Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Sociology of Glee

If you know me IN THE SLIGHTEST you know that I have nothing but praises to sing about the show "Glee" (pun intended!!). My affection for Glee may slant ever so slightly towards "obsession." Darrin Criss is the Tiger to my Beat, you know. I'm even going to see "Glee Live" JUNE SIX!!! Yeah baby!!!

What's the "but" so wisely presume is coming? Wait for it...

I have developed over the last three years what I like to call my "third eye," i.e. my sociological imagination. You have read about this repeatedly. Sometimes I try to turn it off, as best I can, because there are times that if you sit and think too much you'll go nutty and probably be fairly depressed and it can really be very overwhelming to think of all the problems in the world. I'm learning to choose what I'm going to let slide, and what I need to take a stand on. I'm learning to turn my anger into positive action, because it turns out delivering your opinions as a very angry feminist will not get you very far with people (I may or may not have personally experienced this...). However, my S.I. as we will call it for short could not be tamed as Glee fairly beat me over the head with irritating messages and forced the third eye to make an appearance--they really brought this on themselves.

It turns out, as I've dually noted time and time again that Glee sends very mixed messages. I love Glee because it has made sweeping strides for the GLBT (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender) community. There is an openly gay couple on the show (Kurt and Blaine), and the show explores the experiences of those "in the closet," which can be a very painful (not to mention horribly harmful) experiences for too many people these days (i.e. Santana). The subject of bullying has been explored, particularly as it pertains to GLBT students. The character Rachel has two gay dads. I love that a lot of these experiences are brought to life in the media, and hopefully as we see more and more of these relationships they will become more normalized and therefore be the death of heterosexism/homophobia.

So while Glee is sending fairly positive images of the GLBT community (though there are still some issues I had but doesn't merit elaboration here) and brings several important issues to light, how does it treat the issue of gender? Given that this was my emphasis when I was a sociology major, this is of course where my brain inevitably meanders. While Glee has featured episodes about female empowerment (i.e. the Madonna episode), and features strong female characters (Rachel, Mercedes, Lauren), and conversations where the female characters talk about how they aren't going to let anything get in the way of their dreams (specifically men). Some of the boys on the show fall in love with girls that don't fit the "typical" standard of beauty (i.e. Lauren and Puck) which is awesome. However, it seems that the female characters eventually fall into very stereotypical "female" roles (i.e. being obsessed with relationships with men). For the purposes of this blog, I'm going to focus solely on the finale as a representation of Glee's mixed messages, because if I were to do a content analysis of the whole two seasons that would article. So the one scene, there sits Quinn, sobbing over how she is not in a relationship, how she "just wants to be loved." Sure, men want this in their lives as well, but you would never see a scene with Finn sitting on the bed and crying and saying, "But I just want to be loved!!!" Rachel is shown consistently obsessing about Finn, which finally comes to a head in the finale, and though she says "I'm not going to wait around for you," decides to get back together with Finn "in the mean time." While the male characters desire to be in relationships, they pursue said relationships, but it is perceived as "cute and romantic" and they aren't shown crying or obsessing about said relationships, where when female characters such as Rachel pursue relationships it's seen as "desperate." Don't believe me? You should sit around when I'm watching this show with friends and hear the conversations that develop...usually something to the effect of "Rachel get your life together! Get over him" and "Oh Finn, that's so cute you invited her on a date to Central Park" (even though you're sort of being slightly toolish and in "love" with two girls at the same time...). The problem I have with this whole premise (i.e. females getting bashed over the head with message after message over how they should be in relationships) is that it can feel like that is all we're waiting for to give life meaning, and there's so much more to life than that. And perhaps if we were not focusing so much on men, other things would be accomplished. This is obviously to say that I don't have the desire to be in a relationship (believe me, I certainly do), but rather I don't want that to be the ONLY thing that my life is about (or made to look like it's the only thing I think about as a woman).

But my real peeve with Glee (if you wanted to know) is the display of masculinity. I was horribly offended when, during the finale, some of the male characters were sitting around discussing "chick flicks" and Puck says, "Take her on one of those big awful dates you see in one of those unwatchable romantic comedies that you grow a vagina if you watch all the way through." Translation: the worst thing that can happen to a man is that he becomes a...woman. I don't know about you but who WOULDN'T want to be a woman?! We are wonderful. This is not un-typical for Glee however...there have been many derogatory comments made by (typically straight) male characters regarding femininity. Boys can't sing "girl" songs (i.e. the Lady Gaga/Madonna episodes)--but this doesn't work the other way--girls can sing "boy" songs any day of the week. What strikes me as very interesting about all of this is that it is all but a blip on our P.C. radar. We deride racist or homophobic remarks (as we should!!!), but gender fascinates me most of all because it is seen as "natural." Men and women are "different species" and therefore should be treated differently. And the worst thing that a man can be is a woman, or have anything to do at all with what is "women's stuff." GAG. And what we don't often realize is that unfortunately when men and women are treated differently, most of the privilege goes But I could go on. Check out this website, or this one if you want to know more about gender issues.

Finally, as I was watching the show, this PSA came on from one of the show's stars, Jane Lynch about using the "r" word, which is horribly offensive and degrading. In the PSA she states that the "r" word should be treated like any other slur--and I full heartedly agree. I loved the PSA (as that word is used often, and I don't think most people really think about what it means), but I couldn't help but wish for a PSA for the word "Bitch," and how that word is so widely used in order to degrade or insult females. Men are not called male dogs to degrade them--they are called "son of a bitch." And yet, just as saying things like how a man might "grow a vagina" if he does something so horrifying as watching a feminized movie, the use of the B word goes unnoticed, which I believe shows the degree to which gender issues are important in America (see: not really). Sometimes I feel like women's issues are viewed as "all those crazy angry feminists who never shut their mouths" (is that just me?). Bottom line: We have been told to not use the "f" word to degrade those in the GLBT community, we've been taught to never use racial slurs (and all REALLY GOOD things!), but why is it that the "b" word is so acceptable to us? Why is it that we aren't alarmed by this word as we are about other words??

Anyways, these are my thoughts on Glee. Love it, hate it, there are some interesting social messages (and potential implications) going on. My point in writing this blog is to see demonstrate how gender-charged remarks can hurt and DO matter, and even though it's the status quo to not notice them or not be offended, we need to work towards cutting them out of the vocab--though they may be normalized in our society, they are directly hurtful to 51 percent of the population (and 100 percent if you include the damage that gender can have on men). *Additionally, please note that while it potentially could seem that I am "man hating" right now that's not the case at all. I loveeee men a whole lot, I'm just saying structurally there are things that men benefit from and women don't, and it's important to recognize this in order to move towards equality...

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