Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Some Thoughts on Glee (from a writer/fan's perspective)

So I'm a Gleek.  I admit it.  (Oh, and this post is going to contain some vague spoilers, so if you're worried about that sort of thing and aren't caught up with the episodes, get caught up, and then come back and read this.)  Rachel and I have watched Glee since the pilot episode first aired in May 2009, and we don't plan on stopping anytime soon.  We both love it--the music, the writing, the acting, the humor.  There's a lot to like!

Which is not to say that the show hasn't had some less-than-amazing moments, the whole cliffhanger with Quinn's accident being the one that stands out most in my mind.*  I'm sure there are others, but honestly, I can't think of them.  Hey, I'm biased--what did you expect?

Of course, Glee has had some great moments, too.  Lea Michele and Idina Menzel singing "Poker Face," for example (see below--and excuse the poor quality, but the full performance is worth it). Or when Finn doesn't want to spend too much time talking to Kurt in Quinn's bathroom because "they'll think I'm pooping!"  Pretty much every insult on the show is brilliant (kind of sad, but true, and hilarious), too.

And, most recently, the beginning of a relationship between Brittany and Sam takes its place among those great moments.

Some key elements of backstory:  Brittany is a bisexual and has a cat named Lord Tubbington.  She's (seemingly) always been pretty confident with her sexuality, and has had relationships with a lot of people, but most significantly, and recently, with her best friend Santana (who, on the other hand, was very insecure about her own homosexuality for quite a while, and who happens to be a pretty feisty, often violent, latina).  Sam's a straight dude who happens to have a huge mouth and gigantic lips.

Then, in last week's episode, after a few weeks of hinting at the two potentially getting together, they have this conversation** after Brittany shuts down Sam when he tries to kiss her:

Sam:  Is it my lips?

Brittany:  No.  Your lips are so soft and horizontal.  I just like you too much to put you in danger.

Sam:  Santana broke up with you.

Brittany:  No, it's not just Santana.  It's like...all the lesbians of the nation.  And I don't know how they found out about Santana and I dating, but once they did, they started sending me, like, tweets, and facebook messages on Lord Tubbington's wall.  I think it means a lot to them to see two super-hot, popular girls in love, and I worry if they find out about you and I dating that they'll turn on you and get really violent and hurt your beautiful face and mouth.

Now, later on in the episode, Brittany has a slight change of heart.  Because Sam is the only person who has been able to make her smile since Santana left for college, she decides to give him a chance and sets up a date for them.  "What about the lesbian blogger community?" Sam asks.  "They're not going to like it," Brittany says.  "But the way I figure is that they know they're my sisters, and love is love."  (What, I told you there would be spoilers...!)

HA!  Now, I think this is some great writing.  In one fell swoop***, the writers manage to develop character, begin a relationship in a pretty smart way, and acknowledge in advance some of the criticism they and the characters will certainly receive because of this relationship--if not outright pacify some of that criticism.

Now, some more backstory is in order, here, and this involves some generalizing, so don't murder me for it.  Just take it at face value.  The LGBTQ community (and any minority community, for that matter) tends to invest themselves quite heavily into any characters in television, film, or literature who happen to share their lifestyle choices.  (And for good reason!  They have very few "investment opportunities" to begin with [a phenomenon that is gradually changing for the better], so it makes sense they appreciate and follow very closely those opportunities when they do arise.)  When those characters begin to move in a direction that many in this community don't appreciate, the more active LGBTQ voices tend to state their discontent pretty strongly (whether that discontent is justified, which it often is, or not).  The most significant instance of this that I'm aware of is in Buffy the Vampire Slayer at the end of Season 6 with Tara and Willow (who are in a homosexual relationship****).  Tara is killed and Willow essentially goes evil-uber-witch crazy about it, and a lot of people in the LGBTQ community, who had been completely inspired and appreciative of the Tara-Willow relationship, got up in arms about this (turns out it is a pretty common trope for a lesbian couple to be "punished" for being lesbians in about the same way--dying and/or going "evil").  Now, despite the fact that neither Joss Whedon nor Marti Noxon intended that part of the storyline to play out as "punishment," they got a lot of flak for it anyway.  And, that sort of thing happens a lot.  (And, I should repeat, that this sort of outrage doesn't just happen with the LGBTQ community--it happens with anyone who feels they are being misrepresented in the media.  I figure that's a given, but I might as well say it.)

So, anyway, back to Glee...I think they handled this inevitable criticism perfectly by essentially breaking the fourth wall***** and saying "hey, look, I know this will disappoint some of you, but please don't freak out--we like the statements we make with the show, but in the end, it's a TV show, and characters kind of run it...and this is what Brittany's character is doing, these days."  Of course, just stating this doesn't make this writing decision okay.  The fact that Brittany is, pretty obviously, a bisexual is a huge reason why this is even possible.  If they were to suddenly put Santana--a staunch homosexual--in a happy relationship with a man (or one of the straight characters into a sudden homosexual relationship, for that matter), that would be a much more difficult plot development to swallow.  But they foreshadowed it well, and prepped their audience well, and then went ahead with a smart story choice.  There's a lot to respect and learn, there.

So, anyway.  I guess this is a really, really long way of saying that I really, really like Glee, and that a huge part of that boils down to something Brittany said.  Love is love, people.


*  I still think that Quinn should have died in that accident.  Not because I don't like her character (I do), or because I think she "deserved" it (I don't), but because, in my ever-so-humble opinion, that's what the storyline needed.  If Quinn would have died, it would have created a great opportunity for Glee to address yet another significant issue (death) with the teeny awkwardness, wit, and panache with which they've addressed homosexuality, bullying, teen romance, and a plethora of other issues.  I also think it may have made the show a bit more manageable.  This may sound cold, but often authors use death as a way to keep the story under control when the characters are threatening to become unmanageable.  The characters in Glee were, and even more so now are, threatening to do that (the characters can barely fit into a one-epidose-a-week format this season).  Killing Quinn off would have alleviated that, if only slightly.  My one qualm with this decision would have been that it might take away from the incredible scene that began the same episode (whatsisname attempting suicide during Blane's rendition of "Cough Syrup"), but honestly, I think the accident already did that either way, which is part of the reason Quinn actually surviving was kind of a let-down in the first place.  Anyway, obviously I have a lot to say on that topic, but essentially it is one of the few choices the show has made that I really didn't agree with.

**  Which I transcribed from watching the episode, so it may not be 100% accurate, but it's probably pretty close...

***  "Fell swoop" might be one of the worst phrases in the english language...and, for me, that's probably because swoop sounds so close to poop.  Hey, I'm just being honest.

****  Incidentally, one of the most genuine, sincere, and natural homosexual relationships on television to date--despite being on a TV show about a high school cheerleader who slays vampires in her spare time.  (By the way, I think Buffy the Vampire Slayer is probably the single greatest TV show in existence, and that is neither exaggeration nor sarcasm.  That's a blog topic for another day.)

*****  Breaking the fourth wall is, essentially, speaking directly to the audience.  Stating "Dear Reader" in a novel, or an actor in a play speaking directly to the audience (which, incidentally, is the literal origin of the term).

No comments:

Post a Comment