Very Special Glee EpisodeMay 12 08:35
So, what did you think of last night’s Glee episode, featuring real-life quadriplegic Zack Weinstein?
Glee follows a high school glee club, and features a diverse cast of students ranging from Asian to gay to Jewish to wheelchair user. It’s a musical show, and at any time someone might just burst into song. The show often deals with social issues, which makes it sound tedious and boring, only with a soundtrack. But the show is edgy.
I think the show is some kind of satire, and I think the characters are actually caricatures of stereotypes. So, gay Kurt is over-the-top gay, uncomfortably so, and the discomfort comes from not knowing how to feel about him. Usually TV tries to program us to resist stereotypes, or laugh at them. But Kurt's ... ah ... complicated.
The show is gentler on Artie the Wheelchair Guy, probably because society’s not yet sure how to recognize disability stereotypes yet. And also, I’m sure the outcry at Glee casting a nondisabled guy to play Artie has caused the writers to go a little easy on this character.
I wonder, too, if the outcry over casting a walker as a wheelchair user is another reason why Zack made an appearance last night. His character was a football player who broke his neck, and his character was shown in two scenes. In both scenes, he was in bed with covers up to just below his arm pits (showing the injury level, maybe?), and we could see the back of his wheelchair.
Why, why, why was he shown in bed? Why couldn’t we have seen him up and about in society? Artie’s shown as having a full life as a high school student, why not this guy?
I can’t decide what the show’s motives are. First, this part of the show was dead serious – disappointingly so. Worse, it was uncritically inspirational! What a lost opportunity to exploit a stereotype. Second, this character acted like many high school kids who broke their neck last year might act. And Zack’s performance was flawless, in this respect. I bet he helped to write that dialog. But I don’t think most viewers know this. I think most viewers saw the episode and felt horrible that the poor broken football player no longer has a future. But maybe this was just his introduction, maybe we’ll get to see him develop into the fine young man most in his situation grow into. It will, however, be beyond strange to watch real-life AB Artie mentor the real-life quad, if the show goes that route. But then, that would sure fit how the show does things. It could be interesting.
Zack’s performance was great, and his singing voice isn’t bad. I hope he becomes a regular, that the show depicts him having a life, and takes off the kid gloves to give us the same strange, twisted treatment it gives all other typically stereotyped groups.
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1. MarkPloch | May 21 11:03
I seriously doubt the show GLEE is going to influence any members of society either way. Nor should it have or expected to.
2. Josie | May 21 01:37
Mark, out of curiosity, what'd you think of this past week's episode, the whole dream sequence?
3. Shark7 | May 21 01:41
Mark, what planet do you live on? Here on planet earth, media controls the general public's thoughts and perceptions. So GLEE does control how the general public views wheelchair users.
4. Sallyfranz | Jun 03 03:06
I was actually ticked off in the episode of Artie dancing in the mall (it was as if his agent said, "you guys promised the kid a dance number") If you can't get out of a chair, make something good happen in the chair. Maybe there is hope with Zack that Glee can deal with issues of rage and humor. Sally Franz, Author Scrambled Leggs...A Snarky Tale of Hospital Hooey"/Amazon
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