Chaos Attraction

In Defense Of Glee And The Christmas Episode

2010-12-08, 4:11 p.m.

So, Glee's a controversial show. You've got your Gleeks, you've got your haters, you've got your "I used to love this show then WAH" people, you've got the "I love it, I hate it, I can't decide" people... hey, controversy makes hits, yo. At least for the next few years, and after that it'll pall on everyone like every other show does and the haters shall be delighted at the inevitable cancellation. But for right now, I'm a Gleek and I enjoy the ride.

Last night's Christmas episode seems to have particularly irritated some folks. Okay, so every episode irritates some folks. But for the most part, I didn't think it was all that problematic.

Here's the thing about shows: we watch certain shows for different reasons. I watch Psych because it's a laugh and I like 80's references. I watch Burn Notice because I like chicks with guns and things exploding and lessons in the spy biz. I watch Joss Whedon shows because he's excellent at "to the pain" moments and funny lines and badass women and showing awesome nakamas that last for years when I can't get mine to last past about 2, ever. I watch Eureka and Warehouse 13 for science geekery combined with mad science. I watch the few sitcoms I watch (HIMYM, Community, Modern Family) because they're hilarious and yet don't do the usual crap family sitcom stereotypes that I loathe. You might notice that there's some drastically different reasons for watching each show, and each show has a different personality.

In the case of watching Glee, I watch it for (a) the freaking awesome musical numbers, (b) the funny lines, (c) random moments of emotional depth without it being too deep, and (d) ESPECIALLY the fact that I am on a high after watching every episode. (Except for "Mattress", that ends kind of sad.) That is a very significant thing to me, because the rest of my life isn't exactly giving me highs.

But am I watching it for the major emotional depth of a Whedon show? No, I am not. I am watching a one-hour long musical every week. I have been to buttloads of musicals, and there's only so much depth any of 'em are gonna have in 2 hours. And you have to accept that there's a certain amount of crazy in any medium where people randomly break out into perfectly synchronized song. Look at "Brigadoon," for example: the guy only knows the girl for what, several hours, and they fall in love and he has to decide to commit to her and give up his entire life RIGHT THEN AND THERE? Come on, that's nuts. But that's musical logic for you. That also applies when watching a Ryan Murphy television production. There are personality swings abounding because we need drama. And there's the occasional/somewhat inconsistency that annoys me (see below), but mostly, it's for the spectacle, you know? That's why you're watching this show, it's not for like, the depth and pathos that comes from watching certain episodes of Battlestar.

People complain that the characters are inconsistent. True, but human beings are inconsistent. We're all nice sometimes and we're all assholes sometimes. Look at Will Schuester: hero to the glee club, godawful dating life, and occasionally he has lovely mental lapses like tricking Sue into thinking he's attracted to her or planting drugs on Finn. Look at Emma: I adore her, but the chick did get ENGAGED to a man she couldn't stand and wouldn't let him even touch or live with her. That is really treating a guy like crap (and if you think about it, that's even worse than Will making out with multiple chicks). Finn is usually a sweet guy, but then there's the time he dropped the other f-bomb at Kurt, his friend/future stepbrother. And look at Sue: 95% of the time she's a horrible cartoon character and likes it that way, but even she has her moments of goodness. And even Santana can manage to be polite (in "Grilled Cheesus") once in a while. Rachel can be nice when she's not on her star high horse or feeling like her career is being threatened, but when she feels like that, she's freaking nuts. I adore Artie (he's my favorite), but even he's said a few breathtakingly awful things to Tina from time to time. EVERYONE on this show has their good and bad sides. (Except for Blaine so far, which is worrying me because he seems nice and sings well and all, but right now he's too perfect. I'm just waiting for his dark side to come out.) And that's humanity for you. People who know me in real life would say I'm nice, people on the Internet would say I'm a whining wanker, my mother would say that I don't love or care about her, and guess what? Everybody's right at different times. That's humanity, y'all.

So I guess what I'm saying overall is: crazy drama, mood swings, overly-professional songs, and snark is what Glee is all about. If this isn't for you, fine, don't watch it. But don't watch it looking for something that you can get from another show (i.e. massive lasting depth) and then complain about it. You knew what you were getting into when you turned on the TV by now.

So, onto Glee's holiday episode: don't get me wrong, some things about it bug me:

* I do find it irritating that the two characters who are Jewish (and talk about it frequently-- one might guess that Tina Cohen-Chang is also at least part Jewish, but it's never come up. I also wonder about Artie Abrams) are 100% totally on board with celebrating Christmas, without anything at all from Puck being said about his Jewishness for a change. Rachel mentions it slightly, and someone pointed out somewhere that in show time, Hanukkah's at the tail end of it by now anyway, but I find it irritating that they go on about being Jewish the rest of the year and for this episode, it's dropped entirely. Compulsory holiday celebration, anyone? Do Jews ruin the buzzkill in December or something? Puck wouldn't make some kind of obnoxious protest, really? Just wondering.

* I get uncomfortable any time a "Artie walks" plotline comes up, and dear god, this gave me the wiggins. I really hope Shannon Beiste is a closet millionaire, because otherwise ... But I am sensitive on this topic since I had a handicapped parent. "Wheels" is my favorite episode ever, but boy, did I ever roll my eyes at "I got 11 wheelchairs at a nursing home tag sale." It's been awhile since I dealt with this myself, but I seem to recall wheelchairs costing thousands apiece and insurance having to pay for them. But... yeah, I kind of had to mentally handwave that because making the kids do a wheelchair dance is so awesome. In this case, I just ... yeah, Beiste better be a closet millionaire.

* For all of the awesome songs on the Glee Christmas album, which I have listened to approximately fifteen billion times and I have alternated between having "Last Christmas" and "Baby, It's Cold Outside" in my head for the last like, 3 weeks, "Welcome Christmas" (otherwise known as "the song the Whos sing at the end of The Grinch", which I did not recall in the slightest) is the LEAST MEMORABLE HOLIDAY SONG EVER. Seriously, holiday songs are designed to attach in your head like Crazy Glue, and I can't even REMEMBER this song or what it's from? No wonder they left it off of the album. It was kind of an ending buzzkill, though I can understand why they did it for the Grinch plot.

But on the good side:

* If they were going to spoof a Christmas classic plot, I like that they did the Grinch. It fits Sue's character to a T. And for those who complained that Sue would screw over homeless kids, remember what she said about the homeless on "Sue's Corner" last time they showed it? She shows compassion for those that she relates to (Becky, Kurt, maybe Artie given the time she donated money for ramps) because of her sister and family situation, but "homeless kids" aren't exactly gonna get to her heart so much.

But also, you don't see that many Grinch spoofs, comparatively speaking. Looking at the Christmas Tropes list, the episode covers Gift of the Magi, Secret Santa, elves, Santa Clausmas, Mall Santa, Christmas Songs (duh!). But if you compare the list of shows that have spoofed The Grinch (20ish), compared to It's A Wonderful Life and A Christmas Carol... the Grinch is downright fresh and new compared to those old chestnuts. Then again, that's probably because Ryan Murphy did both of those on Popular already.

Of course, now that I've said this, next year's holiday episode will be "It's A Wonderful Will," in which a depressed Will sees what the glee club members' lives would be like without him. You heard me call it first.

* I have seen complaining about Brittany still believing in Santa. Okay, raise a hand here, WHO THOUGHT SHE WOULDN'T BELIEVE STILL? Really? 'Cause that's how the character's set up. As Sam pointed out, last week she believed in a magic comb. It's a character trait. I totally bought it in the episode, even if I didn't like her Christmas wish. And while yeah, it stretches credibility that Brittany hangs out with Black Santa, Green Santa, and/or Female Santa and doesn't notice a darned difference... hell, it made me laugh when Beiste freaking PULLED DOWN HER BEARD and didn't even try to hide that she was a chick Brittany knew any more. So hey, rule of funny. Also, this is the same show that has Finn sing serenades to inanimate sorta-objects. A certain level of crazy wackadoo comes with the show.

And I can say from my own experience that well... once the Santa thing is over, the holidays are never that much fun again. I didn't admit to having figured it out for uh... a long time... and once I finally gave in and admitted it, I got saddled with doing all of the Christmas work from then on. So Brittany, keep on believing!

* Artie and Brittany are just freaking adorable with each other, especially when they smile at each other. I was originally pissed about Artie and Tina breaking up, but now I am all, "Tina who?" Darn it if those actors don't make it work, and they were so cute in this.

* The songs, other than the aforementioned Who song, were excellent. I wish "We Need A Little Christmas" had gotten more on the show because I loved it so much, but "Last Christmas" lived up to expectations for me. Though I'll admit to being a little disconcerted (again, having listened to the album fifteen thousand times by now) that (a) on the show, Quinn was singing Kurt's part in "The Most Wonderful Day Of The Year," and (b) the Grinch song on the album isn't very similar at all to the "Sue the Grinch" done on the show, and I would have liked to have had a Sue-themed version on the album. Though I did notice that the Grinch is referred to as "she" for a few lines in the album song? Strange.

So, all in all, it was a typical episode of Glee: entertaining to me. I had some issues, but I also had a good time and was entertained. And you know what? That's what the show is there for.

And to finish off, I will leave you with this. Though I think Rachel is more of a chaotic neutral (she's not entirely evil, but definitely not lawful), but Puck embodies that better.

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