Happy Halloween from Tracy Jordan, everybody!
Sunday, October 31, 2010
Happy Halloween from Tracy Jordan, everybody!
Saturday, October 30, 2010
I'll admit, I had very little interest in it until a year or two ago when someone told me that I reminded them of the song "What Is This Feeling?" - you know, the one about loathing. (I took it as a compliment. We're still friends; don't worry.)
Then, slowly, I entered the realm of Wicked. I downloaded all of Kristin Chenoweth and Idina Menzel's duets first, because frankly, they're the best. I put "Defying Gravity" on repeat. Then I read the book. Then, at long last, I finally saw the musical on stage in New York City over the summer.
Now, I officially can say that I love it, wholeheartedly.
Perhaps even more than I love Elphaba, I love Glinda. I love that Glinda is profoundly and fundamentally changed, from beginning to finish. I love that she's self-absorbed and even mean, but she feels enough for Elphaba to befriend her. I love that she tries so hard to be the person she wants to be - perhaps even the person she is, but she's just too scared. I love that she cares so much about how people see her that she can't break out of the box that society puts her in. I love that she is a victim of her circumstances. I love that she makes a choice, and it changes her life. I love that she starts with the high-pitched squeaks of "Popular" and finishes with the rich lower harmonies of "For Good." I love that she is forced to grow up, and that the world breaks her a little bit.
I love Glinda and Elphaba together. I love that they are each other's first true friends. I love that they hurt each other. I love that they forgive each other. I love that they change each other. I love that at the end of the day, it's not about Fiyero, or Nessarose, or even the Wizard. It's about Glinda, and Elphaba, and their relationship.
I love that Wicked tells the story of two women. I love that it's comical, and whimsical, and terribly dark and tragic at the same time. I love the melodies, the lyrics, the themes, and the voices. I love that "Defying Gravity" makes me feel like I can do anything I want if I just try. I love that "For Good" breaks my heart and makes me appreciate my true friendships.
I love it all.
So, thank you, Wicked, for giving me so much to love. I do believe I have been changed for the better. Happy seventh anniversary! May you continue changing the people who are lucky enough to experience you. I'll be back in less than a month...
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
"The Rocky Horror Glee Show," written by Ryan Murphy, directed by Adam Shankman.
First of all, can I just say: ADAM SHANKMAN IN THE HOOOOOOUSE! Who's Adam Shankman? Kill yourself! If you're unfamiliar with the man, check him out. You may have seen him getting teary-eyed and over-emotional as my favorite judge on So You Think You Can Dance. Fellow Buffy fans, he choreographed "Once More With Feeling" way back when, and we also have him to thank for directing the musical version of "Hairspray," which I love.
Basically, we owe this man a lot. To me, having "Shankers" come and direct is almost like having Joss Whedon come and direct.
That being said, the direction in this episode didn't blow my mind away. It was good, solid, musical direction, and Shankman did his job well. No complaints here. I just like that Adam Shankman is involved with another project I love.
To be honest, I don't have much material for this RBI Report. I will give you a glimpse of my notes from the show though. Some choice quotes:
"Carl's 'winning'...? WINNING, WILLIAM?!"
"Schuester, I hate you."
"TAKE YOUR PETTY ELSEWHERE, SCHUE."
"UM. SCHUE AS ROCKY. WHAT THE SWEET EFF."
"Everything Schuester does is AWFUL."
"AND YOU DON'T EVEN HAVE CANDY FOR BECKY?!"
It seems William Schuester is continuing to tank in the likeable department. It's frustrating! A memo to the Glee writers: flawed characters are awesome. But you know what's nirvana for a writer? A character who is flawed, yet still likeable! Imagine that! I know you're capable. Season 1 Rachel is a straight-up testament to that concept, and yet we still seem to be having trouble with Season 2 Schuester. His objective is fine: get Emma back. Sure. I'm on board. But his actions? Wouldn't it be so much better if he tried to be the bigger person and not such a jackass? (Yes, yes it would be.)
Hopefully, what with Will and Emma's talk at the end of the episode, he will truly back off. Emma and Carl seem really happy together, and the more Carl is onscreen, the more I love him. It's really hard to root for Will and Emma when it's increasingly apparent that Emma deserves better.
Perhaps I just don't really favor the adult drama. The kids' storylines from last week were almost entirely dropped, which in the long run isn't a huge issue. However, looking at the way the school RH was cast, it could have made for an interesting continuation of the drama from previous episodes. Santana and Quinn shared Magenta, which could have been used to create tension between the former friends, and perpetuate the drama that resulted from Quinn ousting Santana from the head cheerleader position. I even thought they might do something with the relationship between Columbia and Eddie, when Eddie was played by Mike and Columbia by Tina. The characters in Rocky Horror all interact in crazy ways, so some small part of me was hoping for the Glee kids would follow suit.
That being said, I certainly don't think this episode was a waste. Glee covering musicals is almost always divine, and I liked seeing the Glee Club tackle a whole production as opposed to just one musical number. And for those who dislike Mercedes' version of "Sweet Transvestite?" Haters gonna hate; I thought it was awesome. Touching on Finn's insecurity about his body was an interesting development (and kudos as well to Cory Monteith for donning those glasses and walking down the hall in his underwear) although it's starting to make me worry about Sam. Damn you, Cool Ranch Doritos! Sue Sylvester's points about questionable material in school just make me think she's the smartest person on the show, and are certainly interesting in light of the stupid GQ scandal. Brittany and Santana continue to own my heart even though I wonder why they aren't fighting anymore. But all is forgiven because Brittany continues to be hilariously no-brained, Santana continues to be hilariously gutter-brained, and together they are just too adorable for words.
That's all for this week. Thanks for muddling through my very disorganized thoughts on "The Rocky Horror Glee Show." We have another week off while the Giants and Rangers duke it out, and then we get "Never Been Kissed." Looks like Puck's out of juvie...
The RBI Report Card...
Musical Numbers: A+
Dance Numbers: A+
Episode MVP: Carl
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Well, this plan did not unfold the way I anticipated.
Here I am, a few hours before Glee's tribute, and all I've done is attended the local Rocky Horror shadow cast production. That's right: my first foray into Rocky Horror was going to see it at midnight with a shadow cast.
Perhaps a bad idea. I couldn't focus on the movie at all, because there were a million other things drawing away my attention. Shadow cast members act out the movie as it plays on the screen, and their cohorts are often shouting insults at the onscreen characters at the same time. Audience members are simultaneously yelling back at both the cast and the movie, and throwing rice and toast and cards, and getting up to dance, and all the while I just kept trying to duck under the countless objects flying through the air.
In short: it was kind of a sensory overload.
Do I regret going? Not at all. In fact, I had more fun trying to figure out what the hell was going on whilst getting smacked in the head with a roll of toilet paper than I would have at home by myself in front of the television. It's actually the perfect way to be exposed to Rocky Horror. The show really is nothing without its fan following.
And it's remarkable that such a cult fanbase exists after 35 years. The loyalty and obsession displayed by Rocky Horror devotees is hallmark of the Internet era. The idea that a gaggle of people banded together in love of a piece of pop culture without message boards or forums or Tumblr or LiveJournal seems so impossible to me. And yet Rocky Horror fans did just that - and perpetuated their traditions for almost two decades before any kind of web usage arose.
It boggles my mind, truly. So I say, hats off, Rocky Horror fans. You love a movie that I can only really describe as the 70s gay psychedelic love child of Tim Burton and Baz Luhrmann, and you've loved it in a way that transcends space and time. I still may have no idea what exactly happens in the film, but I know to yell "Slut!" and "Asshole!" when Janet and Brad are onscreen, and I know that the faint smell of bread in the auditorium means the dinner scene is coming. I know about Rocky's famous muscle twitch, and I know to berate the Criminologist about having no neck.
Being surrounded by people who love The Rocky Horror Picture Show so wholly and unconditionally, backwards and forwards, made my whole experience rather charming. I may not be ready to don my fishnets and wig anytime soon, but dammit (Janet!) if I didn't enjoy the hell out of the whole production. And eventually I'll get around to seeing the movie within the comforts of my own home, without worrying about bread-shaped air missiles, and I'm almost certain it'll still be a lovely experience. I'll probably even get up and try to do the Time Warp. It's just a jump to the left, and a step the right, you know.
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
But, here I am, shelving whatever worry I may have about beating a dead horse and plunging right back into this whole mess.
There are two new developments in this "scandal" that I want to address.
Firstly, the Parents Television Council has officially denounced the GQ cover, saying "it isn't good for families."
“It is disturbing that GQ, which is explicitly written for adult men, is sexualizing the actresses who play high school-aged characters on ‘Glee’ in this way. It borders on pedophilia. Sadly, this is just the latest example of the overt sexualization of young girls in entertainment." - PTC President Tim Winter
Well, yes and no. I'd actually say close but no cigar - if you pardon a Freudian gender pun. The thing about sexualizing the actresses? It's not pedophilia. The actresses are 24-year-old young women capable of making their own decisions about their sexuality. The issue is not their age. The issue is that they are represented in a way that the man in the shoot is not. Surprisingly, the PTC brings this up in their press release, but it almost seems like an afterthought.
Interestingly, the photos of the male character showed him wearing a shirt, tie and vest.
This sentence amuses me, for all the wrong reasons. "Interestingly!" I can't help but imagine a scientist peering over his lab results, teetering on the verge of a Very Important Breakthough Discovery and then hearing the kettle and shuffling off, forgetting everything. It's not "interesting," PTC. It's really the strongest leg to stand on if you want to argue against the photoshoot and you just waffle right by it.
Most people are bringing up the argument that children should not be reading GQ anyways, and I have to agree. It's an obvious, logical counterpoint. So is the point that America's Puritanical roots are showing and it's getting eye-roll-worthy. It's just frustrating that the PTC decided to fire at the issue, but aimed slightly left of target. And now it's plastered everywhere that this cover is ruining America's families and it's too raunchy and Glee is sending terrible messages to the nation's youth.
Sigh. I think most parents would find that Glee, as a television show, sends a lot of excellent messages to young people about identity, self-acceptance, and tolerance of differences. Everyone's just hung up on the sex. Not gender issues, or issues of equality. It's just the sex. (This is an appropriate place for a *headdesk* moment.)
Secondly - the lovely Miss Dianna Agron, whose participation in the shoot has been endlessly discussed (but surely not as much as Lea Michele's), has stepped forward with a statement. And I'm going to quote it entirely below, because the whole thing is worth a read and also I love her.
Stay classy, Ms. Agron. Girlfriend is living proof that it doesn't matter what you wear in whatever men's magazine, you can still be a damn classy broad. I appreciate that she knew - and was even hesitant about - what she was getting into, but didn't say no. She's a lady with a job, even if that job is to put on a bra and skirt and spray silly string on her co-stars. I believe this is an appropriate time to say, "Don't hate the player, hate the game." You can't blame Dianna Agron, or Lea Michele for the nation's obsession-with-slash-condemnation-of sexual imagery, nor can you blame them for the nation's mass obsession with celebrity. Ms. Agron addressed the issues, gave her piece, apologized for offending anyone, and is moving on.
I’d like to start by saying that these are solely my thoughts on the November issue of GQ and the controversy that has surrounded its release. I am not a representative of the three of us, the show, or Fox, only myself.
In the land of Madonna, Britney, Miley, Gossip Girl, other public figures and shows that have pushed the envelope and challenged the levels of comfort in their viewers and fans…we are not the first. Now, in perpetuating the type of images that evoke these kind of emotions, I am sorry. If you are hurt or these photos make you uncomfortable, it was never our intention. And if your eight-year-old has a copy of our GQ cover in hand, again I am sorry. But I would have to ask, how on earth did it get there?
I was a very sheltered child, and was not aware of anything provocative or risque in the media while I was navigating through my formative years. When I was finally allowed to watch a movie like Grease, I did not even understand what on earth Rizzo was talking about!? I understand that in today’s world of advanced technology, the internet, our kids can be subject to very adult material at the click of a button. But there are parental locks, and ways to get around this. I am twenty-four years old. I have been a pretty tame and easy-going girl my whole life. Nobody is perfect, and these photos do not represent who I am. I am also not the girl who rolls out of bed with flawless makeup and couture clothing. I am most comfortable with my hair thrown on top of my head, in sweats, laughing with my friends. Glee is a show that represents the underdogs, which is a feeling I have embraced much of my own life, and to those viewers, the photos in GQ don’t give them that same feeling. I understand completely.
For GQ, they asked us to play very heightened versions of our school characters. A ‘Hit Me Baby One More Time’ version. At the time, it wasn’t my favorite idea, but I did not walk away. I must say, I am trying to live my life with a sharpie marker approach. You can’t erase the strokes you’ve made, but each step is much bolder and more deliberate. I’m moving forward from this one, and after today, putting it to rest. I am only myself, I can only be me. These aren’t photos I am going to frame and put on my desk, but hey, nor are any of the photos I take for magazines. Those are all characters we’ve played for this crazy job, one that I love and am so fortunate to have, each and every day. If you asked me for my dream photo shoot, I’d be in a treehouse, in a wild costume, war-paint and I’d be playing with my pet dragon. Until then…..
As am I. I look forward to seeing all this nonsense about the photoshoot in my rearview mirror. I just want to watch Glee in my happy little Glee bubble and not worry with "scandal." As for the general offense of the portrayal of women in today's media... well, I still have hope. There are some excellent lady role models out there - fictional or otherwise, and I'd like to think that one silly men's magazine cover isn't going to set us back one bit, in the grand scheme of things. I mean, a little optimism never hurt anyone.
And yes, I just referred to women as a collective "we." Lemon out!
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
I also did not expect said post to circle through the Glee fandom the way it did. I paid careful attention to the reactions it got, and there were a few things I wanted to say in following up on the post. A lot of people read what I wrote and had something to say about it, and I would like to address some of the reaction. This is my 15 seconds of fame in a very teeny tiny corner of the Internet, and I don't want to be misconstrued.
The whole issue is certainly controversial, and any and all discussion deriving from it is healthy. I'm not a big debater, frankly; I have my moments of opinion, but then I usually settle myself into a live-and-let-live mindset and continue to enjoy the Internet and television and all that it has to offer. I don't intend to bait anyone with counterpoint, but in this instance I do appreciate a discourse, because there's a lot of gray area.
One commenter indicated that, by suggesting that Cory be equally as undressed as Dianna and Lea, I was inadvertently advocating the objectification of men. While I can see how that conclusion was reached, I really was just proffering that example to demonstrate the double standard in the sexualization of these characters. Objectification of anyone is harmful and debasing, and I found these images to objectify Lea and Dianna. Do I want Cory to be objectified? No. Do I want Lea and Dianna to be objectified? No.
I understand that hyper-sexualized imagery is out there, and I have no intention of tightening up my bonnet and shunning healthy expressions of sexuality with a stern and pointed glare. However, using sexual imagery to turn a human being into a sex object? We're running into some muddy water there. And it's a fine line. Someone can look at a picture of Lea Michele or Cory Monteith smiling normally, fully clothed and say, "I want to have sex with him/her." Did the photographer intend this reaction? Probably not. But with a photoshoot such as this, there is a human behind that camera and an idea in that human's head. These pictures communicate a message, and that message really does seem to point right at sex and not much else.
Perhaps the most interesting food-for-thought came from "That Girl" here at the blog itself:
I think you forget about the large lesbian fanbase Glee has, which is primarily responsible for these images to be floating around Tumblr and will contribute a good portion of the sales. That said, would that make it okay? Women objectifying other women in a sexual manner? If this was an issue of Cosmo with the same pictures, would the outrage be there?
You raise a really, really valid point - and honestly, a point that I'm still trying to negotiate. I guess the truth of the matter is that women objectifying other women is also debasing, but no one's getting up in arms about it. It's perhaps an issue of power, the "haves" and the "have-nots." In situations such as these, men are deemed to have all the power, and women, none. Men, the majority, exercising power over the women, the minority. But if a women tries to assert power, even if it is over other women, it is perhaps viewed as more acceptable because at least they are exercising the power that men normally do. It's an inverted viewpoint of feminism, and, truthfully, counter-productive to the goal.
How many tumblrs out there are devoted to Dianna Agron's body parts? And at what point does appreciation of beauty become a violation? I've also read the reaction of, "Well, Lea and Dianna were clearly okay with it because they agreed to do it." Truthfully, we do not know that for sure. As much exposure as the Glee kids get, and as much as we think we know them as people, we truly don't. We are just fans who appreciate them for who they are and what they do, and occasionally, for what they look like. We can read Dianna's tumblr as much as we want and say, "Oh, she called Terry Richardson a 'funky, cool, free-spirited, thumbs-up-loving man.' She must have been okay with it!" False. Those four adjectives do not an argument make. Firstly, they're not particuarly positive adjectives. She's just describing the man's characteristics. She doesn't say she likes him, or agrees with him, or even respects him. Secondly, Dianna's not stupid; she's not going to disparage a famous photographer on her very public blog.
Similarly, just because Lea appears to have embraced the concept of the shoot wholeheartedly, it does not mean she condones over-sexualized images, or that she is a slut or vulgar or trashy. These people are actors, and Glee is their job. If they are hired to do an interview and photospread in GQ, they will probably try to behave professionally, keeping in line with the art director's vision and representing their show without biting the hand that feeds them or being rude about opening up to possibly uncomfortable questions.
And finally, on a much less controversial note, I want to clear up what I said about Dianna only being chosen for the shoot on account of her looks. It was pointed out to me that she has a movie coming out soon, and has sold a screenplay, and has also directed a music video with Thao. Yes, it's possible that Dianna is emerging as the most successful cast member in other arenas. That lineup of accomplishments does indeed make her something like a Renaissance Woman, for lack of a better term. However, Dianna being a Renaissance Woman is why I am a fan of her. Dianna being a Renaissance Woman is not why she was asked to participate in this photoshoot. I feel badly for saying it, but I believe it's naive to assume otherwise. I do want to make it clear, however, that I am not aiming to insult Dianna, and I was not looking for an excuse to take a shot at her. I am a Dianna fan and I feel badly that my article insinuated otherwise.
I leave you with this final thought. Glee's popularity has certainly come as a surprise to mainstream media, and I do wonder if the evolution from fringe-underdog-show to mainstream-popular-show has lead us to some of the more unfortunate interviews and photoshoots with the cast. I don't believe Glee was intended for mainstream America - it is a musical comedy about theater geeks in Ohio living outside the norm of mainstream America - and I feel compelled to suggest that because of this duality, the media doesn't know how to advertise it within the norm. Therefore, we get multiple headlines of "Glee Gone Wild!" and countless photoshoots of Lea in a sexy schoolgirl outfit.
Perhaps it boils down to this, gender discussion aside: when you look at the GQ photoshoot, does it appear to you that these photos are representative of the show? Yes, there's teen flirting and pregnancy and sex and every week someone is dating someone new - BUT. Is this what Glee is about, truly? I think you'll find that the countless fans of the show care about the characters, and watching them struggle to accept their differences in a society that emphasizes fitting in. Perhaps mainstream America is trying to portray Glee as something it's not, and RM and Co. are just going along with it because they don't want to turn down the attention. This may or may not be true, but I figure I'll open up another can of worms for an interesting discussion.
Many thanks to all those who spread my article, whether or not they agreed with it, and I hope I've given you some more food for thought. I hope to soon return to regularly scheduled programming here at DR SHE BLOGGO, and perhaps some of you will stick around for less controversial topics as well. Cheers!
Are you offended? I don't blame you. Are you turned on? I don't blame you. Are you wishing that Cory Monteith was in the same state of undress as Lea Michele and Dianna Agron? Again, I don't blame you.
And before I continue, I would really like to make it clear that I'm addressing these photos very much without any personal implications about Lea, Dianna, and Cory. I love all three actors dearly and am dealing with their participation in this much like they are props - they clearly were not responsible for the decisions made in this photospread and I don't endeavor to lay blame to any of them by my ranting in this piece. Okay? Okay. Onward!
Now, there are several things that strike me the wrong way about the photoshoot. Let's talk wardrobe: Lea Michele is not wearing pants in a single frame, and yet Cory Monteith is fully clothed - he gets to wear a letterman jacket. We see Dianna Agron's abs in every shot, yet the only amount of skin we get from Cory is face and hands.
Now let's talk props. Lea's main prop seems to be a rather sexually suggestive lollipop. Cory gets some fairly innocent-seeming drums. How about posing? Oh, that's Cory, fully clothed, with his hands on the asses of two scantily-clad women? Oh, that's Lea, legs spread open to camera? Oh, okay; cool. Just checking.
I'm not stupid; I understand why this is. GQ is a men's magazine. GQ wants men to buy their magazine. How else to accomplish this than putting a capable bro on the cover feeling up two twenty-something, half-naked ladies tailored in schoolgirl fetish? This is the male gaze at its strongest, and frankly, it's offensive.
I was going to take a lukewarm stand on this issue at first. I was going to waffle, and say, "Well, they're just trying to sell magazines, what are they supposed to do? It's an over-the-top concept, and they just decided commit 100% for artistic purposes."
But then I really thought about it, and I decided to let my feathers get ruffled. You know what? What we put on the covers of magazines, and on television, and on the internet? It MEANS something. It MEANS something to put those three young actors in that position on the cover of GQ. It's using the images of people I like and respect to perpetuate the objectification of women. It's offensive. And frankly, saying that it's selling more issues makes this offense even less excusable. Excuse me, gentlemen magazine readers? Stop thinking with your dick and flip through a magazine if you want to read an article. If you don't want to read an article and instead just want something to jerk off to, I suggest subscribing to Playboy. I guarantee that straight guys who picked up this magazine did not pick it up to read about a musical comedy television show. They picked up it to see if there were more fetishistic pictures of women, and were rewarded when they got the locker room photos of Lea Michele.
I understand that, with the fact that Glee is a high school show that tackles a lot of adult issues, we're going to get this dichotomy when it's represented in the media. Lea must roll her eyes every time she puts on thigh-high athletic socks and hikes up her skirt. The schoolgirl thing isn't new - Britney Spears tapped into it with "Baby One More Time," a decade ago and of course, Glee just covered the exact same ground a few weeks back.
But this isn't even the point. The point is that Cory Monteith got to wear pants and a jacket and Lea and Dianna were showing as much skin as possible. If we're going to over-sexualize things, where's the fair in that? Yes, I know it's a men's magazine, but will its readers really go into a gay panic if there's a sexualized picture of Cory Monteith? If Cory were wearing a similar amount of clothing as Lea and Dianna on the cover, it would at least level the score - even with his hands on their asses. As a lady, if I want to read this article and have to flip through offensive portrayals of the women that I personally respect, then I think that gentlemen readers can stomach one photo of Cory with his shirt off. Sex is a two-way street, gang.
Of course, beyond all the sexism inherent in this photospread, lies the tiniest hint of racism. There are currently eleven main cast members in the fictional Glee club. Which three were photographed for the cover? The three hottest, skinniest, and whitest. Yes, Lea and Cory portray the main characters. However, Dianna does not. She gets little screentime on the show, yet is publicized heavily because she's gorgeous and blonde and everybody, male and female alike, wants to do her. Jenna and Amber do not get nearly the same attention Lea and Dianna get, whether it be from magazines, or paparazzi, or even fans. On the one hand, I say it's a travesty! Jenna and Amber are just as beautiful, talented, and lovely as their co-stars and deserve their magazine covers. However, if the magazine covers are going to continue to look like the GQ one, then Jenna and Amber should probably just be grateful they're dodging the heavy objectification. One less thing to worry about.
My point, in all of this, is that all output of creativity involves choices. Decisions are made by creative people in charge, and the result of those decisions is what we see on our television, or on our newsstands. Someone in charge at GQ (multiple someones, I'd say) drew up the concept for this photoshoot and thought, "Great idea!" Someone selected the wardrobe, as little or as much of it as needed. Someone gave Lea Michele that lollipop. Someone placed Dianna Agron in front of that wall so that the red vector pointed straight to her ass. Someone probably said, "Be sexier!" or "Cory, hands lower!" at some point during the photoshoot. These were careful decisions made. This photoshoot didn't happen by accident.
And that, to me, is the truly unfortunate thing. Somebody planned all this, which means that the concepts it's reinforcing are still alive and well in the media, and in men's heads. And while I'm sure my beloved Cory, Lea, and Dianna didn't exactly do anything they hadn't signed up for, I still feel badly for them that they had to participate in this. Somewhere, you know that Chris Colfer, Jenna Ushkowitz and Amber Riley were like, "Phew! We dodged that bullet!"
Sometimes it truly does seem like we're spinning our wheels in getting the media to represent women in a more realistic and objective light. In the meantime, however, Lea Michele should probably expect more lollipops and knee socks.
Author's Note: there are follow-ups to this post here and here.
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
That is, however, until last night. Let's do the RBI Report, shall we?
"Duets," written by Ian Brennan, directed by Eric Stoltz
Let's just take a moment to appreciate Ian Brennan here. This was the man that couldn't get through an episode without stating the theme at least a dozen times. And here he is, Season 2, going to bat twice with excellent episodes. I tip my hat to you, sir!
And to be even more honest, this is why I watch Glee. At the end of the day, I don't really care about Britney Spears or Madonna or Rocky Horror or John Stamos. I care about those damn Glee kids, and I want to see them interacting with each other in meaningful ways. It's lovely to be socially aware and focus on sensitive topics like homophobia and disabilities, but that's not why I watch the show. That's a bonus. And watching the show stumble while trying too hard to hoist those colors is frustrating.
Frankly, that social commentary can be incorporated naturally - look at "Duets." We got a glimpse into how difficult dating and romance can be for a gay teenager - hell, even bisexual teenagers. Kurt's drama with Sam and Finn combined with the developments in Santana and Brittany's relationship didn't hammer any message into anyone's heads but certainly got the point across. Not only that, but Artie's paralysis was sensitively touched upon after he lost his virginity to Brittany.
Not only did the episode do justice to every character and every pairing, it even referenced previous interactions that they may have already had - imagine that! Addressing the Kurt/Finn drama was a much-needed development, no matter how awkward. I'm glad they didn't balk away from that. Moreover, I was surprised with the depth they gave the Artie/Brittany interaction. His breakup scene with her was reminiscent of when he lashed out at Tina over her fake stutter, and my heart broke for both him and for Brittany, who seemed to genuinely like him. I would honestly like it if this interaction were continued in another episode, although I doubt that it will. Glee likes their one-off crack pairings too much. (Hey, Puck and Mercedes!)
(I knew I hadn't. If I'd gone to Glee heaven, I'm pretty sure it would have involved Kevin McHale serenading me, face hugs with Lea Michele, photo sharing with Dianna Agron, and witty banter with Chris Colfer and Cory Monteith.)
Monday, October 11, 2010
What a terrible tagline. I know that the phrase is used in the first movie, but it makes absolutely no sense, in general, nor when applied to the second movie.
There is absolutely nothing indicative about "money never sleeps." What is the audience supposed to understand from that? I just don't get it. Sure, it's interesting to apply a humanistic verb to money, but "sleeping" is really not the best one. How about: "Money keeps no promises," "Money makes no friends," or "Money never lies," for example? At least give us something that connects to the actual plot of the movie, please.
I keep seeing previews on TV for a movie-of-the-week called "The 19th Wife." Its tagline? "Polygamy can be murder."
What the hell kind of tagline is that? There is no way that polygamy, in general, can be murder. A tagline is supposed to reveal insight about the plot of the movie in a concise, and sometimes witty, way. There is no clever insight in "polygamy can be murder." It tells us that there is polygamy, and there is murder. You can't just synthesize the two concepts by putting them in the same sentence with some sort of the verb "to be." Lazy writing, guys.
A good tagline? Let's examine "Easy A" - "Let's not and say we did." Cue round of applause! They took a conventional phrase and shed new light on it by framing it within the concept of the movie - that a teenager says she's slept with a slew of classmates, when in reality she hasn't.
And, while "You Again" is certainly no filmic masterpiece, its tagline makes me laugh: "What doesn't kill you... is going to marry your brother." Kudos, I must say.
So, FYI, here are my Top 10 Glee Songs that don't get mentioned often but that are damn good and will always have a little corner of my heart.
10. Push It - original Glee kids
LOL-worthy, yet SO catchy. Kevin's "only the sexy people" bit is enough to make me put this on endless loop.
9. True Colors - Jenna Ushkowitz
I always take this song for granted, but whenever it crops up in shuffle, I turn it up and sing along. Simple and beautiful.
8. Good Vibrations - Mark Salling, Cory Monteith, Amber Riley
It makes me giggle. And rapping along is fun. Don't judge.
7. Home - Kristin Chenoweth
This song is a beautiful song to begin with, and Cheno does it much justice.
6. Take a Bow - Lea Michele
This song was the moment the show "had me." I'm sure I'll blog about it in full at some point.
5. It's a Man's Man's Man's World - Dianna Agron
Angry Quinn! Finally Dianna Agron gets a solo that suits her voice.
4. I Wanna Sex You Up - the Acafellas
Mm, drool. Boys singing.
3. Funny Girl - Idina Menzel
Idina pwns this song. That is all.
2. Fire - Matthew Morrison and Kristin Chenoweth
SO much fun to sing to. Love it immensely.
1. Dream a Little Dream of Me - Kevin McHale
It's my #1 most played Glee song, guys. It's doing something right.
EDIT: Aw crap, I forgot "A House is Not a Home" by Chris Colfer. I could listen to that on repeat, all day long.
Saturday, October 9, 2010
Then, as the trailer wore on, I realized that this movie is not her story. It's Russell Crowe's story, her husband's story - the story of the man who works tirelessly to spring her from the clink.
Now, I'm not going to say that the movie won't be good in this incarnation, but I will definitely admit to feeling a twinge of disappointment at the notion that it wasn't actually an action/thriller/suspense movie with an ambiguously moral female lead. Because that could have been interesting, especially in the hands of an actress who hasn't quite had a breakout lead role on the big screen.
But no, the story seems to be about a loyal family man who needs to nut up and bust his maybe-guilty wife out of jail. He is the active character in the plot, she, the passive - what is her character going to do? She's literally imprisoned. She is the cause for the story, but he is the one that carries out the decisions and propels the plot. She is the one that already is, he is the one that has to become. Sigh.
What's worse is this character is played by Russell Crowe, who is already an established lead actor, and, between this and that Robin Hood reboot with Cate Blanchett, seems to be recycling character types. I'm not saying it'll be uninteresting, just... less interesting.
Although I will reward endless more points to this film if the response to "Show me where the bullets go," is "in the motherfucker's body." Or something comparably badass.
Friday, October 8, 2010
But then my BFF over at Picaresque posted her thoughts on the episode, and in reading them, it finally got me to sort out what mine are. I recommend you read her post for an intelligent take on how atheism was portrayed (somewhat unfairly) in the episode. I, however, am going to stick to the usual idea behind The RBI Report - focus on the writing and direction.
Of course, this being "THE RELIGION EPISODE," I can't avoid discussing religion entirely. But here we go.
"Grilled Cheesus," written by Brad Falchuk, directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon
Surprise! This episode was written by Brad Falchuk! I won't lie; I thought this had Ryan Murphy written all over it. But it seems we have to chalk this one up to Mr. Falchuk, and I honestly would rank it as his worst episode yet. This is the man that wrote FIVE of the top six in SHE BLOGGO'S Best Season 1 Episodes. So yeah; back of the line, "Cheesus."
I do wonder if the episode would have been better if it had been directed by Falchuk as well. Alfonso Gomez-Rejon has only ever directed two episodes of television, according to his IMDb page - this, and Season 1's "Laryngitis." Nothing felt terribly inspired about the directing. I thought the scene where Burt collapses was written well, but directed poorly - I didn't feel terror at what was happening. It was cheesy. They used cross-fades, guys. It was not okay.
The main problems with the episode, as I see it, derive from the fact that they set themselves up for failure. You wanna try and tackle religion on a network television comedy musical? Be my guest. But you better be damn sure you do it right. And of course, Glee didn't.
Problem #1: They were asking for trouble when they put Burt in a coma for this one. It's one thing to discuss religion in normal circumstances; it's another entirely when someone is in the hospital. Humanity's relationship with death is largely a spiritual one because no one knows what the hell comes next. So we turn to religion, or spirituality, whichever, and it gives us the answers we want to hear. By putting a character we love in a life-or-death situation, the writers immediately color the episode. The atheist who chooses not to pray in general could be respected for his decisions. The atheist who chooses not to pray when his father could be dying just looks like a jerk.
The episode's interesting parts came from Sue. She raised a valid point about church and state, and the discussion there was believable and topical. Had the episode centered around choosing to sing religious songs in Glee Club, I think the topic of religion could have been handled in a much more neutral light. Would everyone have cried as much? Probably not. But would there be a hell of a lot fewer pissed-off people? Yes. Would the episode have been better? It's hard to say.
Personally, I am not a particularly religious person. I wasn't raised to follow any sort of religious belief, just my own moral compass. This is not to say, however, that I don't get goosebumps when I hear a choir sing "There Is a Balm In Gilead." Gospel music is gorgeous. Do I think it should be used to shove religion down someone's throat? No. But I appreciate the hell out of it, musically. Mercedes' version of "I Look To You" is beautiful. I wish the episode had chosen to focus on the delineation between religious music and religious belief, and even performing religious music objectively in school. There's enough controversy right there, and it's more suited to Glee's natural inclinations.
Problem #2: When you set up the characters' journeys in any story, you have to get them from Point A to Point B. But in an episode dealing with different characters' religious beliefs, what's Point B? Are you supposed to get Kurt from atheism to believing, or Mercedes from believing to atheism? You absolutely cannot do that without inciting rage from 50% of your audience. So what's the message, then? Hope? Believe in what you want? Don't worship a grilled cheese sandwich? The problem with a religion episode is that everybody is just going to see what they want to see to support their own previously-held beliefs. So as the writer of the episode, what are you trying to tell people? You have to try and develop a character without changing their beliefs, which makes it incredibly difficult to sculpt a good character arc.
Problem #3: Ah, Grilled Cheesus. I see why the sandwich deity was included in the episode, but it caused problems for me. Actually, Problem #3 wouldn't be a problem if Problem #1 weren't also a problem. That is to say, I wouldn't have a problem with Grilled Cheesus if Burt weren't in the hospital. I could not for the life of me care one iota about Finn touching Rachel's boobs when Kurt's dad's life hung in the balance. I get that it was there to lighten the mood, but it was too stark a contrast for me not to roll my eyes at.
There you have it. I give you a Holy Trinity of Problems for "Grilled Cheesus." Is that sacrilegious? I'm not sure I care. I'm just going to crawl back in my religious happy place, chanting "live and let live."
And I still wish Quinn had turned out to be the atheist of the group. Interesting and unexpected character development for Quinn, complete with a storyline and maybe a solo? Surely you jest.
Thursday, October 7, 2010
I'm just gonna go ahead and set my DVR now, as soon as I get done with this five minute dance party to celebrate this joyous news.
I refuse to have any expectations for this special other than it being TOTALLY AWESOME. That's not unrealistic, right? But all joking aside, it's nice to see these ladies be so willing to return to their old stomping grounds together. I'm fairly certain it's going to be overwhelmingly funny to have them all in the same room together. November 1st can't get here fast enough.
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
Behold, the Glee Character Approval Ratings, as detailed by DR SHE BLOGGO.
Now, I'm not a scientist. My value system is entirely subjective, and the graph is best looked at in the big picture. But look, in the first three episodes: Quinn, Brittany, Santana, and Kurt are on their way up! Rachel, Will, and Finn are tanking. Everyone else is somewhere in the middle, waiting to break out.
Agree? Disagree? I hope to get a new graph up every few episodes to chart the characters. For the record, I judge using mostly character continuity and likeability, but also a little bit with the songs and how the character is portrayed.
"Brittany/Britney" (written and directed by Ryan Murphy)
This one has Ryan Murphy's fingerprints all over it. Banner episode, good music numbers, and contrived storylines abounding - classic Ryan! I won't lie, there was a touch of lingering disappointment in the air when I finished watching this episode.
What frustrates me with Ryan's episodes is that when he works backwards from a desired effect, he goes about it in a way that makes no sense whatsoever. This is how I always feel manipulated when I cry at the payoffs - the shoddy setup always makes me feel like it was unearned. Yes, Rachel's rendition of "The Only Exception" was beautiful, but did it make me like Rachel and Finn as a couple? No, because the conflict that got them to that point was ridiculous. They don't seem all that happy together, and I find their carousel of fabricated drama tiring. The truth of the matter is that Ryan wanted an excuse to make Rachel Berry dress like the "sexy schoolgirl" for "Baby One More Time," and forced the conflict by having Finn criticize her dress. In doing so, he completely desecrated the "sad clown hooker" scene from "Hairography" which is actually really touching. Not only that, but there have been a few Rachel outfits that already border on sexy schoolgirl, so why the stretch?
The same goes for Will's storyline. In what universe has Will Schuester ever been uptight? He started a boy band, for Pete's sake. He shakes his ass in the faces of his students. He made out with Shelby Corcoran after having known her for thirty seconds. The man is not uptight. Yet in order to make Britney Spears music "work," Ryan tried to build the whole episode on this shaky assumption. What's frustrating is there could have been a million other believable reasons why Schuester got his panties in a twist over Britney. We were willing to believe that Carl would deliver anesthesia for simple teeth cleanings, so I have to imagine we'd go along for the ride on other counts that don't sacrifice character consistency. This is a musical comedy. There are no rules when it comes to reality in a musical. However, it's still a scripted television show, and there are rules when it comes to character development. (I'm not even going to go near how much of an ass Will was to Carl in this episode. They're really tanking his likeability.)
My worry about Ryan's episodes is that they perhaps are microcosms of the show itself. He puts forth this huge novelty, and we forgive him for the missteps because of the incredible concept. They usually come in the form of a positive message, a mind-blowing musical number, or an ode to an artist, and are amazing enough to make us forget the little things. Which is why I'm writing this RBI Report with a twinge of guilt for ragging on the episode so much.
Of course, this duality of Ryan Murphy does mean there also are an abundance of positives about the episode. I loved the choice to strip down "Toxic," and only wish we got to see more of it during the episode. Frankly, I was surprised and elated by the scene with Finn, Quinn, and Rachel at the end. Kudos for side-stepping an actual seduction (because, eyeroll) and developing the intriguing Rachel/Quinn dynamic that they dropped in the Back 9. Well done, all around.
The writing for Santana and Brittany in this episode was spot-on (is it just me or are Naya Rivera's line deliveries severely underrated?) and I almost wish they had gotten a storyline in the foreground instead of Will and Emma. The Britney cameos were well-done, and distributed appropriately, and on the whole, I thought the episode treated Britney and her place in music history realistically and respectfully. Artie singing "Stronger" was also a pleasant surprise.
My brain hurts too much to write a conclusion for this. I'll just say this: when I rewatch "Brittany/Britney" in future, I'll probably watch the musical numbers, the classroom scenes, and the Finn/Quinn/Rachel scene. And I'll be happy in that little Britney bubble.