Saturday, December 18, 2010

Tina Cohen-Chang: Sneaky Awesome


Today, ladies and gentle-readers, I'm here to talk about Tina Cohen-Chang. Because dammit, someone has to!

Yes, that was a not-so-subtle jab at this poor character's lack of screentime. But I'm sure I'll rant about that in a minute. Before I devote myself fully to that little bit of outrage, I'd like to first say:

How awesome is Tina Cohen-Chang? It struck me the other day, that within the context of the show, Tina might be the best character. As in, if I went to McKinley High, I'm pretty sure I'd wanna hang out with Tina. She was totally chill with Rachel stomping all over her West Side Story solo, and fully admitted her voice wasn't right for the song. She's gotten very few solos in general, and has never made a stink about who sang what. If I recall correctly, she hasn't been too awful to Rachel Berry (correct me if I'm wrong!) and she hasn't shown any hostility towards the football players or popular kids either.

She lays low, keeps her head down, and enjoys Glee for what it's given her. But - she doesn't let people walk over her. She broke up with Artie because he ultimately wasn't a good boyfriend to her, and gave him a piece of her mind when he told her he didn't like how she dressed. In fact, she's perhaps the true feminist on Glee - her rant about being a righteous blade of equality remains one of my favorite things on the show. She also has cornered the angle on a woman's healthy appreciation of sex, as seen in "Never Been Kissed."

But perhaps the thing that strikes me most about Tina Cohen-Chang is that she is the sole character who hasn't flipped out over popularity. Every other Glee club member - perhaps with the exception of Mike - has had a crisis of popularity: Puck dated Mercedes to get his status back. Quinn made the Glist, and blackmailed Santana to reclaim Head Cheerio. Finn has picked football over Glee countless times. Sam was initially hesitant to even join Glee, and Brittany and Santana only joined at first to spy for Sue. Rachel made the "Run Joey Run" video. Artie joined the football team, and Mercedes and Kurt joined the Cheerios. It seems like each character has had a crisis of identity and makes a desperate attempt to rehabilitate their image.

Tina, however, is the only character that has had a crisis of identity forced upon her: when Figgins told her she was not allowed to dress in her style. And rather than trying to adjust her image and be something she's not, she instead blackmailed her high school principal into letting her be herself.

Can I get a round of applause for Tina Cohen-Chang? Seriously. Way to be way more awesome than your peers, at least in that respect.

Of course, all this awesomeness can probably be attributed the fact that the writers have paid very little attention to Tina's character, despite the fact that she was one of the original Glee members. The second the writers give her a storyline, she'll probably act like a crazypants, and all this awesomeness might go straight out the window.

This does not diminish my wish for a Tina storyline, however - especially one independent of her relationships with Artie and Mike. The glimpses we've seen of her are interesting - I'm particularly intrigued by the fact that she was the first character to start crying in two similar instances: when Bryan Ryan threatened to ruin their dreams, and when Glee club was in danger of being absolved at the end of Season 1. I love the brief bit of character continuity there (!) and it makes me want to know more about Tina. She's definitely not the first character I would have predicted to burst into tears, but I love that she is.

I also love that she sings a lot of the closing "Kumbaya"-type songs at the ends of episodes, particularly her participation in "True Colors," "One of Us," and "Dog Days Are Over." Which leads me to my next bit: there are three Broadway performers in this cast. Jenna Ushkowitz is one of them. Why the HELL has she not had more solos? I mean, really. There's little excuse for both this and the character's lack of screentime. I used to be far more lenient about unbalanced storylines in Season 1 - it was still early, and I figured we'd get to more secondary characters soon enough. But guess what, guys. It's Season 2. We have had 32 episodes to get to know Tina Cohen-Chang, and the fact that we still really haven't is just a shame.

I'm also a bit tired of the bullshit excuse that storylines aren't distributed equally because the quality of acting amongst the cast is not equal. I'll be upfront: I usually see this argument in reference to Chris Colfer being heads-and-shoulders above everyone else in acting skill. Now, let me get this straight: I do not, by any means, deny Chris Colfer's acting abilities. His performances, comedic, dramatic, and musical, are all astounding. He's a genius, and anyone who doesn't think so should probably have their eyes checked.

But he's not a black hole, guys. His talent, nor anyone else's, does not suck up all the other cast's talents. They still exist, and can co-exist -
having a Kurt-centric story does not mean other characters cannot be developed simultaneously! Each of the cast members is at least capable of carrying their own storylines. In fact, I've found Jenna Ushkowitz herself to have a particular knack for comedy. She's 3 for 3 on comedic rants - one to Artie on her righteous blade of equality, one to Figgins about Asian vampires, and one to Mike about chicken feet. You really can't go wrong giving a rant to the Ush. (Yes, I'm giving her a nickname. Deal with it!)

In short: Tina Cohen-Chang is awesome, as is the lady who plays her, and sometimes we, as well as the writers, need a little reminding. Here's hoping for more Tina in future episodes, yes yes!


29 comments:

  1. RIGHT ON! Tina is awesome. "The Ush" is an awesome nickname--it sounds sort of scary and sort of cool at the same time. Ushkowitz is really talented, I think; her voice isn't as strong as Lea Michele's, but it's a damn sight better than Dianna Agron's (though I love her too) and deserves its own time, AND she's a good dancer. I really hope they follow through her relationship with Mike. It would be so nice to have one of the ladies be able to have a physical relationship with her boyfriend with no fall-out.

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  2. Tina be awesome, yo. I forget it way too often, so in all future moments where it slips my mind because SHE'S NEVER ONSCREEN, I must come here and read my rhapsodizing.

    LONG LIVE THE USH

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  3. YES. To everything you just said. She and Mike are my fave characters and they are both overdue for a legit storyline.

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  4. Mizmlee - thanks for the amen! Asian Fusion are damn awesome, together and separately, and I'm glad you wanna see 'em on the TV screen as much as I do. Thanks for the read and comment!

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  5. I love you !!! I just want to say that.. :) Your words are totally into the topic and it's all true. All true... Tina and Mike should get more storyline, and just like you said, they are awesome, together or individual. Please someone from writers read this, and think about it. It's about time you write about Tina or Mike or both of them........

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  6. Sassyvel - Thank you so much, haha! I knew I couldn't be the only one on Team Tina. If only the writers read anything I posted here... I'd be such a happy camper. There would probably be dancing. ;) Thanks for the comment!

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  7. I want to Marry you for this, you have no idea. I've been saying things like this for so long, but you've put it into words better than I ever could, and have hit basically every point I always think about when it comes to her. They have such a gem in that character and I hope they don't forget that.

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  8. Shannon - Thanks so much! If there's one thing about Glee that frustrates me to no end, it's all the wasted potential they've got. Gah! I could rant for days.

    Thanks not only for reading and commenting, but spreading the article to Tumblr! I always appreciate people reading and agreeing - or even disagreeing, as long as it's polite, haha. :)

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  9. Tina Cohen Chang is my favorite female character from the first episode Glee. She and Rachel. Tina should have more solos, he has a very nice voice. Should be more appreciated.

    Sorry for my not a very good English.

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  10. She has a very nice voice. Why I wrote "he"?

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  11. Kasia - I agree completely! And your English is great! Thanks for the comment. :)

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  12. Word. Given Jenna Ushkowitz's immense talent and the sheer potential we have in Tina's character, I really was hoping we would have a Tina-centric episode yesterday. Season 2 (and the Tike relationship, in particular) has really given her a chance to blossom. We have a sense of this independently minded, self-respecting girl who, unlike most of the female cast, won't take shit from a man and demands respect and attention, yet is also incredibly supportive and encouraging of those she loves. Yet underneath the snarky one liners and occasional angry rants, we also get glimpses of a young teenage girl's insecurities, over her solos and even over not being pretty enough for a boyfriend. Interestingly, unlike the female sexuality binary of sluts (Brittany and Santana) and prudes (Rachel and Quinn), Tina embraces her sexuality, but is interestingly not necessarily defined by it.

    There's so much potential with Tina's character. Her increased screentime, solos, and frankly, adorable relationship with Mike have really let her blossom as a character. It's about time we got our Tina-centric episode, guys.

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  13. Hello, Anonymous! Oh, you have no idea what beef I take with how the ladies on Glee are portrayed half the time. Or maybe you do, haha. I'm so not okay with them falling into the category of "slut," "prude," or "not onscreen." Injustice, I say! Especially considering that Rachel did NOT used to be a prude. I call major BS there.

    Anywho, I agree with you that Tina needs her own episode, STAT. She straight-up deserves it. Plus, I think the majority of people who watch Glee identify with her most - not Quinn and her teenage pregnancy or Rachel and her overwhelming love for the spotlight - just Tina and her everyday dealing with shyness and unpopularity. If Finn is the "Everyman," then Tina is the "Everywoman" and deserves the associated screentime.

    Aggggh writers, USE HER DAMMIT

    (thanks for reading my rants!)

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  14. preach! What also got me going is the Artie and brittany situation! It's like they didn't make it seem that Tina didn't put an effort into making Artie walk, I mean it must have taken her all day to get all that research papers about a cure. And all Brittany had to do was say a little wish to Santa Claus and BAM Artie can walk! Also they hate Tina for faking her stutter when in reality a lot more other characters had done something worse! Okay rant over ;D

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  15. shaira - Thanks! The whole reprise of the "Lets-get-Artie-walking" is indeed very confusing.

    And I agree about Tina's stutter - Artie made SUCH a huge issue about that and I really didn't get why. And then they dropped it, forever. Ugh!

    Thanks for reading!

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  16. She is a useless character as is Quinn. Plus neither of them can sing. They're only on the show cause some male co-stars are riding them and probably some of the producers and directors too.

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  17. And why try so desperately to get Artie to walk? Isn't this show about accepting people the way they are? Pfft, fail.

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  18. Doowally - I both agree and disagree with you. I'll be the first to defend Jenna and Dianna's voices, and their involvement on the show. I see them as underused, however - not useless. They could be a lot more than they are, and it's a shame that we don't get to see that development.

    While Quinn and Tina's storylines have been overshadowed by their boyfriends, I don't know if I'd surmise that that's the only reason they're on the show - and I choose not to believe that Agron and Ushkowitz are only on the show because they're sleeping with the producer/directors. But that's just me.

    I 100% agree with you about getting Artie to walk though. It could be interesting, but mostly it seems like they're undermining their own message about Glee Club.

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  19. Well, I used to think Jenna's voice might actually be the type of female voice that I like. I'm not into crazy shouting and vocal acrobatics and like a nice simple voice. And on records she has this nice sound and something special but when I heard her live I was mortified for her. As well as Dianna (she doesn't even sound nice on a record to me). Dianna seems like a lovely person in interviews but just because a person is nice doesn't mean you can call them a doctor and let them go do a surgery on someone. Dianna is definitely on the show cause of her looks, cause she can't really do anything else. And I'm not saying I can do better but I am a viewer and I don't call myself something I'm not.

    And I don't really care for the storylines or characters too much cause I don't even like the show. I only watch it cause Kevin is hot.

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  20. Doowally - Maybe it was a bad day for Jenna; I dunno. I do know that she was really pitchy during "True Colors" when I saw her on tour, but I've seen other videos of her singing live where she sounds beautiful. I'm willing to give her the benefit of the doubt. And of course, it's all up to personal preference as well. :)

    From what we've seen in interviews and the like, Dianna does indeed seem lovely, and while I don't think she's only on the show because of her looks, I definitely think she gets more publicity because of her looks. Not her fault, really; and it's unfortunate that it's the case.

    And yes, Kevin is hot. I'm with you on that one! :D

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  21. @DSB: Preach! Tina needs more love, both on the show and in fandom. You summarized my thoughts/feelings exactly, except 100x more coherently than I ever could have.

    @Doowally: Jenna shouldn't be dismissed based on a single off performance because she really does have a lovely voice. (I think it also depends on the type of songs she gets). For example, listen to her in this video:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E1sJaAR-1E4
    (her part starts around 1:30, though the whole song is worth a listen)

    I agree that Jenna can be pitchy at times, but I think that goes for most singers - since they're human, they can't be perfect in every performance. And given the massive amount of (unnecessary, IMO) autotune used on Glee, it's pretty unrealistic to expect the live sound to replicate the record version. Hope you give her a 2nd chance :)

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  22. Anonymous @ 10:02 - Thank you for the kind words! And I agree with you about Jenna's voice and the show's overuse of autotune. :)

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  23. The Chris-Colfer-is-head-and-shoulders-above-the-rest argument is usually raised when people complain that Kurt's storyline should get less screentime to make room for other characters (and is perfectly valid, because, like you said, he IS brilliant). This opposed to for example Rachel or Finn who ALSO get plenty of screentime.

    But screentime isn't the problem. Kurt screentime is pretty balanced out, only having had 2 truly Kurt-centric episodes, and 4 more where he had a substantial part to more or lesser extent. In the other 4 there was basicly no Kurt at all. So I find it sad that Kurt is almost always the target of this while Finn, Rachel and Quinn(S1) have taken plenty of screentime away from other characters as well. If the screentime for ALL of them (including Kurt) was cut back just a LITTLE bit. It would make a big difference.

    But the REAL problem is with the writing! Kurt's character and to a lesser extent Rachel's are the only two characters who get decent writing! Finn just keeps making the same mistakes over and over again, and all the other characters are just part of one of the three current love triangles. While Mercedes is having a relationship with tater tots instead because she couldn't be fit in anywhere. If they gave the storylines of those characters some actual thought, and spread them acros the season like they did with Kurt in season one, there could be plenty of brilliant moments. Chris didn't really need all that screentime to shine. But I'm glad his talent is recognised in season two.

    So yes, more good Tina moments please! Because I totally agree she has a knack for hilarious rants.

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  24. Anonymous - you're right; what you've outlined is perhaps a more accurate assessment of the situation. But the arguments all tend to be Kurt-centric, and I get cranky. The truth is that all of the characters deserve screentime and storylines. And I would argue that while Finn and Rachel (honestly, I wouldn't say Quinn) have screentime, their storylines are leaving something to be desired.

    I guess this is my interpretation of exactly what you say: the problem is the writing. The storylines are severely lacking this season, unfortunately. May they improve, and be distributed evenly!

    Thanks for reading, and the comment. :)

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  25. I AGREE!!!!!
    TINA is soooo awesome!
    Her voice is very soft,
    and I'm very anxious for her to have a storyline
    regarding about her shyness!
    SHE NEEDS MORE SCREEN TIME!!!
    and I love "Ush"! <33333

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  26. I just wanted to say I love reading your blog, as your character and writing analysis is always spot-on! It makes you wonder why no one in Glee's writing team (and I asume many people are involved) realises they have been wasting their potential over and over and over again this season. Their humor is top-notch as usual, but their character development has been... ugh. Even more frustratin when you KNOW they can do it properly, something they have proven in previous episodes.

    Now moving on to Tina. I'm gonna keep this short, as you already mentioned nearly everything. The thing that irritates me the most is the underuse of her VOICE. While other characters on the show are brilliant singers - note Lea Michelle and Amber Riley, they give me this 'been there, done that' feeling, especially since Rachel in particular has been given a solo in nearly EVERY episode this season. A girl with nearly perfect voice that belts Broadway ballads - I'm getting tired of it. The USH (love that nickname), however, has this weirdly unique voice I haven't heard before and gives her own spin on every song she sings and it makes them really special. And isn't that what Glee's all about? Pushing the boundaries, showing us something new, making us realize the glee is not only for the OMG-so-talanted singers?

    So, please, writers, surprise us! You have such a versatile cast, so why limit yourself to Rachel/Kurt-broadway, Mercedes-aretha/soul? Tina, Sam, Santana are great singers too, who have showed us how special their voices are and have proven they can handle different genres.

    Okay, okay, sorry for this long post but I had to say this. The funeral episode made me more frustrated with glee than I have ever been - it seems like the acting/singing abilities of the cast is what keep the show going...

    Greetings,
    Tristan

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  27. Chris Colfer is overrated.

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  28. I'm reading this three years after you wrote it (home sick), and am glad for season 4 Tina! Love the comments above - articulates how one can appreciate a unique voice that is not as conventionally/technically brilliant as someone like the admittedly awesome Lea. Similar to how I feel about theatrical and adorable Darren Criss, my favorite male performer on the show.

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