FAT, LOUD, OBNOXIOUS, UNATTRACTIVE, IGNORANT, GHETTO, etc.?

    On tonight’s episode (‘The Substitute’), for instance, they presented “beautiful, petite, blonde” Gwyneth Paltrow getting beaten-up (in an unprovoked attack) by a FAT, UGLY, LOUD Black girl (who, of course, “had an attitude” about nothing).

    There was NO REASON for them to present this crude image of Black teen-girls (other than to reinforce the stereotype of the ugly, violent, loud Black).

    The producers, writers and casting directors of this episode should be ashamed of themselves and the Black actress who took on this moronic role should hold her head down in shame.

    This presentation of the Black teen girls was both offensive and pathetic in my opinion (and I AM NOT EVEN a BLACK person).

    [NOTE:
    This criticism does NOT include plus-sized actress, Amber Riley (a regular cast-member of the show) -- who has managed to present herself as both an attractive and a dignified character on the episodes I have seen ... unlike all of those other Black actresses who have appeared on the show in 'guest' roles.]

  • Stuart Benson says:

    Way to judge a book by it’s cover people. I’ve read most of you’re comments and I’m starting to notice an unsettling trend… the fact that none of you have watched enough episodes to form an accurate opinion. I will agree that in the pilot and throughout the episodes the characters were presented with very strong stereotypes, but if any of you had in fact continued past the pilot you would have realized that this was given to give these characters depth and allow for growth.

    [Sexist bullshit deleted.]

    Secondly if you had watched further you would realize these aren’t the perpetuation of stereotypes they’re defence mechanism’s to survive high school, for instance Mercedes (the black girl you’ve so affectionately called her) only acts the way she does because she is self conscious about being an overweight minority in a high-school which would suck. Secondly, Kurt (the gay one) doesn’t even come out until a few episodes in.

    [More sexist bullshit deleted.]

    • mirandanyc says:

      Okay, FACT: This post was written explicitly about the pilot episode. Ruth does not claim any judgment about the series as a whole. It is not Ruth’s or anyone else’s responsibility to follow up on this post by watching every single subsequent episode of Glee and deliver an ultimatum about whether it is good or not, feminist or not. We post on what we please.

      I would appreciate it if commenters would engage with the content of the post, and not attack the author for claims she did not make.

  • Chiffonade says:

    This show has gotten better and better with every ep. The recent one where a belligerent, outwardly homophobic football player kisses Kurt smack on the lips when Kurt stands up to him left me slackjawed. There are important issues discussed like teen pregnancy and the responsible handling thereof; when your ONE remaining parent suffers a life-threatening illness; interracial relationships – this show runs the gamut. NO, it does not look like high school when I attended (1973-1977) but it sure as hell represents what’s going on today.

  • Lyra Jane says:

    The show has only gotten more offensive! Artie (wheel chair kid) has a gf who wants to give him working legs for xmas! and he gets them!!

  • HarriettMills says:

    I think this is utterly ridiculous. I’m not a massiv fan of the show but have been watching it when bored and I can see that the point in the over-exaggeration of the characters is to mock the teen tribe theory. Mercedes (Large, black girl) and Santana are both black so you need to sort out your ‘facts’. Also, Kurt (Gay boy) and Mercedes have a lot of their own personality traits that are not related to their size, sexuality or race. Other characters are exaggerated too such as Puck and Brittney. They are each used to mock the stereotype that all blondes are dumb and that all thugs are cruel. I suggest you look into Glee a little better and then edit this post because you have been very mislead by your initial reaction to the programme.

  • Jade says:

    If you had taken the time to watch more than two episodes, then I’m sure you wouldn’t have written any of this.
    First of all, Kurt, the ‘gay kid’ (that’s his name, by the way. Kurt. It’s mentioned several times.) does have a background and personality that’s rather unique, in my opinion. His father owns a car repair shop and is very, very burly and manly. Not exactly the type of father you’d expect. His mother died when he was very young, so he’s been living with his father, Burt, as a single parent for several years. And his voice isn’t ridiculously high, thats the way he talks on and off screen. His name is Chris Colfer. Look him up, hear his voice, that’s who he is. And he’s one hell of a singer, too. This show deals with serious modern day issues, such as teen pregnancy, racism, and homophobia. Chris Colfer was voted one of the top 100 most influential people in the world because of the progress he’s helped make when it comes to sexuality and the bullying thereof. I call that far from ridiculous. The reason everybody in the show is so terribly stereotypical is to show it’s viewers how ridiculous stereotyping is, and it deal with all the major stereotypes: Homosexuals, African-Americans, Cheerleaders, Jocks/Athletes, Goths, Geeks, ect.
    I’m actually rather proud of this show. It’s writers and actors, for the progress they’ve made. You should really do more research, or at least watch more than two episodes, before you critique it so harshly.

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