Monday, November 15, 2010

An Open Letter to the Ladies of McKinley High

While Glee gives us great music, inspiring storylines, and excellent performances, it's becoming increasingly apparent that one of its weak spots is in the way the show handles its female characters. There are times when Glee talks a big talk about feminism in episodes like "The Power of Madonna," but on a week-to-week basis, the female characters seem to suffer from sloppy execution in the details.

So, in the interest of imparting some wisdom to the women of Glee, I give you...


I. to Rachel Berry:
Never let the haters get you down. Never let a boyfriend list reasons not to be with you when he says he loves you. Finn is not a better person than you are. Your life can be whole without a boyfriend in it. Your hopes and dreams are valid. Your self-confidence is not a flaw. Don’t sacrifice something you truly want just because it makes you unpopular. Know that you can carry the Glee club on your own, but that you don’t have to. Keep taking the high road. Hold out for a real friendship - someone who accepts you for who you are and doesn’t try to change you. You are a good person, and you deserve that.

II. to Quinn Fabray:
Wear the uniform, but don’t let the uniform wear you. Be who you want to be and don’t let anyone else tell you that you should be skinnier, or easier, or more popular. Don’t feel like you owe Puck anything. Channel your inner Sue Sylvester wisely. You don’t need to dominate anyone to feel good about yourself. Remember Beth, but don’t carry an undue burden - you did the right thing. Be nicer to Rachel. She’s been good to you, in spite of everything. Don’t rely on a boy to tell you you’re beautiful. Maybe try dating outside the football team. And choose someone who likes you, not just what you look like or what you represent.

III. to Mercedes Jones:
Girl, you are beautiful. Don’t let anyone ever tell you otherwise - not Sue Sylvester, not a boy, not anybody. Fight to sing full solos in Glee, and not just the vocal runs. Keep supporting Kurt. Be nicer to Rachel. Don’t be afraid to try out for the lead, whether it be on the Cheerios or in Rocky Horror. And if another boy tries to date you just to rehabilitate his reputation, send him packing. You deserve better. And you’re totally capable of starting a sex riot.

IV. to Tina Cohen-Chang:
Keep sharpening that righteous blade of feminism. Keep holding on to what makes you unique, and never let a boy try to change that. Good for you for dumping Artie. You deserve better. Hold onto Mike - he respects you. If Artie wants you back, don’t just think of Mike’s abs - think of how he’s treated you and if you truly like him. But don’t ever let your relationships with these boys define you. Don’t give up on your solos so easily. You’re just as deserving as Rachel or Mercedes.

V. To Santana Lopez:
Honey, do not look to Puck for examples on how to treat people. Remember that Glee Club is the best part of your day, okay? Be nicer to Rachel. Be nicer to Mercedes. Be nicer to Tina and Quinn. Don’t worry so much about image. Don’t get caught up in scheming. If Brittany makes you half as happy as she seems to, then honor that and treat her properly. You deserve unconditional love, and you’re lucky to have it in your best friend. Don’t take that for granted. You are beautiful without the boob job. Don’t let other people’s standards of beauty determine how you view yourself. And try not to swindle Breadstix out of millions of dollars.

VI. to Brittany S. Pierce:
Keep seeing the best in people. Don’t let people call you stupid or a slut. Don’t let a boy guilt you about “taking” something that he willingly gave. It’s also okay if you don’t sleep with every guy in school - it’s about quality, not quantity. Keep loving unconditionally. If Santana can’t see what’s right in front of her face, then don’t wait around for her forever. You can be your own person, and you deserve happiness with someone who recognizes how much they love you.

VII. to Emma Pillsbury:
Never let anyone tell you that you need to be “fixed.” Seek help for yourself as you see fit, on your own pace. Have sex when and with whom you want. Don’t be afraid to move forward with Carl just because Will is still a part of your work life. Look after the female students of McKinley. They need good advice, especially in the romance department. Don’t let Sue, or anyone else, intimidate you. Stand up for yourself, and what you want. Try not to over-romanticize a relationship. Love someone for who they are, not what they represent, and expect the same out of your partner.

VIII. to Shannon Beiste:
You are beautiful, period. You deserve someone who sees that, and who will love you for who you are. Never let anyone demean or dehumanize you. You are a caring woman, and don’t be afraid to show it. Demand respect from your students, and your co-workers. It’s okay to cry. And most importantly: don’t let Sue bully you. You deserve to be treated with respect. All those who refuse? Show them the door.

IX. to Sue Sylvester:
Sue, not all of us can be held to the same standards you hold yourself to. So when you’re quick to cut someone down, show a little mercy. Give your students half as much self-confidence as you have, and you’ll have imparted them a great gift. If Rod tries to date you again, tell him to take a long walk off a short pier. You deserve better than that. Don’t be so harsh with Emma. You could both learn from one another. Keep your fearlessness for truth-telling, but know when to ease up from cruelty. And, as much as it pains you to hear it: winning isn’t everything.


This is seriously all I want for my Glee girls, and I want to the writers to deliver that. I'm not saying I want them to be perfect; I just want them to be real, and good examples of women on my TV.


  1. I wish they'd let you write for the show. It would twice as coherent and three times as funny and infinitely awesome.

  2. I'm waiting patiently for Ryan Murphy to call me. ;P

    Although I don't think I could really add anything funnier than what they've got... but I could definitely rock the coherence. And the continuity.

  3. So much word on Quinn Fabray.

  4. Gina - I'm so protective of Quinn Fabray it's not even funny! I totally want her to follow all that advice. She'd be so kickass if she did.

  5. Be nicer to Tina and Quinn.

    It was Quinn who stabbed her in the back, not the other way around.

  6. IslandLiberal - Ah, good point. I think I was just trying to blanket-advise Santana to be nicer to all the fellow female Glee Club members. I probably should have included Brittany in that too. Flawed selection on my part!

  7. Totally love this, although I think that Rachel could stand to eat some humble pie. Sometimes she crosses that thin line between "extremely confident" and "thinking your better than everyone else". They actually are making her better about it - but it IS hard to maintain relationships of any kind if you "know" you're so much better than everyone around you.

  8. Anonymous - portraying Rachel Berry's arrogance likeably is definitely a delicate balance. What upsets me about this season is they are trying to show that she can be nicer because of Finn, when in reality there were plenty of moments she shelved her 'tude in the First 13 and Back 9.

    You're right that it IS hard to maintain relationships if you think you're better than everyone else, but I think it'd be really interesting to watch those relationships develop because of that. And perhaps Rachel Berry can learn humility a little more subtly, and through experience.

    Thanks for reading, and the comment!

  9. This is lovely but, IDK, I like some of the more horrible traits the characters have. I like that Santana's such a HBIC and calls people on shit and I like that Rachel is so arrogant but does get cut down for it. Mostly what bothers me about Glee is just the way the girls all let guys define them and seem to forget that they have friends as soon as they get a bf. It's somewhat realistic for HS but it feels like the show supports it as well. That I'd change.

  10. Rachel is only arrogant when it come to singing otherwise she is not. Plus they are all a little arrogant Rachel just seems to get called out on it more. Anyway I agree with this for the most part. The problem isn't that these girls have flaws it is that they are being written for the most part as girlfriends instead of independent women who happen to be in relationships.

    What happen to Quinn she said she had to do it alone. or Rachel who said her dream were bigger than him (Finn)?

  11. Love your blog's name...

    Girls need to put a moratorium on dating.

    Rachel choose fame.

  12. Oh goodness. Anons, here we go!

    Anonymous @ 12:13 - I think we're agreeing more than you think, haha. :) I love that Santana's a total bitch and that Rachel thinks very highly of herself, but I do love to see a little vulnerability in there as well. Deep down, I think that all the characters are good people. Even Santana. And I 100% agree with you about the girls' portrayal on the show. It's like boyfriends > friends, and that is NOT the message we need to be sending to young women. Just, sigh.

    Anonymous @ 12:26 - Rachel really is a misunderstood character. I've never had any real beef with her. I remember when she was upset because Schue was giving Tina the West Side Story solo, and she explicitly stated that she meant Tina no disrespect, that she knew objectively she was the best, and that she didn't see why Mr. Schue's teaching style had to hold her back in order to make the others catch up. I felt like that was totally rational, and I understood.

    You raise a very valid point though, in the distinction between the characters themselves and how the characters are portrayed on the show. I felt like Rachel sending Sunshine to a crackhouse was the most out-of-character thing and I find myself dismissing it from my head!canon because it outrages me so much. Not because it was a terrible thing for the character to do, but because it was a terrible thing for the writers to make the character do. These characters, both women and men, need to be portrayed more fairly on the show.

    Oh, and Quinn saying she had to do it alone? Perhaps my favorite moment on the show. Ever.

    Anonymous @ 12:30 - Hee, I love this little quasi-haiku you've left for me! I'm glad you like the blog name - I'm never sure anybody ever really gets it. :)

    And to be frank, I don't think I'd mind a moratorium on dating while the writers/girls get their shit figured out. It's seriously screwed up right now.

  13. I do agree with a lot of the sentiments you made I find a few things to question

    Overall you say forget boys and don't let them define them but you say for Mercedes to keep supporting Kurt, who despite parts of the fandom by try to portray otherwise is a guy even if he's gay.

    Emma does have problem, OCD is a definite issue she needs to work through given it has and will continued through.

    As for Tina the whole Artie/Tina/Mike triangle was handled so poorly and that it pretty much depends on who you like more is how you perceive it given the lack solid details in the cannon.

    While Artie was no means the perfect boyfriend ever, I don't see how Mike's considered the best boyfriend ever. But it mostly comes down the fact Artie actually has flaws in his characters is Mike is a background character who just started talking. But that aside Tina has changed with Mike. She had a personality shift where along with more confidence and there's this edge with her now that she's with Mike given from some of the harsher comments she made, contrasted with the sweeeter side we say last seasons. Not to mention she had changed her wardrobe for Mike more than she ever did with Artie. Look at the major wardrobe she had this season. Heels and elaborate dresses with heavier makeup looks more like she trying to dress to impress than the more casual outfits she last season.

    And on that note I yet to see something other than the physical with Mike, which is not a bad thing since a lot of relationships are like that. Which I think can describe all the current couples at the moment.

  14. While I agree with some of things you're saying one of your themes to be about not needing boys to define you, but you're ignoring their flaws and focusing just on their relationships or lack of them. Tina's blurb was mostly about her love interests and little else for example.

  15. I think what you wrote was so spot on.
    Is there any way that RM can see this.

  16. Another trio of Anons!

    To Anon @ 4:40 - I'm not saying to forget the boys. I'm just saying that these girls need to value and respect themselves as independent human beings. These characters' collective self-worth (excepting Sue) is near non-existent. I'm not saying that they need to shun all boys - rather, that they should perhaps focus on themselves before focusing on their dating relationships, that's all.

    As for Tina... I personally have a hard time definitively identifying differences in her character over time because she's never been fleshed out as her own human being. The closest we ever got was her self-expression in "Theatricality." So I find it difficult to say she used to be this, and now she's that when we haven't gotten a good glimpse of who she really is to begin with. Unfortunately. Part of me thinks it's a shift in the writing, not a shift in the character. But that's just me!

    Thanks for reading, and the thoughtful comment.

    Anonymous @ 4:53 - I'm not sure how focusing on their relationships is the opposite of focusing on their flaws, but I will say that I chose to focus on their relationships (of all kinds) because that's what is being portrayed poorly. I don't care if these characters have flaws - that's what makes them great characters, especially if they're likeable. But if likeable characters have one-dimensional, inconsistent relationships? That's when I start to take issue.

    And I hate to say it, but when the show mostly focuses on Tina's love interests, there's only so much material to work with. It's a shame.

    To Anonymous @ 6:51 - You're too kind! Alas, I don't think Ryan Murphy lurks through these parts. The best I can do is maybe put the link up in skywriting over Los Angeles. ;)

  17. Go Dr.! I just love, love, love your blog. I'm a guy but I find very inspiring your take on feminism and equality, I'm really thankful for your post about Tina Cohen-Chang, my favourite Glee character (now matter how hard the writers make it). Frankly, I don't understand what's wrong with them, they're brilliant when it's about being funny (the script, the timing, everything's perfect), they're also wonderful when it's about being emotionally touching (the deaf choir singing springs to mind - they caught me completely off-guard with this one). but when it comes down to continuity and character development, it's as if they just don't have a clue. Quinn's baby, Mercedes self image issues, Brittany and Santana's relationship, Tina and Artie post-break-up relationship (they were friends for years, surely there are lots of unresolved conflicts dangling?). I could go on and on.

    Anyway, congratulations on your blog! =)

  18. Ronan - thanks so much! You're so right that Glee can do both hilarious and heartwarming, but character development is just never quite there. But I suppose if it were, then I wouldn't have as much to write about. :) Thanks for reading, and the kind words!


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