By Guest Contributor Tami Winfrey Harris, cross-posted from What Tami Said
I’m not quite a Gleek, but I do regularly record and watch Glee. It can be treacly and inconsistent, but I live for the moment when Chris Colfer busts out a Broadway classic like last night’s “As if we Never Said Goodbye.” The song occurred in the middle of the show’s much-hyped “Born This Way” episode, centered around the Lady Gaga song. The episode, which found the choir kids battling their insecurities, led to a denouement where they sang the Gaga anthem while wearing tees emblazoned with the natural traits they wrestled with most.
Rachel’s shirt read “Nose.” She had earlier decided against getting rhinoplasty that might erase one marker of her ethnic heritage. Kurt’s top read “I like boys.” And, in this episode, we saw the close of a storyline where he is bullied at school because of his homosexuality. Britney’s read “I’m with stoopid”–a nod to the running gag that is her questionable intellect. Mercedes, the sole regular black character on the show, wore a shirt that said “No weave.” I’m not sure exactly what her insecurity is. Does she hate that she wears a weave? Does she not wear a weave, but thinks she should? In this (customary) ignoring of Mercedes’ character development, Glee missed a chance to provide a window into what it’s like to be one of a very few students of color (particularly a black girl) at a majority white school.
By Arturo R. García
Long-time readers may recall that I was turned off to Glee pretty quickly. But this week’s Rocky Horror Picture Show-centric episode piqued my interest. And, thankfully, nearly completely rewarded it.
You see, this ep reached into some personal history for me. That’s yours truly on the right a few years ago playing Brad Majors for the now-defunct Justice League of Denton in Kansas(!). Both of the troupes I performed with, the JLD and Crazed Imaginations, were safe spaces for me as both a POC and a geek.
But I only started caring about the episode when word got out that the lead role of Dr. Frank-N-Furter would be played in the show-within-the-show by Mercedes, who was relegated early on in the series to Sassy Black Diva status.Yeah, I know she got to sing Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful” in an earlier episode, but, as she points out this week, she’d never gotten to play a lead before.
The music from the movie, of course, is just a backdrop for off-stage melodrama: Mr. Schu is putting on the show to stay close to Emma, who’s dating RHPS fan Dr. Carl; Coach Sue fakes supporting the show for the purposes of chasing a local Emmy; and the prospect of performing in their underwear stirs up anxieties for Finn and Sam. (Actually, the male body-image subplot might make for interesting stuff in future episodes, not to mention a welcome contrast to this kind of mess.)