Saturday, November 27, 2010

GLEE: "Furt"

Well, the wedding episode wasn't quite as bad as expected, however the clichéd elements continue to rear their ugly heads and I'm starting to dread episodes where Ryan Murphy has a writing credit. One of the most annoying elements of this episode is for every plot to have a "wedding" theme. It was transparent and annoying, and they were all set up in the first five minutes. The worst of these was the moment that Sam got on one knee and basically proposed to Quinn with a promise ring that he wouldn't pressure her, he just wants them to be an item and maybe get married someday. Quinn sort of blew him off, but didn't say no. ...And then nothing more happened with that story for almost the entire episode. It's like they knew it was ridiculous. There were a few flirty scenes between the two of them, but nothing much, and nothing that warranted shoving in this silly ring idea. But she still decides to wear it at the end of the episode. Even though it was never mentioned anywhere in the middle of the show.

Kurt's dad and Finn's mom are finally getting hitched, and Kurt gets to plan the wedding. He books New Directions to be the wedding band. ...Which really means he's drafted the musicians who play for them to be the wedding band, while the glee club occasionally sings. Did these kids agree to play a wedding for no money?

And just as odd a storyline, though not as out of place, all the wedding talk makes Sue decide it's time she got hitched. The news anchor she briefly dated last season announced on-air he was marrying his co-anchor. Sue wants a wedding, but it seems there's no one out there for her — so she decides to marry herself. It's just as crazy as it sounds. If you thought television marriages had reached their kooky limit after Denny Crane married Alan Shore on Boston Legal and that kid married a box of cereal in a Cap'n Crunch commercial, Glee just one-upped them all.

But for all the wedding talk, the main dramatic thrust of the episode seemed to be in continuing the Kurt bullying arc. Last week, Karovsky told Kurt that if he mentioned the kiss, "I will kill you". This has Kurt terrified whenever Karovsky is near. Mr. Shue notices something is up, and they go see acting Principal Sue. She says unfortunately her hands are tied unless Karovsky actually does something. I'm grateful that this episode makes a point of differentiating between bullying and harassment. There was a point Tina said that they'd all been picked on but that this reaches a new level. I'm still tremendously aggravated that it's only the gay kid getting picked on. During the session, Sue continually calls Kurt "Lady". He tells her that this is bullying too. Um, well, is it? I mean, the episode wants to suggest that Sue is a bully (because she is, surely. She at least bullies Coach Beiste), but does that mean everything she does is "bullying"? She teases EVERYONE with nicknames. It's not particularly nice, but should we really start calling it bullying? And if so, is that any different from Kurt calling Karovsky names earlier?

There's another bit of stunt casting here. Sue's mom comes into town for the joining of her daughter with herself in bizarro matrimony, and said mom is played by TV legend Carol Burnett. Why is it Carol Burnett always plays a mom? She's good at it, but it feels familiar. Didn't she win an Emmy for the same thing on Mad About You? Three things make this choice work this time around: 1) they didn't advertise the show with her as a selling point, which they usually do, 2) Carol Burnett is not just some current celebrity getting a little more notoriety; she's a legend who doesn't have to do the show and 3) they wrote the character as something very different from the normal "mommy". What I liked is that the character would work even if it wasn't Carol Burnett. She certainly brings her brilliance to the table, but for once in a long time I felt like the character was there first. Sue's mom is a Nazi hunter. That's right, she hunts descendants of Nazis internationally. She missed out on most of Sue's childhood because of it. She's sort of abrasive, and you can see where Sue's bullying demeanor developed as a response and defense (which is, of course, a theme in this bullying episode). A funny symmetry to all of this is that Jane Lynch recently served a similar function as Sam's mom on iCarly.

Sue's mom wants to sing at her daughter's wedding, even if the wedding is insane. So we are treated to a rehearsal of the song she might do, and it's "Ohio" from the musical Wonderful Town. It gives Burnett a chance to sing. It also brings the show back to being a musical, as the dialogue in the middle of the song is Sue and her mom talking about when her mom left. It's totally in character, but also done as song, something the show doesn't often do.

Rachel gets the girls in glee club to convince their boyfriends on the football team to stand up to Karovsky for harrassing Kurt. Santana is annoyed that she wasn't included here, but is told she's not really dating Puck and that he can't get in a fight anyway or he'll go back to jail. She spends most of the episode calling Rachel a dwarf angrily. Is this bullying too?

The boys have a face off with Karovsky in the locker room. Except Finn, because he's more concerned about keeping his place as quarterback and doesn't want to rock the boat. Anyway, when Artie and Mike Chang confront Karovsky, he falls back on his gaytred, then violently shoves Artie. This leads to a bit of a brawl with Sam jumping in and getting a black eye tussling with Karovsky until Coach Beiste breaks it up. Quinn thinks Sam is super sexy for what he did.

After this incident, Kurt's dad has come by the school for Kurt to teach him how to dance. He notices Karovsky pass by in the hall and give Kurt a look. He doesn't like it, and when he finds out about the harassment, he goes down the hall and threatens the boy. Mr. Hummel then goes to Principal Sue about the issue. They meet with Karovsky and his dad (played very nicely by the guy who was Arzt on Lost). Karovsky denies everything. Kurt insists that he doesn't feel safe and that Karovsky threatened to kill him. However, Kurt keeps silent about the kiss. Sue decides that it is in her authority since a life was threatened to expel Karovksy. He can appeal to the school board.

Unfortunately it is a hollow victory because the school board overturns the expulsion. They decided that there wasn't enough actual evidence. I wonder if things might have been helped by Kurt talking about the kiss. That brings in definite sexual harassment, and we all know how that sort of thing goes down. I'm just curious. Sue steps down as acting principal in protest to the decision and tells Kurt that she will be an extra set of eyes for him in the hall ready to act on any hard evidence on Kurt's behalf. It's a nice little moment for Sue, though starts to feel a little too soapbox-ish.

Sue and her mom fight, and Sue tells her off for being a bully, finally refusing to let her sing at the wedding. But not much is done after that. There was a rehearsal wherein Sue acted as the minister as well, exchanging vows with herself. But this preceded the blow-out. Does Sue go through with the marriage? We have no way of knowing. That bugs me. Even if she did, I can't imagine any governing body accepting it as a legal marriage. And if Sue does find someone, will she have to divorce herself first, lest she be convicted of bigamy?

Santana is still mad at Rachel and tells Finn he should admit to Rachel about how he's not a virgin anymore (since "The Power of Madonna"). He says he can't do that because he loves Rachel and it would hurt her. So he's in an awkward position of being on good terms with Rachel, but feeling like he's lying to her.

Finally we come to the wedding ceremony of Finn's mom and Kurt's dad. There's something annoying about it. Earlier in the episode, Kurt mentioned Finn giving his mother away after walking her down the aisle. Kurt has the whole thing planned. But when the day finally comes, Finn does no such thing! The glee club does this big musical number in the aisle, which Finn leads. He is nowhere near his mother for that whole time. I was glad they didn't do the same thing The Office did, but it still wasn't much better. There were a few clever bits of choreography, like Artie coming in with ribbons that he hands off to the girls behind him. But it was mostly just what you'd expect and kind of annoying. Worst of all was the song choice. The song is "Marry You", and even though it has "marry" in the title is the most inappropriate song for a wedding they could have come up with. The lyric is about two people getting drunk and saying, "Hey, why don't we like get married?" That's not a theme song for your parents' wedding!! That's a theme song for Ross and Rachel's wedding in Vegas! That's a theme song for Britney Spears' 30-minute wedding! It's like no one at the show even listened to it, but just scrolled through an iPod of songs by current artists and went "Hey, that's about marriage." Dylan has a "Wedding Song." Anything would have been more appropriate than the song they did.

I get really tired of this trend on television where characters "write their own vows". What that really means is some TV writer gets to write a flowery love speech, even though the characters rarely ever actually vow anything in that speech. Glee does this, but nicely sidesteps the main problem with it by having them do flowery speeches AND traditional vows. That's at least something. Burt's little speech was better.

At the reception, Finn apologizes to Kurt for not having his back earlier. He should have stood up for him in the locker room. He promises that now they are brothers, and he will always be there for Kurt. He even introduces a nickname for the two of them: Furt. Then to make it even weirder he has prepared a song in Kurt's honor for having planned the wedding, "Just the Way You Are". Not the Billy Joel song, but it's a similar feel, and the lyrics are a little odd if they're all supposed to be about Kurt. They throw some of them to Rachel, but it's still a little kooky. At least we get to see all the guys perform a little dance routine there, something we haven't seen much of even though they were taught to do it in "Acafellas".

It was during that musical number that I found myself really annoyed with the show. You are aware, writers, that Kurt is not the only character on this show, right?? It's an ensemble show, and I'm getting tired of everyone taking a backseat to all of the falling all over Kurt. Hey, I like Kurt, but he cannot be the center of the show.

With Karovsky back in school, Kurt's parents decide to pull him out of school. They will use the money saved for their honeymoon to send him to that snooty academy where Blaine goes. I knew this was coming episodes back. I just couldn't figure out how they could afford tuition on Burt Hummel's salary. Kurt says goodbye to the glee club and says he will never feel safe in a school that doesn't have a zero tolerance bullying policy. First, let me just ask what "zero tolerance" means when it comes to bullying. No name calling? So Santana would have been expelled for the things she said in this episode? I have a problem with "zero tolerance" anything, because there's ALWAYS an exception somewhere. Furthermore, it seems like it's a message to our school system but frankly, it cannot work. Sure, a private school can throw out problem students. A public school generally cannot act that quickly. It may seem unreasonable to Kurt, but from a certain point of view it's also right to keep Karovsky in school for now. He hasn't quite broken any law or major school policy. And the current political rhetoric is that it's the right of every American to an education. If we just expel them, aren't we denying them civil rights? That's where the matter becomes very difficult. It seems to be a common belief that "staying in school" keeps kids out of crime and leads to better lives. From this perspective, kicking Karovsky out of school would only be worse for him and lead him down darker roads. I'm not suggesting there is a solution, but I think Glee came off this week as incredibly naive and preachy. There must be some sort of middle ground between doing nothing and expulsion. But I don't believe stringent "bullying laws" are necessarily the answer. Really, they will be impossible to properly enforce and will bring all this to court where it doesn't belong. Though on another note, I'm surprised that the fight in the locker room wasn't brought up as evidence on Kurt's behalf. Anyway, I'm hoping this is the end of the story. It started as a shallow "ripped from the headlines" storyline and ended as an excuse to get Kurt and Blaine together, thus bringing him romance and creating tension for sectionals. I hated the artificiality of it, I hated the didacticism, the ridiculous "the bully is a closet homosexual" angle, and the fact that it all comes down to sexuality. I would have liked to see this storyline played out in a less obvious manner. Students are bullied all the time for all kinds of reasons. Because they're rich, poor, fat, disabled, black, white, stupid, nerdy. What if it had been PUCK being bullied by someone you might not expect. Oh, what about Santana? Wouldn't that dynamic, the arrogant devil-may-care tough guy being harrassed by a mouthy cheerleader, have been interesting? Because people would write it off, but it wouldn't make it any less real. I think that's what they were trying to say, but it got lost in a sea of "look at all the poor gay kids killing themselves! What can we do to stop that?" in the zeitgeist. And now that it's over, can we please go back to writing Kurt as a person first and a gay one second?

Songs in tonight's episode:
Marry You
Just the Way You Are

Next week's episode: It's Sectionals already? And as expected, tensions rise with Kurt now part of the competition. ...Wait a second, doesn't Mr. Shue have to have a certain number of kids or he's disqualified? Who takes Kurt's empty slot? I hope their performance is better this year (the preview does seem to suggest more dancing), and something other than Journey.

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