To: Glee

Re: Domestic Abuse Plotline FAIL!

Attn: Angry. Ranty. Possibly triggering and HIGHLY spoilery for S3E18

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I’ve said before that when it comes to film and television I am willing to overlook virtually any shortcoming if the work in question includes a dance sequence. But despite Kurt’s lethal dose of “Not The Boy Next Door” gold lamé awesomeness, I am SUPREMELY ticked off at executive director Ryan Murphy and everyone responsible for writing this week’s episode of Glee.

If your going do an episode about domestic abuse, do it right or don’t do it all. Because you people fucked it up. Badly.

Resurrecting a character who hasn’t been seen or heard from in weeks, showing us flashes of an argument AS PART OF A MUSICAL MONTAGE and then having her announce “He hit me” feels less about effecting change and more about the producers trying earn their “Very Special Episode” badge.

The victim-blaming lesson about how abused women just need to be more empowered was not inspirational, it was condescending.

There’s also the part where Glee decided they could say everything that needs be said about this issue in a single one-hour episode (real time: 42 minutes and change). An episode which also featured two major other plots. The students at McKinley have plenty of time to fix an abusive relations AND help Puck cram for his geography test!

For reals, WTF? I’m guessing perhaps the controversy surrounding Chris Brown and Rhianna was at it’s peak when the writers were breaking this episode. (BTW, the fact that the credited writer of this episode is Marti Noxon, former Buffy scribe, makes me want to cry.)

Perhaps executive producer Ryan Murphy heard how some young women made jokes about Brown’s abusive behaviour on Twitter. Did he decide it was okay to have the characters on the show mimick those same vile, ignorant comments? Was he even aware that those “jokes” can be WAY triggering for a lot of people? Which I could have accepted if a thoughtful, affecting storyline about the realities of parnter-abuse has ensued.

Instead Glee gives me some weaksauce “hitting is bad” lipservice. And the worse part was the self-congratulatory tone of the entire episode. I could practically hear the the writing staff patting themselves on their collective backs, having song-taught millions of viewers that the simple solution  is for women to get confident, get empowered and leave.

It’s NOT that simple.

My problem with  “just leave” is that it’s pretty fucking arrogant. It assumes that leaving is easy. It assumes that the abuse survivor is unaware and just needs someone to tell them “walk out the door”, because clearly they don’t know that that’s how you put an end to it.

It’s NOT that simple.

Glee doesn’t even touch the complex issue of abusers and why they’re abusive and how prevent that behaviour. Because walking out on an abuser doesn’t stop them from being violent

Glee ignores the fact that people stay in abusive relationships for all sorts of complicated reasons – emotional, financial, religious, cultural. People sometimes stay to protect children or other family members. People stay because of a legitimate fear that their partner will become even more violent, perhaps lethally so, if they leave. That’s not weakness. That’s survival.

And even if we can’t understand see the reason, there’s a reason. Being hurt by someone who allegedly cares for you is awful If a person is staying, to them, the option of leaving is even worse. It can be hard to comprehend when you’re outside of the situation looking in. Given more time and care, Glee you could have helped us understand the reason.

If Glee had been braver and less lazy, they might have explored this issue through some of the principle characters. The one we love and we’re invested in as an audience. Because abusive relationships are still relationships. There’s beeen an emotional investment. There’s affection. There’s love.

Using Bieste and Cooter was the E-Z Bake answer. Cooter’s been on the show for all of 20 minutes. No one cares that he’s suddenly an angry jackass who punches because his dishes aren’t done. Dot Jones as Bieste tells us she needs his love (and does it pretty well considering the script), but we don’t feel it. So the writers insert message to audience “Don’t put up with this, ladeez!” and high-five each other for solving the problem of domestic violence.

Suck. Pants.

Glee, I’ve been loyal to you. But between this and your abysmal teen suicide episode (an event also depicted in montage), you are REALLY starting to piss me off! What you used to do so well (and what I wish you’d done the Rachel’s story last night) was create episodes evoke the emotion of those absurd high school moments. The ones that seem like nothing in restrospect, but felt like everything at the time. Keep doing that. And the musical numbers.

Please stop doing the “very special episode” stuff. You’re terrible at it and if you keep this up, not even a Steely Dan theme-episode will make me forgive you.

Sincerely,

Nadine

p.s. Where’s Quinn?

 

 

 

 

 

Comments

  1. kayla says:

    Srsly. Glee is trying to be more than it is.

    • Nadine says:

      Agreed! Generally I don’t mind if a show expands it’s horizons, but this was at best a lazy attempt at moralizing and at worst an explotative use of partner abuse to boost May ratings.

  2. Robin says:

    yup. that. bad. stupid. bad. more stupid. desparately disappointed but coming to wonder why I expected more….

    • Nadine says:

      You know what? I DO expect more. Glee had some quality writing in S1. Even S2 and S3 have some good moments. I believe this is a creative team that’s capable of so much more than the crap they churned out last night and I expect to see it.

      I also expect that the adults at the helm of one the most popular youth-targeted shows on television will behave responsibly. I expect them to think about what messages they want to convey and how best to do that. And if they can’t do a teen suicide or domestic abuse without turning it into a sensationalist oversimplification, I expect them to admit their shortcomings and tackle a subject they can handle well.

  3. b!WILDer says:

    I thought that the last montage showed the woman hadn’t left that she had gone back, had lied about leaving, I thought they left it open for continuation did I miss something at the dry end saying she did leave ?

    • Nadine says:

      Hi b! Thanks for commenting! And no you didn’t miss anything at the end…Bieste went back and the storyline remains open ended.

      Someone on Facebook made the same observation that you have, so I’ll give you the same long-winded (sorry!) reply I gave them.

      It’s true that at the end of the episode Bieste goes back to Cooter. They seem to have left an opportunity to continue/revist the issue, but given this seasons cavalier treatment of seriously mental illness (Emma’s OCD) and GLBTTQQ + suicide (Last time we saw Karovsky he was in a hospital, but I guess we’re just meant to assume he’s okay now), I’m not optimistic.

      I suspect (and I hope I’m wrong), that in a subsequent episode, the Glee kids will sing a song which will inspire Bieste to have a surge of empowerment and leave Cooter. Yay, problem solved.

      My problem is this is the story of domestic abuse that we’re always being told and it’s such a tragic oversimplification. The “why didn’t she/he/ze just leave?” attitude persists, because we are constantly being told that partner abuse is a very simple situation wherein the abuser is a monster, the person being abused is simply suffering from low self esteem and all they have to do is leave. To my mind Bieste returning totally reinforces “get empowered and leave”, because the implication is that her abuse will continue (I assume) not because Cooter is choosing to hurt her, but because she wasn’t “strong/confident/empowered/” enough to leave.

      Finally (I know I’m blathering) the episode never made me feel what any of the characters in the situation might have felt. Bieste went back. But why? Yes she had one line about how she’s afraid that no one else will love her (and props to Dot Marie Jones for acting the shit out of the little she was given). But the writers have never really let us feel or see that love. We’ve never seen her marriage. We’ve barely seen her and Cooter as a couple. If she’s leaves Cooter, the loss of that relationship has little emotional effect on the audience. But the loss of a relationship, even an abusive one, has a profound effect on people. Because (unlike what we saw last night), it isn’t just abuse and apologizing for abuse. There’s affection, partnership, history and real love and that can be really hard to walk away from. For me, the abuse plotline would have been FAR more powerful, albeit upsetting, if the couple in question had been say Kurt and Blaine or Mike and Tina.

  4. Brianna says:

    It seems like last season they went overboard on guest stars, and this season they are all about the ‘after school special’ type lessons – teen suicide, texting while driving, not being apathetic about your dreams, helping a trans friend, and violence against women – all solved in 42 minutes each!

    • Nadine says:

      Hi Brianna! Thanks for dropping by. :-)

      I agree with you. And I suspect that, just like the guest stars, the Glee-powers-that-be are more concerned with ratings than with affecting any really change or thought in the audience. It’s a shame. With as many viewers as Glee has, their really blowing an opportunity to make a difference.

  5. Thalia says:

    Thank you for writing this… I tried articulating what was making me so angry about the domestic violence storyline of this episode and it came out as a bunch of thoughts that weren’t cohesive.

    I found it especially irritating because earlier in the episode, Coach Roz first says, “I do not suffer fools. Especially fools who think domestic violence is funny.” Later, Sue makes the comment “Now, I realize that this room is America’s #1 destination for cheap, sappy moralizing. But your insensitive behaviour is about to subject you to a whole new level of preachiness.” It was as if they acknowledged many criticisms that the show faces… And then proceeded to not only play to those weaknesses, but actually out-do themselves.

    I still don’t understand why Bieste felt the need to make a confession to the Glee club members (she also made a confession about her lack of sexual experience to Artie in an episode about sex that made me incredibly angry) but while she did so, Brittany asked (inanely, and I found it lacking in humour and good taste entirely) if Cooter had broken his hand. Like you said, I expect Glee, which has such a large audience, to either be more responsible in their portrayal of serious issues like violence against women or to avoid the subjects, especially as one-episode plot devices.

    My final (big) issue with this episode was that it involved a bunch of the females of the Glee club but left out the male contingent entirely. This is a topic that is of importance to both sexes. Just as with sexual assault, we need to educate and teach abusers not to abuse, not survivors how to avoid/take seriously the abuse. (Please note, I’m not trying to argue that all men are abusive), I have to admit, I’ve been watching Glee since the mid-point of the second season or so mostly to see what they get wrong because it’s so rare that they get things right anymore

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