Thursday, November 12, 2009

Glee - Wheels, or Skirting the Line

So, full disclosure - I was so excited about the return of Glee this week that I pumped myself up by listening to recordings on YouTube during work (don't judge me). However, I accidentally stumbled upon this week's "Dancing with Myself" and "Defying Gravity" covers. Now, the question is: with the thrill of the musical numbers already experienced (only auditorially, not visually) will the show still stand up to its former glory?

This week, Quinn's still off the team, and starting to fret about medical bills for her impending bundle of joy. Instead of, oh, I don't know, telling her parents so she can jump on the family insurance bandwagon, she harps at Finn to get a job so he can pay for all her new maternity clothes. I'm starting to get a whiff of Terri in Quinn's demeanor, and the shrillness does not look good on her.

Meanwhile, Will wants the kids to travel to a tournament in another town, but there's no money for a special bus equipped for the mobility impaired (i.e. Artie). Not wanting to split up the team, he'll have to find his own way to finance the trip, without the school's help. I don't mean to be nit-picky, but I feel like there's a law somewhere that says public schools have to be equally accessible to all people with disabilities. Oh, that's right, it's the Americans with Disabilities Act. Oh, well. Carry on.

So, Will pitches the idea of a bake sale to raise money, and the glee clubbers balk. They say that Artie won't mind riding alone with his Dad. Artie agrees, then sings a sad rendition of "Dancing with Myself". Okay, so the test arrives! The version, while smooth and jazzy, isn't all that exciting on its own - unlike other Glee classics like "Don't Stop Believin'" and "Somebody to Love". But what really made it work was the wonderful montage of loneliness and sweet wheelchair dancing that accompanied it. Glee, you have passed your first test.

Turns out that Artie is miffed about being left out, and Will goes to bat for him, saying that not only will they do a bake sale to raise money, each member of the club will spend three hours a day in a wheelchair, and the number they perform will be wheelchair based. I feel like the punishment does not fit the crime here, Shuster, but I'll roll with it (see what I did there?)

Puck gives Quinn $18, after overhearing that she needs money. For some reason, they start a weird baking food fight (since Quinn was baking cupcakes for the bake sale) and almost kiss. Then, Finn walks in and, for once, has a glimmer of suspicion that maybe, just maybe, the bun in that particular oven is not of his own stirring.

Kurt has a heart to heart with his Dad about how much he wants to sing "Defying Gravity" for sectionals, but Will won't even let him try out, because it's a female part. Kurt's Dad goes to the principal, complains about discrimination (take a hint, Artie's parents!) and convinces Will to hold fair tryouts for the part, with all the rest of the glee club voting on the best performance. Rachel raises hell because she thinks it's just going to be a popularity contest, not a fair judge of talent. Kurt makes everyone promise to vote sincerely for the best performance, and it's on!

The principal, so inspired by Will's dedication to accessibility in the school with the wheelchair stunt, has decided that Sue must hold open auditions to fill Quinn's spot in the Cheerios. She relents, and we see a melange of uncoordinated students try their luck. The last auditioner, Becky Jackson, has Down's Syndrome, and is also quite uncoordinated. However, Sue decides that she's on the team.

What? We know she's up to something, because the "I'm up to something!" a capella plays in the background, but I'm really concerned about where this is going. There's a point where it's okay to make fun of things, and Glee, you were really skirting the line with the mobility impaired and gender discrimination. Throwing in intellectual disabilities, I fear it's too much. I find myself cringing at the next scene, and unless you deliver a big-hearted, we're all okay message at the end of this, it will just be too bitter to swallow.

ANYWAY, Rachel is nervous about the diva-off, Kurt's Dad has second thoughts about being "Super Supportive Dad" after he gets an anonymous phone call calling his son the f-word, and Quinn threatens to break up with Finn if he doesn't get a job. Dude, seems like an easy call to me - you don't have to get a job, and you get Quinn off your back. But, he doesn't see it that way. With Rachel's help, he concocts a nefarious plan to bring in the bucks.

Speaking of nefarious plans, Puck has his own way of bringing in the dollars. He fills the glee club cupcakes with marijuana, so people are buying them by the fistful. Also way up on the nefarious scale, we check in with Sue, who is running poor Becky into the ground with drills and exclamations that she's terrible. Will runs in, horrified, but Sue protests that she only wants to treat Becky like everyone else, not easier, just because she has a disability. Will isn't convinced that her motives are that pure, and neither am I.

Puck tries to give Quinn his ill-gotten funds from the marijuana bake sale, but she protests. Puck goes on and on about how they could be a family, and he has ambition, and everything will be great, but Quinn says the argument pretty much breaks down when you see that Puck stole from a friend in a wheelchair. Sorry, Puck.

The results of Rachel's treacherous plan come through, and Quinn got a job! He pretended to be in a wheelchair, and Rachel threatened to sue the restaurant for discrimination if they didn't hire him. So, now he has checks to dutifully hand over to Quinn, and has to keep up the charade of being bound to a wheelchair as long as he works there. Well, this is a win-win for everybody? Maybe?

Now, with the money to rent the special bus for Artie in hand, everything seems right with the world. But, Artie selflessly gives up the money, agreeing to ride with his dad to sectionals, so they can install a wheelchair ramp in the auditorium. BUT, wonder of wonders, it turns out that Sue Sylvester just wrote a check for three, count 'em, three, wheelchair ramps for the school! So, they get to have ramps and all ride together to sectionals! The only person not totally excited about this prospect is Will, who's still convinced that Sue is about to unleash something terrible.

But then, as I hoped, we have a beautiful, touching moment, when we learn that Sue's older sister, whom she visits religiously at her assisted living facility, has Down's syndrome. Sue read her sister Little Red Riding Hood, and I teared up. Oh, Glee!

As if things couldn't get better, we cut to an adorable scene between Tina and Artie on their first date. It turns out that Artie has been pining for Tina for awhile now, and after recovering from the epic fail line of "...but I still have full use of my penis," Artie convinced Tina to go out with her. They kiss, and it's awesome.

Then, Tina drops the bomb. She doesn't really have a stutter! WHAT. She drops some bullshit about not wanting to give a speech in 6th grade, so she faked it, and just kept it up until now, but New Directions made her want to experience life to the fullest, blah, blah, blah, whatever. TINA! You were so cool, with your blue highlights, and now you're just a poser! Artie has the same reaction, and is all like, "Peace!" Relationship over.

But back to the diva-off. Rachel sang like an angel, of course, and Kurt was okay. Mostly, he just has a brassy sound that I can't get over, and the whole thing sounded so force I felt pity for his vocal chords. When it came to the high F, the centerpiece of the song, Kurt totally blew it, and they gave the part to Rachel. Womp, womp. But then we find out that Kurt intentionally threw the try-out so that his father wouldn't have to put up with more harassing phone calls about his son's sexual orientation. Heart-warming, but also sad for poor Kurt. When is his moment to shine?

The big finale is a rendition of "Rollin' on the River", performed entirely in wheelchairs. Subtle? No. Great choreography? Yes.

So, overall, Glee played a pretty tricky game, and tackled a ton of discriminatory topics. Were they successful? Well, Artie got some ramps, and people understand him better, but poor Becky is still getting her ass kicked on the Cheerios. We find out Tina really doesn't have a stutter, though that isn't really in the discrimination category, but a revelation. Finn narrowly escaped a Quinn breakup by exploiting laws designed to help people with actual disadvantages. A lot of mixed messages here, and the episode felt a little like it was treading water. None of the plots really advanced, but it was a pleasurable interlude, and it was good to give Artie some serious face time. He sure can sing, and man, can he wheel that chair.

I'm hoping that next week we'll get back to the interpersonal drama, and have some real consequences. Until then, I'll keep replaying the Glee standards in anticipation.

1 comment:

  1. There was so much fun lovin' wheelchair it made me proud. But agreed half show felt like some sort of after school special... and the other half was sort of take advantage of disabilities.

    BUT did everyone else notice Arties light up wheels? I'm sure they've always been there... but rad.