It is 3 AM in New York, and I am wide awake. As usual. So, to fill the endless hours of not-sleeping goodness, I decided to catch up on my Glee, which was 3 weeks behind. If you are not caught up, you might want to stop reading now. I'll leave a nice big space so you have time to avert your eyes.
OK, all good? Here's the thing. I have had problems with the show in the past, particularly with its treatment of disability. But I was willing to overlook them because of the good things it was doing, like casting actually disabled actors to play disabled people. No, not Artie. I mean Becky, the cheerleader with Downs, and Sue's sister with Downs; both actresses actually do have Downs Syndrome. Kudos to Ryan Murphy for that.
But the last few episodes got into heavily misogynist territory that I suppose was foreshadowed by the total lack of positive portrayals of adult women, and I'm just not sure I can go back to it. I mean, of course I will--I study musicals for a living--but with more reservations than I had and with far less enthusiasm. Let me give a brief rundown for those who missed it:
1. Terri Schuester was featured prominently. Never a good thing, as she is a one-dimensional character who consists solely of all of the negative stereotypes about well-off white women rolled into one unbelievable irritant. The existence of characters like Terri in popular media (at least two of my students wrote about Glee on their final exams) is what leads directly to several of my female students asserting confidently that one characteristic of being a woman is being manipulative and "deceiving."
2. Sue Sylvester got suspended from work. Not really a bad thing, as the character is a horrendous influence on her students, but the way in which it happened involved Principal Figgins smirking at the camera, having finally gotten the better of her. The scene made it crystal clear that he had felt "emasculated" by her authority and had now "put her in her place." Ugh.
3. Britney the cheerleader finally had some lines. At least she's maybe a lesbian; that would make her marginally interesting. The rest of her character is patently useless and reminiscent of that stupid Barbie that said math was hard. Toss in some offensive lines about seizures and you have a particularly poisonous cocktail.
4. Emma Pillsbury tries to make life decisions on her own. Clearly they are fatally flawed decisions until she lets a man make them for her. I don't even want to begin to explore this one.
5. The most troubling for last. The scene in which Will finds out that Terri isn't pregnant was horrifying. Flat out terrifying. It drew upon countless scenes (both filmed and, presumably, real) of husbands confronting their wives with evidence of "misbehavior" of some kind, scenes that usually end with acts of horrendous violence against women. This one didn't, but for me it triggered almost the same feelings in anticipation. When he demanded that she lift up her shirt, ostensibly to reveal her pregnancy pad, it was with enough anger and venom in his voice that it could have been the prelude to a rape scene. Especially since they had already introduced the "Will wants to have sex but Terri won't let him see her naked" theme earlier. Watching him demand his marital right to see Terri's body, and physically grabbing her wrist to do it, was nauseating, off-putting, and just completely beyond the pale.
Compare the episode in question to this post on Shakesville featuring Patrick Stewart campaigning in a gut-wrenchingly personal way to end violence against women. Clearly, powerful white men in "the industry" have no compelling need to be misogynist assholes. It's a deliberate choice, and an indefensible one. I will be writing a letter to the producers to let them know, as soon as I can figure out how/where.