OK, I finally watched the FOX show, “Glee” this week! I had seen the other FOX show, “Brothers” since its premier. I liked it but I will
talk a little more about in another post. First, what’s fresh on my mind, “Glee”! Good and bad. I must preface that teenage movies and shows do not appeal to me whatsoever! No surprise, I am 45 years old! So with that said I will try and will not talk about all of those clichés or aspects in the category which I cannot fairly evaluate. Generally speaking, I think there is a big tendency to go extreme in a lot of things lately. And that goes especially for “inclusion”! The writers or producers create a show that they want to be sensitive to represent and instead of a typical high school setting they made one that has to include EVERYONE and nearly every character here belongs to a minority or sub-group. Asian female, black/African-American female, disAbled male with paralysis and guest characters (two females) with M.D. (one young and one older), pregnant teenager, the gay male, the school principal, a male whose ethnicity is either from India or Pakistan, and I am sure I am missing some off the top of my head. But even those that do not belong to a minority or sub-group are stereotypical in their character description. The gay student’s father – a blue collar worker mechanic with Playboy calendars on the wall in his garage who struggles in a very PC way with his son’s sexual orientation while still loving him – especially since we have not been inclusive enough yet… he is a widower, the boy is motherless although I don’t know how she died but I suspect there is someway to include another group. And then there is the stereotypes of the girls’ P.E. teacher – that you’re not sure about her sexual orientation – even if not she certainly has more male like characteristics – but to not add another character, she is also the cheerleading coach. And oh, the Glee Club teacher – could he be more of the “best friend” to ALL of his students – looking out for everyone? OK, there is more but I think you get the point. I just feel like they are trying to be everything to everyone! When you use all of the colors in the Crayola 64 pack, yellow, blue, pink, red, crimson red, burnt umber, etc. makes even purple not that special. Being too inclusive, too stereotypical, too cliché, it becomes…too much. Being “included” where everyone is included – doesn’t feel that inclusive.
Meat and Potatoes
But to address the specific issues of the disAbled character – I just happened to catch the one episode that revolves primarily around the disAbled character. Here the Glee Club teacher (you remember him looking out for everyone) was upset because the other students were insensitive to the issue of Artie, the paraplegic character not going to be able to ride with them to their next competition because they cannot afford a bus that is wheelchair accessible – or handicapable (not a term I am used to using) so he makes everyone in the Glee Club use a wheelchair during the week – at school, and I suppose at home but I didn’t see any scenes of them at home & but also for their up coming competition – which turned out to be a singing and dancing routine! Now don’t get me wrong – it was a good routine – but I thought the Glee Club was just singing? And I did like the fantasy song and dance routine did as he practiced in the gym(?) to Billy Idol’s song “Dancing with Myself” – very poignant and well done. But the Glee Club? Well maybe we have to “include” dancers and since we don’t have a Dance Club at this school (you now cutbacks!!!) Sure it was a good lesson – and one I would recommend for those who happen to have a friend or family member who has to LIVE using a wheelchair so they know what it is like for their fellow student, “Artie” who is a paraplegic. There is a dozen classmates in the Glee Club and I wondered immediately – if they do not have the money to rent and that is what they said not buy – but rent a handicapable bus for one night – how did he get the money to rent 11 wheelchairs for a week? But on a good note they were NOT the hospital chairs – man I swear if I see one more movie or tv show that is trying to be inclusive and trying to represent with a character who supposedly lives their life using a chair and they put them in a hospital chair – I will lose my freakin’ mind! Another part of the authentic voice, vision and performance that I strive for in all of my work! So kudos to Glee for getting that right!
I was Faking It
But now since we are speaking of authentic – let’s get to the actor. Here was a poignant scene. The classmate he likes is the Asian girl and she catches him in the hallway among her new appreciation for all he goes through from his wheelchair (confirmation that the teacher with everyone’s best interests at heart was correct in plan to teach them all a lesson about being
sensitive) she also kisses him. But then afterwards she confesses she has been faking her stutter (oh wait another all inclusive factor in a character I forgot to mention above) since the 6th grade. She says she has been pushing people away for so long and that the stutter which began as a way out of a oral presentation for a school assignment turned into a way for her to keep people at bay and that now she is happy to finally reveal this and to now be normal, Artie is disappointed and in his rejection of her because he says that he liked her because they had “something (a disAbility) in common and ends with saying “…You get to be normal. I get to be stuck in this chair for the rest of my life. That’s something I cannot fake.” And then he rolls away. Dude, are you serious? First of all – you are in high school and in a wheelchair and with the haircut and plain framed dark rimmed glasses of a geek, and she is a hottie – get real! At the same time I was having this “get real, dude” moment I also had to laugh – this is the PROBLEM IN HOLLYWOOD – it’s okay for the “character” to be pissed that another “character” was faking a disAbility, but it is okay that the actor portraying the character with a real disAbility is FAKING the disAbility! WHAT? And I am wrong for being as angry and pissed as he was in the “story” about someone pretending – someone representing that they have a disAbility when they don’t?
And this is real life! He is an able bodied actor representing something that is as significant to my identity as any other major
factor in my identity. I am a MAN, I am WHITE, I am 45 YEARS OLD, and I am DISABLED. And they all play a VERY SIGNIFICANT part of my DAILY LIFE, my daily EXISTENCE, and certainly in who I AM. And it is OK for his character and for the story to center around THIS EXACT SIGNIFICANCE in the life of the character with a disAbility BUT it is ok for the actor to fake it? What a double standard – and if this was just once in a while – that an able bodied actor represents being disAbled – it might not hurt so much – it might not be as offensive – BUT IT IS ALL THE TIME WITH HOLLYWOOD! And this is just another example. A television program that is trying to be inclusive to so many but at the same time is so hypocritical by portraying how significant it is not to fake a disAbility all the while they are faking it. How offensive. How insulting.
Portraying or Preaching and Representing or Practice
Great job at “portraying” how it is upsetting, offensive, and insulting to fake having a disAbility, but a terrible job at “representing” how that is for those with a disAbility. Oh it’s celebrated when they have a one-time character, or even maybe an occasionally recurring character who has Muscular Dystrophy being represented by actresses with Muscular Dystrophy, but a main character who
merely has to sit in a wheelchair because of paralysis they can use anyone! And he can preach to his classmates about how tough it is and how insulting it is to fake a disAbility. Well all I can say is it is time to practice what you preach and that means it is time to represent what you portray!