Thursday, October 15, 2009

TSTL: Not Just for Heroines

I've been watching this season's TV darling, Glee. It's cute. The music is really fun (although I have yet to feel the urge to download any of the performances off iTunes so that phenomenon escapes me), and the characters are interesting. The show clearly sees itself as camp because most of the characters are so over-the-top cartoonish no one could be expected to take them seriously. Between the cheerleaders who ALWAYS wear their cheerleading uniforms to the bombastic bully of a cheer coach, Sue, and the germaphobe guidance counselor Emma, nuance is a concept that is ignored completely.

But I do have one fundamental problem with the show that is getting to the point where I'm thinking of bailing.

Warning: this post includes SPOILERS for Glee. Don't read after the cut if you don't want to read SPOILERS.

First, a little background for anyone who doesn't know. Glee's central character is Spanish teacher Will Schuester who recalls his days in the McKinley High School glee club with such fondness that he determines to return the current glee club to its former glory. Over the course of the season, he's managed to recruit both enthusiastic and reluctant singers to flesh out the chorus, all the while fighting the not-remotely-subtle efforts of cheer coach Sue Sylvester to thwart him so that any extra curricular funds go to her champion-level cheer squad.

Will is married to Terri, but he has an obvious attraction to guidance counselor Emma Pillsbury. Football star Finn is dating cheerleader Quinn but has an obvious attraction to glee club star Rachel. And in order to add conflict and tension to these two love triangles, the writers at Glee have stepped out of camp by using a serious storyline that veers so much into soap-opera that I'm about to give up on the show.

See, Terri (Will's wife) is the most annoying sort of characters. She's a prima donna former cheerleader who feels entitled beyond the ability to believe. She treats Will not so much as her life partner but as the person responsible for giving her everything she wants and more, regardless of what he might have to sacrifice. When Will finally showed enough frustration that Terry believed he might actually kick her to the curb where she belongs, she told Will that she was pregnant. He was thrilled and, as would be expected, committed to staying with Terri and being a family. Problem is, Terri is not pregnant.

Cheerleader Quinn's situation is equally self-serving but almost more evil. As president of the McKinley High chastity club (do those really exist?), she's refused boyfriend Finn's attempts to take their relationship physical, a situation he accepts reluctantly. However, after a few wine coolers too many, Quinn gives her virginity to Finn's best friend, Puck, and winds up pregnant. Instead of telling Finn the truth, she convinces Finn that he's the father despite the fact that the two have never had sex. He actually believes the urban myth that a hot tub can serve as the perfect incubator that allows conception sans penetration. He turns his back on his growing feelings for Rachel, freaks as he sees his future going up in smoke, and worries how he'll explain what he's done to his single-mom mom. Not to mention the looming nightmare of being a teen father.

And herein lies my issue with the show. At first it was that I so completely and totally despised the characters of Terri and Quinn I couldn't stand to watch them on the screen. How two women could lie so openly to men they are supposed to love is beyond me. I won't even go into the Grand Canyon-sized plot holes a faked pregnancy presents because I can't get past the concept of faking a pregnancy in the first place. Does Will NEVER see his wife naked? And how will she "fake" labor and delivery?

But as time has gone on, I've come to see that my problem is not so much with Terri and Quinn, it's what these two characters force Will and Finn to become. I like Will. I like Finn. But my respect for these guys is quickly approaching the negative double digits.

I mean, come on, Finn! How could you actually believe that you are the father of Quinn's baby when you've never had sex with her? Maybe we're supposed to like Finn all the more because he's so trusting and devoted to his girlfriend that he believes her without question. But really, when faced with such a life-shattering situation, I'd encourage even my own son to ask the tough questions.

I sure hope Finn's ignorance is not a commentary on the poor state of the American public school system's sex education program. Because if that's the reason we're supposed to accept Finn's buying Quinn's immaculate conception BS, the writers need to work a lot harder.

And while Will is admirable for staying with the shrill, shrewish Terri because she's supposedly having his baby, all I keep asking myself is how he ended up with such a woman in the first place. She's unbearable. Honestly, I don't see one redeeming quality in the character. So what could have possibly inspired Will to marry her?

So my problem is not so much that Finn and Will are being lied to. It's that they are so easily duped. There's naive and there's trusting and there's loyal. But this goes beyond any of that into Too Stupid To Live territory. I can't feel bad for Finn or Will because the solutions to their problems are so obvious. (Has Will NEVER seen his wife naked?)

And even if these two good men are subconsciously ignoring the obvious, neither the Terri nor the Quinn character has been portrayed as a woman worth such self mental-subterfuge. If Terri and/or Quinn had shown at least one redeeming quality that made me see why Will and Finn love them so deeply as to allow themselves to be lied to so poorly, I could suspend my disbelief in their belief in the lies.

If the show follows the premise it's establishing - that Terri plans to claim that Quinn's baby is hers and Will's - and Will and Finn buy into it, I will stop watching. If I wanted to watch a soap opera, I'd tune into Days of Our Lives.


Jess said...

While I totally agree with you about Teri (I personally pray for her to be flattened by a bus in each episode), she didn't initially lie to Will about the pregnancy. She truly believed herself pregnant; however the lies and schemes since finding out that is so not the case have been outrageous. And it's getting harder for me to suspend my disbelief that Will still hasn't caught on.

As for the Quinn/Fin dilemma, I'm torn! Quinn did cheat on Fin when she got pregnant, but I think she's shown herself as a much more sympathetic character in recent weeks. Unlike Teri, she's not a grown woman, but a confused teen who's terrified that she's about to loose everything that makes up her world, superficial as it may be.

I do think Fin could be a commentary on sex education in America and his ignorance could be further crippled by his intelligence. Let's face it, he's cute but not so bright.

Generally I'm getting a little tired of the two pregnancy lies on the show. I kind of wish Puck would finally snap like he was hinting at a few episodes ago. Oh, and that Will would touch his wife and get a clue.

Lynn M said...

Good point about Quinn being only a teenager and very scared so most likely reacting out of fear. I do agree that she's been getting much more sympathetic over the last couple weeks - not just the one-dimensional shallow cheerleader.

I'll have to rewatch - I guess I didn't realize that it took Terri a while to figure out she wasn't pregnant. I thought she made that up, but you could be right. Still, once she found out the truth, she had the perfect window to walk out - just tell Will the truth and he could share in her disappointment. But as it stands, the longer this goes on, the more ridiculous Will looks.

I'm with you in that if they would just ditch the pregnancy plotlines, this show would be darned near close to perfect.

Rebecca said...

Yes! You've exactly put your finger on what bothers me about Glee. Perhaps the only thing that bothers me about Glee.

What frustrated me at first was (as you pointed out) how Will ended up with Terri in the first place. Although they try to explain it away by saying that they were HS sweethearts, etc., I find myself thinking that Will seems like too good a guy to ever have dated her in the first place. And the longer the pregnancy thing continues, the more I also want to stop watching.

Here's my thought: Someone was sitting around in a writer's meeting saying, "How can we make Will have to stay with Terri after she loses the baby? Otherwise Will and Emma get together and the show is over", and one of the new writers who had recently defected from Days of Our Lives said, "Let's have her fake a pregnancy!" to which the rest of them said... "hey, it worked for Nicole, it can work for Teri!" And then it just got out of control from there. In order to make the fake pregnancy work, they had to have a baby to give to Terri, which caused the Fin/Quinn storyline to be necessary, which caused the Emma getting married storyline to be necessary, etc.... it's like one of the bad romance novels that doesn't know when to stop throwing devices at the heroine to keep her from being with the hero and ends up just being a long litany of side-stories that have no purpose other than to support the ruse.

Yet somehow, the overblown weirdness that is (as you aptly named it) camp-y Glee makes it all seem to be perfectly believable. Or at least, if not believable, addictive.

I will stop watching Glee probably about the same time I stop taping Days of Our Lives... which would be when the world (or the show) ends. Otherwise, camp or no camp, they have hooked me. How is that?!?

Great post! Thanks for your thoughts.

Anonymous said...

Of course Glee is ridiculous. Ryan Murphy's other show, Nip/Tuck, began as a spectacular show and then just dropped off a cliff. Glee will only get worse.