Glee: The Transformation of Average-People Losers

by Halle Kiefer


Last week, we noticed that local TV-owning lady Halle Kiefer was watching ‘Glee’ and having issues with it. Still having never seen it ourselves, but knowing that many of our pals, including Ana Marie Cox, love ‘Glee’ unreservedly, we asked Halle to help us make sense of it, episode by episode. Herewith, her report.

This week’s much-anticipated Madonna episode kicked off with a profoundly overcomplicated explanation of why head cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester will be permitted to blare Madge all day through the loudspeaker in every room of the high school. The simple answer is just good ol’ fashion faux date-rape blackmail, but the more ramble-y one has to do with Sue’s deep respect and admiration for the Material Girl, another middle-aged tendon-y blonde with a taste for power and dubious singing ability. Principal Figgins concedes to the plan because, as was explained last week, Sue has threatened to show the photos she took of them in tracksuit flagrante to Figgins’ wife, a tactical move that would seem to imply that the unseen Mrs. Figgins has never seen, heard or, or spoken to Sue Sylvester before in her life, because wow, Sue has really amped up the crazy lately.

Unfortunately, the show then inexplicably turns away from Sue Sylvester and starts focusing on other characters! Ugh, you people again! Why do you have to eat up our precious Sue Time? Maybe it’s just me (OR MAYBE IT’S JUST GLEE) (Ugh, I’m sorry) (but yes, it is just Glee), but throughout the course of this episode, Rachel really starts to become a microcosm of everything that is wrong with this show. There is no real emotion coming out of her, ever; she’s 90% pouts with an occasional toothy smile. As she explains to the ladies of Glee how her secret boyfriend Jesse St. James from a rival glee club had suggested they “go all the way,” she has two facial expressions: Mildly Perturbed and Mid-Belt. That’s it. That’s all we’re getting, so we better work with it here by, I don’t know, not having her talk so much?

Also, I know it’s supposed to be a campy hyper-reality (like 70% of the time, I guess?), but am I the only one who is more than a little skeeved out by Rachel’s lady-child cherry lip gloss and white cotton panties pervo-fantasy wardrobe? Oh, no, just everybody? Seriously, ick. I keep getting older, and they stay the same barf.

Rachel continues to reject Finn’s affections, still devastated after he destroyed their beautiful day-and-a-half long relationship when he failed to immediately get that her neuroticism was actually a deep and abiding love. O fake high school! Vulnerable to outside influence, Rachel and Finn are quickly circled by Jesse and Santana respectively, who for their own selfish, incredibly complicated reasons are hungry for their sweet, sweet, virgin flesh (it’s not that complicated: basically 50% of high school students in their county are apparently predators who should be in some kind of prevention program).

Back in the gym, we get the first of the episode’s impressive 7 Madonna songs, the Cheerios busting it out to “Ray of Light.” Hurray! And it was…good? It’s hard to judge? What with all those STILTS getting in the way? Stilts which just came out of nowhere and were never addressed again? I hated the way the female cheerleaders had regular skirts and tights, then just stilt pant legs starting at the knee. Come on! Every emotionally disturbed cheerleading coach knows that the illusion of the full pant is essentially to the success of stilt use!

The best line of the evening was Sue snarling “sloppy freakshow babies” through a megaphone after the Cheerio’s finished their beaming, flawless routine. Classic Sue! Will Schuester watches, always watches, eternally watches from the bleachers (remember when he used to teach high school? Me neither!) smiling that toothless smile of his, and decides that he TOO will use Madonna to inspire his group to great heights. Of course he does. Of course. Why wouldn’t you to co-opt the one thing in the world that your erratic, hostile coworker has ever loved for the sake of a meaningless weekly vocal exercise? Especially when this same coworker has proven time and again that she is 1) emotional unhinged, 2) not above breaking a wide variety of our nation’s laws and 3) just moments away from completely snapping and crushing your skull between her aging but powerful thighs. Always thinking, Schue.

The ladies and gentlemen of New Directions (did I miss the episode with all the nude erection jokes, or is it a fish in a barrel situation at this point?) are immediately split down the gender-line, save Kurt, on Schue’s proposed all-Madonna project, which conveniently sets up the episode’s female empowerment subplot (which centers primarily on boning). Sometimes I wonder if the head writer for this show has actual physical hams for fists; this was one of these moments. The nay-saying men, consisting of Artie, Puck and Finn (nice try Hot Asian Dude, better luck next week getting acknowledged in any way!) are immediately like, “Argh we hate Madonna! Her powerful sexuality scares us! Also glee club is already gay enough, right?” Which, fine, maybe they would think that on some level, but my God, how many other incredibly fabulous lady performers’ songs have you done been doing, and you are only now getting uncomfortable with the idea? YOU HAVE BEEN IN GLEE CLUB FOR MONTHS. GET OVER IT ALREADY. It’s not getting any straighter! Rachel sort of proves them wrong by leading the ladies in a cute, fine rendition of “Express Yourself”, which was is fine and cute and they are all adorable, good singers, but really, after you set the bar with the little taste of heaven that was Sue Sylvester’s “Vogue” video, well, you had better BRING. THE. HEAT. for the other songs. Mama needs her medicine/costume changes!

Rachel and Finn also have a tasty little duet with “Open Your Heart to Me” in the library/book store (save for when Finn dumps a bunch of library books off the shelves in the heat of the moment, because, what?) knowing that they are tempted by the potential to hump other people, but wishing that they could be together, which they can’t because… aaaaaaah, why? I don’t really know! Is it because of pride? It’s pride, isn’t it? It is soon established that despite the fact that both of them are idiots and want to be together, both Rachel and Finn are going to make elaborate plans to lose the big V that very same night. Emma also climbs aboard the pork train after Sue disconnects her intercom, telling Emma that she didn’t deserve to hear Madonna like everyone else, as she has the same sexual energy as “that panda down at the zoo who refuses to mate.” How mean and true! Taking matters (read: boners) into her own hands, Emma tells Will that she too plans to seduce him that night in a sure-fire great idea of a plan that will surely end with no hurt feelings/pregnancy scares. OR WILL IT!?!?

It will. But let’s take moment to focus on the real heart of the episode. I can’t be alone in saying that I sort of felt a jolt to my… what is it called again?… ah yes, heart, when Schue finally snaps back at Sue’s constant critique of his profoundly goofy hair. “How is the Florence Henderson treating you?” he snarls to Sue’s slack-jawed surprise, “Maybe try a new setting on your Flobee?” Oh snap, indeed. He really went for the throat with that Flowbee reference there.

But honestly, seeing Jane Lynch’s wounded face over the dark sounds of “Frozen” made me feel terrible! A hole had been jabbed in her brittle, grandiose protective shell, and Sue was exposed for what she really was, a bully with frankly a little bit of a mullet. That’s when SUE HULKS OUT! Storming away, Sue grabs a kid and throws him into a locker, going ape and ripping the books out of another student’s hands, cursing the whole time. Oh ho, here we go, I thought. There are finally going to show some sort of repercussions for America’s Favorite Sociopath and her mounting crazy behavior.

Haha, nope! I should have known, there won’t be any real-life consequences for (admittedly hilarious) assault in Glee World. Kurt and Mercedes (who are made out of spun sugar and gold/why this show is still worth watching) follow her and learn that due to home bleaching accident precipitated by the release of Madonna’s True Blue on her 6th birthday, Sue cannot grow her hair into the luxurious mane she craves, her secret jealousy toward Shue’s thick, wavy locks always threatening to leap out (“But that would make you 30,” Mercedes points out. “29, actually,” Sue says, eyes steely.) Because they are SWEET BABY ANGELS, Kurt and Mercedes agree to do Sue a favor to help her live out her fantasy. And so the “Vogue” video is born. As my friend pointed out, in the real world getting the AV club to use school equipment on school property during class time to record the cheerleading coach dancing with a corset and cone-bra would be grounds for at least dismissal, if not placement on some sort of online registry. My main issue is, hello, we’ve already seen the video! The episode version was exactly like it was in the promo (read: flawless) but seemed an odd move considering that whoever would be drawn in by the video would also ostensibly we watching this episode.

On a different note, where are people’s gay dads in this episode? So much talk about gay dads, and then all of a sudden when a certain high school diva is about to break it off/get broken off, they are no where to be seen. Do you think one of Rachel’s gay dad’s pick up that caped nightgown she had on, or what? It was like they picked it out of the 25 cent lingerie bin at the Best Little Whorehouse in Texas’ garage sale.

Now I wonder, is Rachel moderately worried about this big life decision? WELLITHINKYOUKNOWTHEANSWERTOTHAT. Eyebrows say… yes! The couples, finally overcome by the scintillating sexual chemistry between them (I’m currently enrolled in Sarcasm 201, and I just need a C on the midterm to pass!), decide to put on their matching nightgowns and rub their pieces ’n’ parts all over each other. The six-part “Like a Virgin” started out adorbs, but the longer it went on I more uncomfortable watching people older than I am playing teenagers grinding together in song on their four-poster beds. Predictably Rachel and Emma chickened out before they did the deed, which is for the best considering Jesse St. James is being employed by Idina Mendez to seduce and sabotage Rachel’s glee career, and Schuester is just, ew, I don’t know, something ain’t right about him on some very basic level. In a great plot move, Finn actually did sleep with Santana! I am surely looking forward to the tearful, fist-clenching solo reserved for pregnant Quinn for when she finds out! WHERE IS MY PAPA DON’T PREACH, GLEE? Gosh darn it, WHERE IS IT?!?!

And, then, just when I think I can’t take any more furrowed brows, just when I can’t look at any more earnest mouths singing into other earnest mouths, we cut to Kurt and Mercedes headlining the pep rally for the Cheer-ios, dueting to “Four Minutes” and just DOING THE DAMN THING. They should replace Glee with a show where due to a bus accident and a will written while drunk, Kurt and Mercedes are sent to live with Sue Sylvester, where they have to learn about life and love, and also they transfer to a new school so I don’t even have to look at Rachel again. They can call it Divas Live.

Kurt and Mercedes’ scene also gets at what is most winning about Glee: the transformation of average-people losers into huge fabulous stars for just one minute out of their otherwise stupid, crappy lives. That’s how musicals function; that’s why Rent or Hair or any other equally atrociously corny show can be so empirically silly, yet leave people weeping during the intermission. Sometimes something is so cheesy, so smothered in hot delicious cheese, that it can basically be itself classified as cheese, and then how can it help but be delicious? And seeing Kurt and Mercedes in their little matching cheerleading uniforms was epically fabulous. Afterward, Kurt and Mercedes inform Schue that since he isn’t giving them solos in their shows, and since Sue actually repaid them the favor of putting together the Vogue video, they are choosing to be in both Cheerios and glee club. Shue is very inappropriately angry (dear adults in this show: get lives! For you and the children!) and the spiritual imbalance between a triumphant cheerleading coach and a sad-sack glee teacher is restored to its proper place.

Unfortunately for EVERYBODY, this number is not the end of the show. O, that it had been! They also pack in the manliest dramatic reading of “What If Feels like For a Girl” ever put on by a glee club, and a so-so gospel-choired “Like a Prayer.” But once you see Kurt with a headband dropping it in front of the entire high school, that’s it, the show is over. Quit while you’re ahead. So, overall, a better, less creepy episode than last week, but man, I really have to start caring about some of these main characters, or this series is going to Ugly Betty itself into oblivion. Until then I’ll just have to continue my letter writing campaign to have HAD (Hot Asian Dude) at least be allowed to wear a name tag.

Halle Kiefer is really busy on Tuesday nights.