Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Glee: Yer Doin It Rong

I'm a little late saying anything about last week's Valentine's Day episode of Glee. Not that anyone was on tenterhooks waiting on my grand decree...

Ashley Fink (Lauren Zizes) in the middle, with Chris Colfer and Amber Riley. Image from Wetpaint
I was a huge Glee fan during the first season, because they pushed some boundaries and introduced more diverse characters*.  Not as good as Huge, but still pretty dern good.  Sure, they did some questionable stuff, but how could you stay mad at a show with gay teenagers, ambiguous sexuality, plus size ladies, several differently-abled characters, teen pregnancy realism (sort of) and unbridled female determination?  Yeah, the second season turned around and slushied all of that (fat phobia, genderqueer hate, misogyny, slut-shaming).  Ok, perhaps that existed the whole time, but it felt like an envelope was being pushed right? Maybe just a small envelope?

Sometimes I find it mind-boggling how some jokes get through without someone calling foul, but entire plotlines? This episode found Puck, the bad-boy character, suddenly falling in love with the newest Glee-member, Lauren Zizes (played by Ashely Fink, from Huge!!). She's been a pretty fantastic recurring character though the show's run, but unfortunately the show's creators aren't content with her being an awesome, mouthy wrestler-lady, they have to always film her eating (close-up on her mouth) and milk the fat jokes for all they're worth.  They brought her on as a main cast member, but so far have made everything about her weight.

The show starts with Puck staring at Lauren while a voiceover says, "You can't choose who you fall in love with."  Really? That's how you're going to start this?  Would they have used that line if he was staring at Quinn?  First "ugh".

Lauren gets a main part in this episode, where Puck decides he wants her after she tells him she doesn't want him.  I immediately thought, is this supposed to be an interesting plot because he wouldn't normally go out with a fat girl?**  I felt really bad making that connection., but not so fast, brain-- he goes on to tell her several times he likes her because of her curves and body, even once saying he likes her despite her curves.  And then he serenades her in the choir room in front of the whole Glee Club-- with "Fat Bottomed Girls" by Queen.  I really liked this song until this episode.  The whole club was clapping along and having a great time, while Lauren sat silently.

The song ends and she tells him, "That was the first time anyone ever sang me a love song. And it made me feel like crap".  Ok, maybe someone will learn a lesson: like someone for who they are, not for their body type.  Don't reduce a person to a body part.  Don't tell someone they're attractive despite something you don't like.  Don't make your attraction sound like a kink (unless you're just going for some kinky fun times, of course).  They end up on a date by the end, but you never hear Puck say that he understands that she wants to be loved for who she is, not because he's suddenly curious about big beautiful ladies.

Fink peeking at other Huge cast members. Really, if you haven't watched this excellent, short-lived show, do so now.
Leslie at Two Whole Cakes (lovely blog) saw the song as awesome and empowering, and I'm glad that some good can come out of this episode that was played so cheaply for fat-laughs.  But I saw it as sexual tourism, not to another country, but another body type.  He's wowed by her body and the way she rejects him, and that just doesn't stack up very romantically in my mind.  He plys her constantly with food.  He assumes she doesn't want to go out with him because "guys like [him]" have hurt her before.  Ugh ugh ugh.  I wish some lesson had been learned, and that we don't have to wonder if Lauren is always wondering if he loves her as a person or a body.  But Glee isn't great on lessons, really. My favorite quote EVER about Glee's shortcomings is from Satah at This Ain't Living
SUGGESTED AD CAMPAIGN FOR GLEE: remember that one time you liked what we did? We take it back!

I've obviously been thinking about this awful episode too much, and should not be expending my valuable (limited?) thought resources on a teen musical dram-edy.  I want more diversity on TV where the character's non-white/hetero/thin/cis identity is NOT all the writers can think of.

And this is what he could have sung and it wouldn't have been as bad, but still pushing it:

*If I use any terms that are not ok, PLEASE TELL ME.  I'm not always sure, and I try to look everything up and get the terms right.  I'm not asking for a 101, just a helpful nudge.
**Don't think I'm fat-hating by saying that. In the context of the episode, with the writer's obsession about her weight/eating food, it's obvious that's the direction they're taking. And in 2011, it's just sad that this is still how TV works.

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