Angry Asian Man’s post about Glee reminded me that I never did write anything about this show. People kept urging me to see it. And when I did, I just couldn’t get all that excited. It struck me as hipster racism masquerading as diversity. Wasn’t it nice of the network to throw in a guy in a wheelchair, a couple of Asians, two black people, a Latina and a gay guy?
But who are the featured actors? AAM nails it: the white straight able folks.
Overall, the show annoyed me for a bunch of reasons.
At first I was excited to see such a “diverse” cast. And then I realized that we just have the appearance of diversity. You would think that in 2010 I wouldn’t be so excited to see an Asian actor that I was watching crap like this. (Ditto for Grey’s Anatomy, in which race isn’t an issue. We’re all colorblind!)
Except I could hardly see the Asian actors. Okay, I knew Jenna Ushkowitz would get at least a little screen time. Because Asian women are fairly acceptable. But Harry Shum Jr.? I made a point of trying to watch for him in the dance numbers, and could only catch him in the background most of the time. But that dude can dance. (Credit to the actor who plays the teacher for giving Shum some exposure on Oprah. But what’s up with Oprah not having the whole cast on stage?)
And something that always annoys me about Asians on television: How old is Harry Shum? He must be close to the teacher’s age. Just like when one of my friends found out that Sandra Oh was playing a resident on Grey’s Anatomy. He said, “How old is she anyway? Forty-something?” I suspect the reason a younger actor wasn’t picked was so she wouldn’t make the lead character look too old by comparison. (The mohawk guy and the lead singer football player look pretty old too.)
There’s another Asian actor on Glee, Patrick Gallagher. He is Chinese/Irish but plays a character named “Ken Tanaka.” Eh, Chinese, Japanese, what’s the difference?
(By the way, I hate the actor who plays the teacher. I feel the same way about Nicholas Cage. I just can’t stand seeing his face. Don’t know what’s up with that. And why does Sandra Oh have only one emotive face, the brow-wrinkling thing?)
Just like in Grey’s, Glee has a sassy plump black woman. Now given that both shows appear to try to have characters the (white) majority might consider beautiful, why wouldn’t that extend to the African American female characters? Nope. Because they have to be Strong Black Women™. Somehow that stereotype excludes being slender with boobs. Personally I have always wondered if that was because a complete package of talent + looks would be just too much for white folks to handle.
There are a couple of other folks who go largely unseen on Glee. There’s the black guy who never seems to talk. Does he even have a name? And then there are the two cheerleaders, one white and one latina. Although both of them seem to get more lines than that poor invisible, mute black guy, or Harry Shum. (Does Shum ever talk?) Note also that neither of them are dweeby dowdy folks. I actually think the point of having the white cheerleader as a bit player is also a nod to “diversity.” Hey, because look! There’s a white woman with a small part!
Of course I was also consumed with the desire to know if the disabled character uses a wheelchair in real life. And for that, the answer is no. Like it would have been so hard to get an actor who really does use a wheelchair? I mean, why don’t they just do yellow- and blackface while they’re at it? And then I saw promotional crap like this and it really pissed me off.
And then there’s the character development. I could go on and on about this, but probably the easiest way is by thinking about what family members (backstories) you have for the characters. Teacher-wife. Wife-sister and sister’s kids. Mohawk guy-mother and sister. Blonde cheerleader-parents. Football player-mother. Gay guy-father. You’ve seen their houses and places of business.
White and latina cheerleaders, black guy, Asians, black woman, disabled guy: apparently hatched from eggs. Like my elementary school teachers, they get hung up on hooks at the end of the day and don’t have any outside lives.
Which is precisely why I’m going to end this here and not write about the hipster racism that pervades this show. Or why it is such a “feel good” experience for so many people. I’m done.