December 1, 2010

In Defense of Rachel Barry

On this week's Glee, the Season Two sectionals episode, Rachel Barry got screwed. Why? Because she deserved that solo and also didn't deserve to be dumped or to be bullied by absolutely EVERYONE.

So, Rachel is by far the best remaining member of Glee Club. We all know she has the most talent, and so she's an obvious choice for sectionals. Rachel can sing, she can dance, she can just outright perform. Now, you might say that if she were just genetically talented, it wouldn't be fair to give her all the solos (even though it might be a good idea from a competitive standpoint, and this is a competitive club. You wanna sing for fun? Join a choir that doesn't compete), but she also works harder than ANYONE. Do you see the other kids stay after practice to practice MORE? No, but she does. She also isn't necessarily a spoiled sport. Do you remember last year when Mercedes initially beat her in the competition to get a solo for sectionals? She was all kinds of nice and gracious. Rachel CAN be a good sport, even though Mr. Shue doesn't seem to remember that. Why is Rachel pissed off now? Because she earned a god-damn solo, and didn't lose it to someone else who is also talented, like Mercedes, she lost it to Quinn Fabray, the goddamn head cheerleader!

Truth is, Quinn isn't as good at Glee in part because she's not as talented as Rachel, but in part because she's not as dedicated. Cheerleading is what she works at, and, like Rachel, she will throw down to get what she wants there (Remember how she outted Santana for plastic surgery so she could be head cheerleader again?), so I don't think Miss Pillsbury has a point. Glee might be about thinking everyone is special, but Quinn doesn't need Glee to make her feel special. It's an after-thought club for her to make her college application look more well-rounded. So, if we're going to reward commitment, and since there were TWO lead vocals female parts up for grabs, you clearly reward Rachel for being most committed AND most talented.

Time and time again, Rachel has given more to Glee than anybody. Remember last year when she had a solo ready in a pinch to sing at sectionals, saving everybody and actually WINNING the tournament? Remember just a few episodes ago, when she saw Kurt was hurting and did a duet with him to show him he wasn't alone? Sure, Rachel is bossy and annoyingly self-confident, but it's not like she doesn't have the talent and the hard work to back that up. The show shows everyone turning on her. Even her teacher who lets kids say they want to PUNCH her in public. Is the message to young girls then supposed to be not to stand up for what you deserve? To let less talented and lazier people take your spot in choir, in the school play, and to take your promotion from you when you get older? Even when you not getting the promotion is big risk for the company as a whole? They tied the Warblers without Rachel, so the club is good, but with her, judging from last year, they probably would have won! Rachel should have gotten that solo.

Now, on to part two of my critique: Does Rachel deserve to be dumped on and dumped by Finn? Fuck no! Rachel had every right to be mad. Why was what Finn did just as bad as what Rachel did? Because it was dishonest! They both betrayed each other's trust. He lied about being a FUCKING VIRGIN, which, at that age, is a really big deal. What if Rachel had lost it to him thinking it was okay to do so because it was his first time too? He essentially made a fool out of her.

So, yes, it also does matter that it's Santana he slept with, because he should have KNOWN she wouldn't keep it a secret and it would become inevitable that Rachel wouldn't just be betrayed by her boyfriend as she already was, but that everyone would know and laugh about it BEHIND HER BACK. Santana is not fucking discrete. Remember when she showed Quinn Puck's sexts when Quinn was f-cking pregnant? Santana is a bully, and given that, I think Rachel deserved advance warning that one day, when Santana up and felt like it, she would bring out the info about deflowering Puck in the most embarrassing way possible (Which she did, at a GLEE club rehearsal, in front of all Rachel's teammates, who already dislike and bully her).

So yeah, maybe Rachel did make out with Puck, but is physical cheating any worse than what Finn did? Sure, Finn f-cked Santana BEFORE he was with Rachel, but he knew the act would have reverberations at the time he started DATING Rachel, so why not come clean then? Rachel admitted she had lied and still was a virgin, so why couldn't he have done the brave thing at taken the opportunity to tell her the truth too?

At the end, when Rachel yelled at Finn, "But you said you'd never break up with me!" my heart sank. Here is this poor 15-year-old girl who is deserted by everyone. And partly, that's because she's talented and assertive. Remember when Finn said he didn't tell her about f-cking Santana because Rachel's "scary." What he really meant, is that Rachel has a sense of self-worth. That Rachel stands up for herself and asserts herself and might have told him to take a hike. Finn lies to Rachel for the same reason Mr. Shue won't give her the solo she deserves - because he's threatened by her.

Mr. Shue sees in Rachel his most talented student - the only one with both the talent and the dedication to make it big like he never did, because frankly, despite all his hard work, he just never had the talent. And so Rachel is the girl he beats up on because he's unhappy with his divorced, pathetic existence where he teaches kids but really wishes he could be in the club instead of them. If Mr. Shue, as GP taught us when she guest-starred, doesn't seem to even like teaching. After all, he never listens to the kids or seems to care how much they're learning as long as they're doing what HE wants to do. And now, well, he's pretending to have learned that lesson by getting them to perform hipper songs at sectionals, but by discriminating against his most talented student, we see his bitterness IS NOT GONE.

So, Mr. Shue beats up on Rachel because he's insecure with himself and his own perceived failure, but I also contend his hatred has a misogynistic aspect as well. His world is full of assertive women who he feels have long controlled him. Rather than facing the facts that he was an idiot who allowed Terry to manipulate him for all those years or owning up to the fact that he resents Sue's success or the fact that Emma rejected him, he displacing his anger on a young woman he CAN dominate where he failed to dominate all the adult women in his life. After all, the more Will losing to adult ladies or loses them, the more he displaces his anger towards the teenage Rachel, the only woman in his life he can successfully hurt and withhold things from.

Because it's not JUST Rachel's talent. Last week he was all ready to give Kurt, who is probably as good as Mr. Shue if not a little bit better, a solo. Now, perhaps you could argue because Rachel is just THAT MUCH BETTER, he hates her, but I think it's also important that she has a vagina.

Mr. Shue was an emotionally abused husband and works in a hostile environment with Sue and lost Emma to a better man - rather than being responsible and going to therapy for his feelings of inadequacy, he chooses to project them and beat up on a young and vulnerable girl. He sees the making of a confident woman like Sue or the newly confident Emma, and the chooses to beat her down, consciously or no. He needs to stop taking his own failures out on women and blaming them for HIM not succeeding.

So yeah, when I watched Glee last night, I wanted to hug Rachel. Rachel might not have learned how to be gracious ALL THE TIME, which talented people should learn to do so as not to be annoying, but she's 15! All the other kids have flaws too, like Puck and Santana bullying people AND QUINN HAVING LIED TO FINN TO TRICK HIM INTO BEING HER BABYDADDY! OHMYGOD WHY DOES NO ONE REMEMBER THAT? Let he who is without blame cast the first stone - the only thing we can really blame Rachel for is being the most talented and dedicated member of Glee club and not denying it...

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