I freely admit it. I get these strange and very annoying obsessions that I wish I didn’t (often because I really dislike them). Glee is a classic example of this type of obsession. What is it about Glee that so fascinates and repels me? Why do I give a damn?
Before I begin, I must confess that I’ve largely resisted watching the series save for one episode. And that I fast forwarded. But I haven’t been able to resist reading some of the recaps and discussions. Some of which have been cogent. And most of which have been horrifyingly asinine.
The Problem With Glee Part One: It’s the Writing, Really
I’m a stickler for world building. Especially when things are set on Earth. The one we all should live on. And the last time I checked, Glee is set on our Earth.
So, how old is Kurt Hummel when the series begins? According to the wiki, Kurt is born in March. But he has a car in the third episode. Either Kurt is a junior in season one or he somehow got a license early (the legal driving age is 16 in Ohio).
And don’t get me started on the viscous rule changes for the competitions! Do the writers not pay attention to their own show? And why not just go with the rules in real show choir competitions? Hell, from what little I know, Sue Sylvester (and the school as a whole) would have a legitimate beef with it. Particularly the larger competitions!
I’ve gone to college. And I have no idea what the fuck is going on with NYADA. What the hell is up with not applying to multiple universities? And who gets in to a university on an impromptu audition? Even if it is by standing ovation?
If I actually watched the show, I would probably be able to give you a litany of examples of world building fuck ups and character inconsistencies. Maybe I’m just too much of a stickler to enjoy the intended schizophrenia of the show?
Moving to the narrative, I sometimes wonder what is going on in the minds of the writers, showrunners, and other decision makers. I get that they want a surreal, campy, and schizophrenic narrative, but still, I just don’t get it. Like the various breakups in “The Break Up,” the Kurt-Finn storyline from season one, the season three finale, etc. Again, if I actually took the time to watch the series, I’d probably have to pay for damages from my shoes hitting the wall.
The Problem of Glee Part Two: On Gender, Race, and Homosexuality
Besides cheerleading, are any of the female characters in any sports? Or are sports only a domain for male characters? In addition to that, are the women on Glee dependent on and defined by their relationships with men? I’ve read that Rachel Berry is falling into this trope. What about the others? And of course, there is the cheerleader stereotype running amok.
Does Glee have a race problem? I understand the various characters are stereotypes. But does that give the show a pass? Are the accusations in the various “gaycism” articles valid? Are the various characters of color on the show treated the same as the white characters?
Glee has been applauded for its depictions of lgbt characters. Hell, it even has several GLAAD nominations. But does the show deserve it?
The lesbian relationship is no more. And I don’t know if they’ve ever really explored them in the same way that Kurt has been. To be honest, I wonder if “Brittana” is only for “girl on girl is hot.”
And I am, honestly, unimpressed with the depictions of the gay characters. All four major gay characters have been depicted as being, arguably, shades of “predatory gay”: Kurt’s crush on Finn (which After Elton called out at one point), Karofsky’s bullying lust for Kurt, Blaine’s made up relationship and attempted rape of Kurt, and Sebastian’s whole existence. Seriously? Four for four should be cause for concern.
The depiction of same sex relationships and gay sexuality is equally problematic. Kurt and Blaine’s relationship is depicted as, largely, passionless and asexual. They are never as well developed as the heterosexual relationships. Even straight characters of less importance get more romantic screen time. And the sex scene from “The First Time” is, honestly, anemic. Hell, I’ve heard that every “Klaine” romantic interaction is overshadowed by a “Finchel” one. Seriously? What does that tell you?
And let’s not fail to mention the demonization of gay desire in the character of Sebastian Smythe. He is a villain because he is gay. And his sexuality (or how he expresses it) is depicted as wrong and “evil.”
Kurt himself is quite troubling. He is “supposed” to be a strong role model. But instead, he is a “paper dolphin,” lacking the strength to fight for himself and his own desires. He fights then forfeits “Defying Gravity,” gives up the duet with Sam, refuses to fight his father when Burt is clearly wrong, same goes with Blaine when Kurt does have a legitimate grievance (yeah the whole bisexuality thing is troubling, but Kurt has a right to be pissed at Blaine for his actions in that episode), etc. I honestly could go on. Kurt is, honestly, a gay Uncle Tom who gives up his rights and his desires to kowtow to pressure.
Where the hell is the wider gay community? This is one area where I strongly feel Glee dropped the ball. Of course, there are reasons why Glee is troubled by its gay characters. . .
So, Why the Hell Do I Care So Much?
Clearly from the rest of my rant, I have a special affinity for Kurt Hummel. Much of my issues with the series lies with how he is depicted. And I seriously would not care about the show if he didn’t exist. But though I’ve always been mildly interested, my seeming obsession is newly formed. Unless I really just like complaining about it.
So, maybe the answer is Chris Colfer himself? He has only recently begun to work on projects outside of Glee. And his first novel, The Wishing Spell, is very good. Hell, one of the best children’s fantasies I’ve ever read. Certainly better than A Wizard of Earthsea! So, maybe it is Colfer who has inspired this obsession.
But There is a Silver Lining in All of This
My obsession with Glee has inspired a creative explosion. An Octavia Butler moment. My reaction, my issues, though largely negative, have driven me to want to do better in my own writing. Now, I am unsure whether I want to do a non genre realistic piece or incorporate my annoyances into preexisting projects. Maybe my contemporary sword and sorcery? Or something else?
And, I have discovered an interest in high school dramas. Seriously, I’ve fallen in love with My So-Called Life. And Freaks and Geeks is not too bad. I just hate the setting.
So, to conclude, my attitude to Glee is complex. I really don’t want to care about it. I don’t like it. Too much about the series bugs me. But I can’t help but be inspired. And for that I do have some gratitude.
Next time: My plans for next week.
I don’t know what it is. There is just something about Glee that really pisses me off. It’s not the acting. It’s the writing. The more I think about it, the further I go, the more issues I find. Seriously. And all of that comes from watching a single episode.
But there is a bright lining to this. My problems with Glee serve as inspiration. If I ever do something realistic, I’ll be sure to remember to avoid the mistakes that just scream at me. Or in general. Like doing the research. Or making logical sense. Or not forcing characters to make plot dictated stupid decisions.
This kind of reminds me of my issues with Naruto. How the hell do the later chapters gel with what happens earlier in the series? Naruto is freaking village royalty (he is a distant member of the Senju clan and is a member of the Uzumaki clan). So why the hell is he really treated like familyless trash (besides the whole tailed beast thing)? I could go on.
Now, am I being fair? Maybe not. It would be interesting to see what the creators of Glee are going for and how far ahead they plan their narratives. And the same goes for Kishimoto. And Hiro Mashima for that matter (the whole Zeref thing is, honestly, a mess).
But, like I say, all of this drives me to want to engage with these narratives. What about Naruto (or Glee or Fairy Tail) pisses me off? How do I take that and make something new, something my own?
This is, then, an example of an Octavia Butler Moment. Or several examples, to be honest.
I’m not going to claim that my, perhaps, more outlined and planed narratives will be better. Hell, the Glee I would have envisioned would never, ever, see the light of day on network television! But then again, would I really want to do something similar to Glee. Not really. Plus I really don’t want to work in television. At least for now.
Off to brainstorming now. Expect a ranting post on zombies tomorrow.
On the Dune miniseries DVD, one of the special features included a panel featuring Octavia Butler. At one point during the discussion, Butler told a very interesting story about her entry into writing. She recalls reading some science fiction novels (I don’t think that she went into too much depth about them) and realizing that she could do that. And do it better. Hence, the Octavia Butler Moment.
Okay, I guess you could rephrase the moment as the Moment of Inspiration. But the Octavia Butler Moment sounds much cooler, if you ask me.
The Moment can come at any moment. It is one of those random, artistically chaotic instances where connections are made. And boom, inspiration.
Now, is it hubris to not only have the call but to also possess the determination to better the inspiration material? I don’t know. I guess it depends how good the source material is. If it sucks, then it isn’t hubris. And if it’s excellent or great, then maybe it is a little bit hubris.
Have I ever experienced the Octavia Butler Moment? Yeah, I’ve had several Octavia Butler Moments. Hell, anything can give you an OBM.
Clark Ashton Smith’s work has provided an OBM or two. My general interest in steampunk and weird fiction comes from an OBM moment reading China Mieville’s Bas-Lag stories. Wanting to work in comics and manga came about from reading American Vampire and a few of my favorite manga.
Sorry to cut this post short today, but there are a few other things I want to work on. Before I go, I want to ask, have you ever had an Octavia Butler Moment?