Tag Archives: teenagers

Well, Mercedes, in answer to your question…

20 Apr

Today I was watching one of my favorite shows, Glee, with some of my favorite feminist peeps (as per usual on a Tuesday). I am fully aware of the issues many feminists and activists have with the show, and bitch magazine has done a great job of complementing my fanatic consumption of all things Glee with their fierce feminist criticism, and I am ever so grateful for this.

This post is not going to be all too long, I don’t think, because I just want to comment really quickly on a clip from tonight. Too bad I can’t find it online yet. The basic gist of it is (and I don’t think this is too much of a spoiler if you didn’t see tonight’s episode, but in case you’re worried, wait until you watch it) that Mercedes and Rachel are in a car talking about solos, divas, and R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

I’m going to have to ad-lib a bit, but the conversation basically the scene from Glee went like this:

Mercedes: Why don’t I get as many solos as you do?

Rachel: Blah blah blah its about how much you want it blah blah blah you have to demand respect blah.

I have to admit I’m not entirely sure what Rachel said here, because my commentary with my friends was happening over her little speech about how she wants to be in the spotlight more than anything else in the world as an explanation of why she gets more solos than Mercedes.

Here is what happened in my living room:

Mercedes: Why don’t I get as many solos as you do?

Me: Institutionalized racism

Aimee: Fatphobia

Alex: I love you guys

[Insert high five of feminist critical analysis here]

This is the thing. I realize that Glee is “just a show” and that the characters exist within a fictional universe where the realities of our culture don’t necessarily have to exist. However. The people who are writing the show are living in our society, writing about life in high school in our society, and pandering to entertainment executives and a consumer population deeply embedded and implicated in our society. The characters of Glee, like us, sit at the crossroads of many social institutions and structures, constructions of identity and subjectivities. This is why I had to cut Rachel off. (Well, as much as I could without muting Glee, because that would be blasphemous.)

Mercedes does not get as many solos as Rachel because she is a) a woman who is b) black and c) fat and not ashamed (and yes, I am including the episode where she experiments with dieting and experiences body insecurity because all of our experiences with our bodies are nuanced and full of shades of gray). Unlike Lauren Zizes (or just “Zizes,” as she is known on the show), who has been allowed to have a sexuality and a relationship with a popular, attractive football player, Mercedes has also not had any romantic entanglements beyond a crush on Kurt, her gay friend, and a fleeting conversation with a ┬árandom guy who only appears in one or two episodes after Kurt suggests she pursue him (she responds, at first, and for good reason, “Is it just because he’s black?”). I would suggest that part of this is because Zizes was already posited as a deviant female character in one of the first episodes (as the female wrestler who broke gender boundaries at McKinley High), and performs a deviant form of feminine sexuality (forward, confident, aggressive, body positive). Zizes is also white, and her identity as fat has been central to her character development.

Mercedes is supposed to exist outside of her size (now that she’s no longer trying to be a Cheerio) and outside of her race (except for passing comments like Kurt’s “I’m gay, she’s black, we make culture.”), so those cannot be reasons she doesn’t receive the same opportunities for solos as Rachel (thin, neurotic, Jewish). But, if we’re looking at Glee through a feminist lens that demands a position at the intersections, we have to call that out.

Rachel’s suggestion that Mercedes just doesn’t want it enough, or has too many other interests in her life other than the “spotlight,” puts the blame on Mercedes instead of a Glee club that reflects certain racist and sizeist aspects of patriarchal culture. I couldn’t help but hear the echoes of arguments about minorities’ ability to gain employment, succeed in school, and escape the “cycle of poverty” and the welfare system. If only these populations would try harder, and really want it, they, too could occupy the place in society they desire. These arguments not only deny but render invisible considerations of race, class, and other factors in access and opportunity in our society. There are structural mechanisms of oppression that allow certain people, more reflective of the hegemonic masculine ideal, access to opportunities (or solos) while keeping others, quite literally Othered, in their hierarchical place.

Phew.

By the way, I still love Glee. Have you seen this new Warblers CD?!

Love and Solidarity,

G

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Easy A ain’t no Saved, and other thoughts

30 Sep

Why hello, blogosphere. Most likely no one will ever read this, but I guess that’s kind of fine, because aren’t blogs really just for people who have something to say to get it off their chests? Also, I’ve attempted this blog thing at least 5 times previously and it’s never worked. However. Two of my hilltopper alum buddies now have fancy grownup blogs so I thought I’d give this a try!

Tonight I went to see Easy A with some members of my cohort. Perhaps Theodor Adorno is right with his ideas about free time, although instead of being tied to business and a job which my free time is tethered to, I am tethered to graduate school and every spare moment is spent trying to turn my brain back into an unaware, useless blob. Obviously, from the title of this entry, that doesn’t work so well.

I saw the trailer for Easy A and knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that this was a premise that could go the way of Saved! or of every other annoying, traditional christian moral-soaked teenage romantic comedies. I had very high hopes that it would be the former, but then I also thought Post Grad would be worth $9. Easy A is an interesting interpretation of The Scarlet Letter where, as the trailer shows the viewers before they even decide to purchase a ticket, Hester (in this case, Olive) hasn’t even had an affair. Instead, she’s a girl who makes a few misguided decisions while trying to help herself and some other people out. Here’s how I hoped the plot would go:

Olive accidentally becomes known for being a slut because she’s trying to help her gay friend out. She then goes on to help lots of nerds make their reputations better through false hook up accounts. The super intense conservative Christians get all shamey, and then the whole school turns into a slut-shaming high school battlefield. Olive’s parents are supportive of Olive leading whatever kind of (safe) sex life she desires and give awkward parent anecdotes about their own pasts without any moral undertones or references to lack of “self esteem”(seriously?! no, seriously?!). Though Olive is tempted to give in to the feeling that she is, indeed, a whore and should hate herself, she realizes (after getting angry to some angsty girl music and maybe throwing some corsets around in her room and having a good, healthy cry) that slut-shaming is sexist and wrong. Yes, she didn’t actually have any of the sex, but that shouldn’t matter. The boy she meets (because it wouldn’t be a rom com without it, I mean hell, even Saved! gave us a happy ending) doesn’t explain his continued affection for her in terms of who he knows she “isn’t”(i.e. that she didn’t sleep with the whole school) but instead affirms a sex-positive view that maintains that a person can be awesome, worthwhile, and full of self-confidence while being involved with multiple (consensual, safe) partners. The end!

Le sigh. But I guess one of my friends was right when she said that it did the best it could for the audience it addressed. Saved! wasn’t exactly a blockbuster, and so if Easy A wanted to profit like the average romantic comedy it couldn’t be anything other than a slightly provocative but still conservative account of female sexuality. I mean, what if this girl had started wearing corsets with an A on them, claimed her sexuality, and not started to “hate” herself? Why, we’d have female sexual power running rampant! And as Audre Lorde and many of her sisters before and after have pointed out, we just can’t have that.

I have GOT to go to bed (although with my luck I’ll still just lie awake until 4), but if I remember to blog tomorrow, remind me to talk about veganism and the UN. Yes, they go together.

Hopefully one day the title of my blog will be “OMGSH NATHAN FILLION TWEETED BACK!” but until then, I tweet on.

In sisterhood,

meDo you see all the slut-shaming floating around her face?