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.

8 thoughts on “Meh.

  1. If it makes you feel better, I’ve never seen the show… I don’t even know what it’s about! I just know that there are actors and actresses who are a bit too old to be playing high school (high school, right?) students…

    And I probably won’t be watching it, too.

  2. Damn, you nailed it! This is why I hate High School Musical. At first, I was like “yay, the smartest girl in school is black!”. Alas, it was only so they could play out the rest of the stereotypes without contradiction. But Oh is forty? She looks amazing! Ellen Pompeo (I’m spelling that wrong but Meredith) is about forty and I never bought her as a resident. Also she’s not attractive, despite the producers attempt to make her The Most Desirable Woman in the World.

  3. I have to second that emotion on Meredith – not cute.

    Though Glee is a show I watch [and enjoy], it’s one of those that I turn off for. I don’t analyze, because I wanna keep watching. But no – I don’t think Harry Shum has ever had a line.

  4. Not only, they should be roundly condemned for excess use of Autotune. Judging by the clip at AAM that is.

  5. I’ve never watched glee and I never will. I suspected from the very beginning that all the “diversity” was really a rouse to trick more people into watching the show and that all the asian characters would be insignificant props to the main cast. And the show has proven my instinct right. And so I’ll never watch the show. Besides, the show seems really stupid. You’d have to be brain damaged to enjoy it (sorry for offending Glee fans, but it’s my opinion)

    And I actually like Grey’s. I don’t think I’ve missed a single ep of grey’s. Yea, sometimes the show is really ridiculous but it’s still good entertainment. And for all the criticisms about grey’s mysteriously colorblind ppl, the show is STILL way better than the likes of Glee.

    And I don’t care if Sandra Oh is older but plays an intern. Asian people typically look younger anyways and almost ALL actors play characters significantly younger than they are. How many 25 yo play high school students, right? And as a grey’s fan, I know that initially, the creator of the show wanted sandra Oh to play Baily (the “older” character). It was sandra herself who decided she wanted to play cristina. And I applaud the creators of grey for letting her because no one can play a better Cristina than she!

    And I DO think Ellen Pompeo is pretty in a dignified way. I also like the character of Meridith (even tho she’s totally nuts sometimes).

    Then again…I’m a grey’s fan LOL.

  6. “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?”

    In 1976 Asian actors released a statement protesting the fact that they were only being cast as their specific ethnicity, as it limited the roles available to them, a limit that white actors were not subject to. Here’s the link: Hollywood Asian

    I’ve only seen clips of Glee, and the sassy black girl thing really jumped out, especially in “Bust the Windows Out Your Car” … it was like, really? The black girl reacts to romantic rejection with property damage?

  7. HK: You’d have to be brain damaged to enjoy it (sorry for offending Glee fans, but it’s my opinion).

    You didn’t offend Glee fans HK, you offended people who are brain damaged/injured.

    Until then, I was really enjoying the insightful critical commentary about this show.


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