Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Play that Funky Music, White Girl

Last night's Glee mostly focused on funk music, and cleverly as a way to get people "out of a funk." This is not a review of the episode, but an observation of one element.

Early in the episode, Mr. Shuster gives the club the assignment to look for a funk number for regionals. Mercedes, the black girl on the team, says "I got this," but then Quinn, the blonde, white, former cheerleader says that she wants to try a funk solo. Mercedes laughs at this suggestion, thinking it a joke. She furthers it by essentially expressing that white people can't do funk; it's a ridiculous idea. Those are not the exact words, but absolutely the exact sentiment. Then, in what I consider a brave call-it-like-it-is move on the part of the show, Quinn calls Mercedes' comments racist. I was SO glad to hear that, because it's true! That point wasn't dwelt on in the episode, it was said and they moved on. But I think just to SAY that these days is fabulous. Doesn't Mercedes know that's racist? Doesn't she know that Wild Cherry said to "play that funky music, white boy?"

Unfortunately for me, this very good point was undercut later in the episode. Quinn performs her funk number, and everyone is into it; we get a sort of stunned reaction shot from Mercedes. Later, Mercedes, Puck and Finn (both of whom are white, by the way) perform their own funk number... and it's Marky Mark. Mr Shuster correctly points out that it wasn't really funk, even if it's by the Funky Bunch; it was rap. Once again, Mercedes is a little embarrassed. So she goes to talk with Quinn. Here's where it gets interesting. Before she even sits down, Quinn profusely apologizes to Mercedes, saying that she didn't realize how hard she had it. It's never said why, but you know she means because she's black. Basically, she equates being teenage and pregnant with being black, and instead of making about how they are the same, it's all about "How do you stand it every day, Mercedes?" And I'm thinking to myself... where did this come from? Why is Quinn saying these things when it's Mercedes who made the racist comments? In the end, Mercedes recognizes that Quinn got into the spirit of funk, and makes her an honarary sistah. I'm not making that up. She says "we sisters gotta stick together" or something like that (and this in context means black women, and not women in general), and then they fist bump, which Quinn isn't good at (because she's white). What I took from this scene is that Mercedes still views funk as "a black thing", and rather than recognize the equality of everyone, she ushers Quinn under the black umbrella. White girl got soul, but I guess it's despite the fact she's white.

While I was glad they reconciled, and Mercedes sort of softened, I thought the scene undercut the very relevant message about black racism. For a series that last week called out good kids for using the word "faggot", I find this episode a little hypocritical in that regard. Still, I was glad to hear it said on TV, which is all too infrequent. There was a Boston Public episode about it, and my favorite episode of Star Trek: Enterprise was all about it, "North Star". Am I reading this wrong? Take a look for yourself. The first scene is at the 10-minute mark, and the racism issue comes up around minute 11. The second scene is at 29:47.

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