Wednesday, September 15, 2010

GC#2: How Quinn Fabray Could Be the Best Character on Glee (And Why She Isn't)

Let's be very clear about something: Quinn Fabray is not the best character on Glee. What's unfortunate about this fact is that she could be.

A quick rundown of Quinn's development: She started out as the bitchy Queen Bee cheerleader, the arch nemesis for Rachel Berry. Perfect boyfriend, perfect life. Cruel and conniving, she insisted on making the protagonist's life hell. In short: her life was a stereotype. Then she got pregnant.


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Yes, the pregnancy itself was still a stereotype. Now she was the bitchy, knocked-up cheerleader, who slept with the bad boy and paid the price. But then the writers introduced something a little more three-dimensional.

Quinn Fabray started showing a little heart. Maybe it was pregnancy hormones, or a big fat helping of humble pie (getting kicked off the Cheerio squad and out of your own household certainly brings you down a peg or two), but everything about Quinn's character changed. The tight ponytail transformed into softer styles and braids, and the harsh Cheerio uniform turned into baby doll dresses and cardigans. And she was downright... nice.

This development was certainly promising. Ryan Murphy has said that Dianna Agron, Quinn's portrayer, accidentally ruined the awful character he was originally envisioning. It's interesting to ponder this thought. Agron was the last of the original kids to be cast, and literally gave two whirlwind auditions that were taped and shown to Murphy, who gave the okay the day before filming started. I do wonder if the whole process happened so quickly that they didn't stop to consider the impact that casting this girl had on Quinn's character. Agron's off-camera persona (and wardrobe) is much more aligned to the post-Cheerio Quinn, and it's clear that if she weren't the one wearing Quinn Fabray's skin, Quinn Fabray would probably still be a bitch. This is not to say, of course, that Agron is incapable of portraying a character different from herself. She's got chops. But I'm getting off point.

Even if casting Dianna Agron fundamentally changed the character of Quinn, Ryan Murphy rolled with it, and it paid off. The first 13 episodes of Glee were created in a bubble. This is supremely interesting in that you can glean a lot of the writers' original intent, unaffected by fan and critic feedback. For Quinn, these episodes explored her pregnancy, her rapidly eroding lie about the baby's father, and her plummeting social status. Not only that, but we got a sympathetic glimpse into her home life, a rarity for this show. It was interesting! There was depth! She was treated like a main character! Hell, she was a main character! In the fall of 2009, while the show was still fairly fresh, Glee had the opportunity to send some actors to Comic-Con. Who did they send? Rachel, Finn, Quinn, and Mr. Schue. It's clear who they intended their main characters to be.


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So what happened? If the first 13 episodes embody the potential for Quinn Fabray to be the best character on the show, then the "Back 9" completely undo it. The writers decided to listen to fans, and pulled focus from the plotlines involving pregnancy/lying. Well, Terri Schuester's sinking ship took Quinn's character arc down with it. Quinn got virtually no screentime in the Back 9, and the scenes she had reeked of inconsistency. When we last saw Quinn in "Sectionals," she was emotionally raw, having had the truth about her baby's paternity exposed to the world and her relationship implode right in front of her. She'd had a rather zen-like conversation with Rachel Berry, and told Puck she didn't want to be with him. Promising, right? But when Ms. Fabray showed back up on my screen months later, she came with hardly a line of dialogue, and background actions insinuating she and Puck were together. Needless to say, I was more than a little outraged.

There's a huge disconnect between the first 13 episodes and the last 9, and frankly, it's frustrating, especially where Quinn's character is concerned. I'm under the impression that if you have a pregnant teenager bitch who's deciding to change her ways, well, then that character arc needs to be on screen. Instead, Quinn was relegated to the background, where she remained until her water broke. We didn't even know where she was living for six episodes! Yes, the writers tried to keep the delicate balance between Head Bitch Quinn and Old Softie Quinn, but instead she just came off as wildly inconsistent. One episode she was perfectly content being in the Glee club, the next she was scheming to get her popularity back, and the next she was wielding a charming but clunky friendship with Mercedes. Characterization whiplash is not becoming, Glee writers. (And truthfully, Quinn is not the only character that suffers from it!)

The most frustrating conclusion of all this is the woulda, coulda, shoulda. The fleeting glimpses we've seen into Quinn's personality have been compelling - she's sarcastic, strong-willed, insecure, stoic, caring, angry, feministic, and intelligent - in short, a well-rounded female character. The execution is just not employing all of these characteristics. What happened to the Quinn Fabray that blackmailed Sue Sylvester to get the Glee Club their page in the yearbook? It bears repeating: she blackmailed Sue Sylvester! And without all the ridiculata (and hair gel) that Schuester brings when he tries to do it! Seriously, let's hear it for the girl.


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So what's the future of Quinn Fabray, post-neglect and post-baby? It's hard to say. It seems as though she'll be back up to her old tricks in the new season, and as long as that brings her character development back to the forefront, I'll be content. But if it undoes every inch of her character arc, I will have to cut a bitch. Fabray-style.

17 comments:

  1. I want more storyline of Quinn Fabray!!
    I love her so much..

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  2. I agree! Thanks for reading and commenting!

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  3. I think a problem with glee is the inconsistencies. The writers have no problem punching the continuity fairy in its face!

    But, during Brittany/Britney, I think they did find the balance. Quinn did Rachel a favour, but she still had this bitchy air about it. if you get me.

    She and Rachel had so much potential and the friendship could have really gone places, but instead, the writers tried to force Quinn/Mercedes on us.

    I like Quinn - I think she had/still has a lot of potential to really develop. If the writers put the crack pipe down and really think about her.

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  4. I agree with you on all your points. The inconsistencies in writing drive me insane on this show, and poor Quinn's gotten the brunt of it. So far, though, I'm liking Season 2 Quinn - she's the head cheerleader bitch again, but she's still held onto a bit of that softer side. I love that she wan't scheming to get Finn back, but rather doing Rachel a favor - not only was it a good piece of character development that Quinn deserves, but also gives me hope for a Rachel/Quinn friendship yet, haha. (Seriously, writers - opportunity SO wasted.)

    In short - I have hope for Season 2 Quinn! I like what I've seen so far, and I really hope the writers continue to do right by her.

    Thanks for commenting! :)

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  5. Quinn was my favorite character for most of the first season, but so far in season 2, she seems to have lost her place. They should giver her cancer or something else terrible to deal with.

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  6. Well, I don't know about cancer, but I DO agree that they need to get her a storyline, STAT. :) I remember thinking that her character was on the brink of something AWESOME during "Sectionals."

    But, alas.

    Thanks for commenting!

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  7. You've made so many great points! You basically just stated exactly why Quinn is my favorite character from the very start of the show, and all my frustrations with the inconsistencies of her character. I LOVED her character development in the first 13 episodes (especially when she blackmailed Sue in "Mattress"), but now she's back to being bitchy!Quinn this season, and I wish her characterization just wasn't so inconsistent, like the rest of the characters. I actually liked the pregnancy story line and softie!Quinn, and now it's like she forgot she ever had a baby and seems intent to get back on top.

    Okay, sorry for my rant, but just. ugh.

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  8. xjamey - Thank you! Isn't it frustrating? She had so much potential after "Sectionals," and then they just threw it all away by forcing her into the background. And now it's almost like the baby thing never happened. Except for the active torment of Rachel, she's basically back to Square One. Sigh!

    I'm planning to write up a piece about Quinn in Season 2, so stay tuned! Oh, and never apologize for ranting - I'm guilty of doing it at pretty much every turn, so I can't judge. :)

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  9. I just can not bring myself to care about Quinn. I was one of those people who became sick to death of her after the first 13 episodes and I breathed a sigh of relief when she wasn't as heavily featured in the Back 9. I never sympathized with her, I never felt inspired by her, her songs are not good. The only time I did like her was when she had the fleeting friendship with Mercedes. Then the season two premiere converted me from indifferent to outright disliking her, just because it made her seem so hypocritical compared to the first season's characterization.

    Now that she is with Sam she is boring, boring, boring. Quinn is boring, Sam is boring, and together they are twice as boring.

    I think Glee has more characters that also have incredible potential to be amazing. That talent should be utilized before giving Quinn another main storyline when we have yet to learn anything about (for example) Mercedes at all.

    Glee would benefit from treating the show more like the ensemble it has. Let Mercedes, Tina, and Artie have entire story arcs, rather then a b-story in an episode here or there - they have immense talent. They should focus on the friendships these kids are, and could be, forming rather than the 'Who is hooking up with who?' revolving door of relationships we get every week.

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  10. Have you cut a bitch yet? Quinn has been relegated to "that new jock's girlfriend". IT'S INFURIATING!

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  11. Anonymous @ 3:02 - Ah, it's fair enough that you got sick of the pregnancy storyline. I think we got overloaded on it in the First 13 and so the writers completely swung the other way and ignored it - I personally wish they hadn't, just because I think the storyline needed to be wrapped up.

    Season 2 isn't particularly treating Quinn well either, unfortunately. As a fan, I at least like the screentime, even if it's not exactly what I'd like to be happening.

    You are definitely correct that all of Glee's characters could stand to be developed more, Mercedes included (or even especially). I'm in the camp of people who think that both Mercedes AND Quinn can have storylines and so I refuse to choose which one I'd prefer on my screen.

    Thanks for the comment! Great thoughts. :)

    Anonymous @ 1:56 - Oh, I'm almost there. I do not appreciate Quinn as Sam's girlfriend now. With a promise ring to boot. Just, ugh. :(

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  12. I could not agree more. The first 13 episodes were magical. They featured consistent plot lines, well thought out story archs with attention to character development. Since then, the writers seem to loose their way and lapse into absurdity much too often. The result is that the characters are not likable. Will is a complete ass. Rachel is an annoying diva. Emma is so unrecognizable. Where has sweet Ms. Pillsbury gone? I want to love every episode of Glee because there are always parts to like but they need to get write their characters some believable story lines!

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  13. Anon - thanks for the comment! You're very right in that the first thing to take a hit on Glee is the characterization. I try not to complain about the storylines, as long as the characterization is good. But most of the time it's so WTF that it's hard to swallow.

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  14. The problem Dianna isn't a very string actress or singer.

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  15. The worst part is, she made so much progress. But every season seems to need a dose of Quinn being more than a little insane. It's so damn sad.

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  16. Hey Doctor! Could you update this article in light of Season 2+3 as well as the rumours of Season 4? Would be interesting to see what direction Quinn has ultimately gone :)

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