Open Discussion: Glee and Intersectionality

There’s something hard not to love about Ryan Murphy’s Glee.  Glee has been praised for its portrayal of underdog high school heroes, especially Kurt Hummel, a gay teenager.   Nevertheless, Glee has broken its hearts along the way.  Here are a few of criticisms of Glee:

- In “When will Glee stop Ignoring Race?” Racialious examines the character  Merceades.  Racialious writes that Glee treats “black female characters in the way they are always treated–as hook singers, as comic relief, as funny sidekicks, as advice givers, as checks on the inclusiveness scorecard, but never as fully-actualized human beings.”

- Glee writers have avoided mentioning trans issues or developing a trans character.  In fact, they miss go out of their way to avoid trans people.  In Glee’s tribute to Rocky Horror, they change the lyrics of “Sweet Transvestite” to “fabulous Transylvania”. When preforming Lady Gaga’s “Born this Way,” the Glee kids didn’t perform the line that mentioned in trangender people.  Instead, they perform what is probably Gaga’s most offensive line of all time: “No matter black, white, or beige, chola, or Orient-made, I’m on the right track baby, I was born to be brave.”  Orient-made?  Really?  Why edit out trans people but focus on such questionable lyrics?  Unfortunately, when  The Bilerco Project blogged about this incident, they too overlook the racism of Gaga’s lyrics and focus on “lgbtq exclusion.”  Curiouser and curiouser.

The Born this Way incident may illustrate the heart of Glee’s problem: Glee likes to keep things simple.  Glee writers have been reluctant to really explore the intersection of oppressions.  As a result, Glee’s characters can be one dimensional at best and stereotypes at worse.

What do you think?  Where has Glee succeeded?  Where has it fallen short?  What could it do to improve?

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