Monday, January 3, 2011

An Anatomy of Glee

I am a fan of Glee. Not a die hard, buy the Christmas album and Wii video game, wear a short paid skirt kind of Gleek, but I haven't missed an episode yet. There are some elements to the show's plot and casting that have bothered me, but I tried to ignore them for the sake of watching teenage angst and midlife crises turned into a good musical number.

Recently, I read a blog by TenchiJK about Glee's casting, and he had the above picture on his site. Imagine if the black girl and Asian girl looked like these girls. Perhaps they would have been invited to do a racy photo shoot for GQ...a photo shoot that caused gobs of controversy because people didn't realize that these "wholesome" teens in Glee aren't teens in real life. That's some good acting. However, Naya Rivera a.k.a. Santana, does Maxim and no one says a thing. Hmmm... Let's dissect some of these characters, shall we? I'll start with the girls.

This character fits into so many stereotypes of African American women I hardly know where to begin. She's overweight, loud, argumentative, gets upset when she can't eat fattening, greasy tots at school, and can't find a boyfriend to save her life. But, boy, can she sing! The episodes where she is a major focus usually deal with her being fat and/or her inability to attract members of the opposite sex. Oh, and she's the only black girl. And, she can sing.

Despite being an unwed teenage (and temporarily homeless) mother, Quinn managed to nab all of the most popular and best looking boys in school pre and post pregnancy. All three of them were on the football team and two of them were quarterbacks. She cheated on her good guy boyfriend with the bad boy who knocked her up and still wanted to be with her when she was pregnant. Quinn screwed over Santana to become the captain of the cheerleading squad, and has clear mean girl tendencies. And, about that whole unwed teenage mother thing....well, that's in the past. Her figure, blond pony tail, and commitment to abstinence bounced back surprisingly well after childbirth, and all is forgiven by the social hierarchy of high school.

Arguably, Santana is the prettiest character on the show. But, she has as nasty attitude and boys only use her for sex. Even though she's never been knocked-up, she's still farther down the food chain than Quinn. No matter how pretty Santana is, she can seduce someone else's boyfriend, but she can't get her own. As the only Latina, she's sexy, of course, but that's all she is.

Dumb as a doornail, she's a stereotyped ditsy, bed-hopping blond. And, she believes Santa Claus is real... But, even she can find boyfriend, unlike Mercedes and Santana. And, her brainy significant other finds Brittney's dumbness magical and adorable. But, beggars can't be choosers.

Ah, here we have the average looking Asian girl who's not a nerd, but some kind of socially acceptable Goth/punk hybrid...and she dances and sings. How revolutionary. And, she isn't a slut or tease, unlike the skinnier, more popular cheerleaders, which limits her romantic options. Tina has managed to nab a guy on the football team, but he's Asian, too...and a mama's boy. Her last boyfriend, yeah, he was in a wheelchair, but she wasn't putting out and he went for the girl who did.

This songbird gets so many closeups and solos that the show should be called Rachel. She's a bit kooky, but her singing talent makes up for her Fatal Attraction-like obssessive compulsive behavior, sort of. The Jewish jokes are kept at a minimum for her, reserved more for Jacob Ben Israel's hormone levels and frizzy hair. Despite how crazy Rachel seems, she is slim and pretty and therefore worthy of a makeout buddy and boyfriend from the exclusive batch of football players, which is why the skinny cheerleaders, especially Santana, hate her. And, she's a better singer than them.
Rachael is a tease, if you couldn't tell by those knee high socks and private school short plaid skirts. She's Santana in reverse, a virtuous vixen who doesn't put out.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, I just started watching Glee. I appreciate the dissection of the characters... very accurate depiction. Unfortunately the stereotypes portrayed date back so far that they are embedded within our society.

    I took a course at Spelman, "African Diaspora and the World" that addressed the dynamics and how women are perceived. Unfortunately these global constructs are oppressive and influence future generations until someone calls them into question. Good job!