Monday, November 12, 2012

What Glee?

Oh, “Glee.” What I once equated with a squeal and a joyous giggle, now more often elicits a sigh and shoulder shrug. The thing about this show, the thing about all shows, is that the stories only matter if we believe in them. TV is the tinkerbell of mediums. It only lives when we clap. But when the clapping stops, shows stop. That's how it works. Even the most brilliant TV (My So-Called Life, Firefly, Wonderfalls) can't live without fans.

So, when a show – or its creator – goes out of its way to alienate parts of its fanbase, well, that'’ a problem. So, I ask you, how do we solve a problem like Ryan Murphy? Ryan Murphy is a little bit genius at creating TV shows that make us care, at least at first. Popular, Nip/Tuck, Glee. Come on, pretty awesome. But then being a little bit genius is sort of like being a little bit pregnant. It tends to be all or nothing proposition.

The best stories come alive, both off the page an on the screen. The characters stop feeling like characters and start feeling like people. So then a good rule of thumb when it comes to writing characters is how readers react to them. Not necessarily whether a character is liked or not – that’s just taste and personality. But instead our reaction to their actions. If a character does something we don't like, do we get mad at the character or do we get mad at the writer? If it’s the latter that's a Houston we have a problem.

On “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” when Willow got – quite literally – high off magic and Tara broke up with her, no one called for Joss Whedon’s head. That felt like horrible, terrible, so very sad real life (minus the mystical powers part). On “Modern Family,” no one gets mad at Steven Levitan for letting Phil embarrass his children/wife/father-in-law week after week. That feels like the dorky dad in all of our lives.

But on, “Glee,” we rarely blame the characters for their own bad behavior. We blame Ryan Murphy. (Well, minus maybe Finn. We blame Finn and Ryan Murphy.) Finn outs Santana then song assaults her to having fun about it and everyone hugs & sings Katy Perry afterward. RYAN MURPHY! After sleeping together for three years Santana & Brittany continue to only give each other deep, meaningful hugs on camera. RYAN MURPHY! Finn is the requisite white male hero, yet continues to have to relearn lessons he already learned in the first season. RYAN MURPHY!

For lesbian TV viewers, it is an all-too familiar formula. A show we begin breathlessly watching filled with characters we love and actors we respect that somehow veers off course and becomes a frequent kicking bag. Just replace our current cries of RYAN MURPHY with our past cries of ILENE CHAIKEN and you get the picture. We can all tell when the strings on the marionette start to show. And that is one of the worst sins of storytelling – not letting your stories come alive.

But now, more than having just shortcomings in storytelling, “Glee” seems to be taking on a decidedly ungleeful attitude toward its lesbian and bisexual fans. The aforementioned Mr. Murphy in fact seems to be actively trolling lesbian fandom with tweets like this.

And, yes, I saw the “Wedding of the Year” tweet, too.

Now, I understand that constant negativity and hateful feedback suck. Anyone who shares their opinions or art with the public is subject to adoration and wrath in equal measure. And, of course, people should not be harassed or bullied for their work. There is a difference between haranguing and respectful disagreement. But it confounds me when storytellers get angry at people who care deeply about the characters they created for them to care about. Yes, a lot of Glee’s gay women fans are annoyed with the show for its inconsistencies. But why shouldn’t they be allowed to express that frustrations? Am I thankful “Glee” allowed Santana and Brittany to exist and fall in love and be a couple? God, yes. So much yes. They are lovely. They are important. But that doesn’t mean all future treatment of those characters or other storylines must be worshipped. Also, don’t get me started on the idea that characters should somehow be punished for fan reactions. Do writers really “give up” on storylines because of fans? Shouldn’t they only give up on storylines because the story doesn’t work?

Like I was saying – oh, “Glee.”

25 comments:

Melissa said...

Well said! I just can't bring myself to care. I'm feeling like Ryan Murphy is even worse than Mama Chaiken, though. Can you imagine? I used to think The L Word shenanigans were so awful. But I just haven't been able to get over the comparison between gay churches and separate water fountains on The New Normal. I mean what a hideous, divisive, ridiculous thing to say about an important part of your core community....

Anonymous said...

Gee, I thought Janet Tamaro was a shitty show runner. Why do some showrunners have such large egos and are so adversarial? Don't they know that it's the fans that keep their show going. Once the fans go so does the show. I quit watching Glee earlier this season. I don't have twitter but now I know the reason I don't watch. RPM is an a-hole. I feel bad for the cast though. Just like R & I, what a waste. Thanks, DS, for your insightful column. LG

Kate Q-P Photography said...

oh well...since i saw the wedding pic i gave up hope...
plus Ive always thought RM is a bit arrogant so not surprised by his comments...
I do understand the cast adoring him,but they have a reason..he made them millionaires and celebrities .. and I dont...not anymore .. Brittana was different ..
shame ...

Anonymous said...

"So, I ask you, how do we solve a problem like Ryan Murphy?"

Simple darling: Walk away from the odious little *sadist* and his oh so crappy products!

PD

Anonymous said...

After Finn called Sue's baby retarded, I just can't watch any more. That is past my limit. Sooo disappointed. :(

Anonymous said...

It is really simple don't watch anymore. I stopped a while ago and there are many many more deserving shows to spend your time on. Ryan Murphy is an evil megalomaniac micromanager. Just know he is miserable.

K8QP said...

its sad indeed how he points out problems..uses them ..then leaves them in the air or (in a way abuses )them...

Vicky Syred said...

What a great, rational response to odious, irrational tweets by Mr Murphy.
Ms Snarker, I doth my cap.

AJ said...

The thing about Glee and the way the writing has taken a distinct turn to world fandom-alienating isthat not all of it can be blamed on RM.

YES he does have a heck of alot of creative and control and YES he does troll the fandom, however he also anwers to the Fox Execs.

I know this may come across as slightly conspiratorial but i do think that he has been told to drop storylines and the actors have been told to act/stop acting in certain ways in order to maintain the Fox Family image. The PR machine is an epic one for sure.
Fox liked Brittana when it was a nice background feature that some fans picked up on. That turned to hate when it realised that the sub-couple was rapidly becoming more popular than the main couple [finchel].
Soultion? ''Hey Ryan - destroy the good ship Brittana for us - oh an that other 'non-heteroesxual couple too...and anything else potential 'gay' - k? thanks''
Should RM had stood his ground and pointed out that ratings are distinctly higher, and this potential advertising revenues better, when we see faberry, klaine & Brittana on our screens [be it in relationships or as friends]? YES. YES he should have. But alas he answers to fox and his wallet - so integrity of characters is secondary to his wage.

One thing i do have to say is that there is a team of writers behind this show, actors with a modicum of control and a public which can bitch slap glee into oblivion. Does Ryan Murphy have things to answer for? Yes. Is it solely his fault? No. Sadly not. And that *is* the problem with Glee - multiple parts are not functioning.

Personally i will still watch the show and skip through anything that i dislike[increasing per week btw]. I will satisfy need for continuity and character development with fanfiction and youtube videos brilliantly edited into better storylines than Glee produced in it's entire 3rd series.

oh...and that wedding pic? Pretty sure it's just going to turn out to be Lord Tubbington marrying another cat...or possibly a duck [named ballad obviously]. I know RM can be kid of a dick but i am doubtful that he and the glee staff can write a scene with enough continuity to allow the characters to get through the necessary vows without a truck plowing through the wall and paralysing a fan favourite into no-screentime territory a second time round.

Anonymous said...

He is so unprofessional. And the double standard on his show are astounding

Anonymous said...

You know it's not about whether or not the wedding happens or to whom....it's that Murphy, knowing the fans distress with the lack of development and therefore premature even if temporary end of the the Santana Brittany relationship, chose to tweet that picture with that tag line.

That is the trolling part of it. Deliberate salt in the wound fan provocation.

Anonymous said...

The only solution is to walk away and stop giving him your money. And whenever organisations like AE or GLAAD praise him you talk about the legitimate reasons why it is so gross and damaging for them to do so.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for writing what many of us have been thinking. The reality of Glee is that ever since season two the ratings have been falling. This new season has brought the show some of it's worst ratings to date. I don't understand how the show's creator can further piss off it loyal fan base, because guess what we will stop watching, and we have. We will also stop buying your songs on Itunes. Take that to the bank.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for putting our views across in an eloquent and non-offensive manner. I wish RM would read this because we love Brittana and just want to see them treated like a normal couple who talk to each other (and not just about scissoring and sex tapes). I watch this show with my family and its so good for my parents to see this lesbian representation but when they portray them in an over- sexualised manner or dont show any substantial progress in their relationship, in terms of conversation and romance, it really hinders the prospect of my parents acceptance of me (when i hopefully am ready to tell them). I just feel that there are so many things wrong with glee at the moment. And what used to be a show that could make me laugh is now one that just disappoints me.

AverageOriginal said...

Great piece, and I think you've said what all queer fans (past and present) of Glee are thinking.
I personally toughed it out through last season, all because of the great acting by Naya Rivera. But this season hasn't done it for me. I've stopped watching because I'm disappointed, and I'm tired or it. Not just with the Brittana storyline, but with the entire show. It appears that the fault lines that were showing last season (and they were there for parts of the second season as well) have split wide open. Continuity and over-arching storylines/character development has disappeared...and those weren't really strong aspects of the show to begin with.

Lisa said...

Your blog was one of the first places I fell in love with Glee and finally came out to myself- largely due to your many, faithfully delivered photos of our girl Naya.

I would be the last person to walk away from this show, but I'm getting there. Last episode couldn't engage me at all. New Normal such a disappointment. Hence, the bummer of why a guy (RM) whose story I can relate to- from big Catholic family, came out & used humor to survive a lot- seems more & more like a dick.
Luckily I have found a fandom and gotten such a rich education in how to be newly out in my 40s, and that is worth every stupid episode. Thanks to you & Heather Hogan for letting yourselves be as plagued by Glee as some of us!

Anonymous said...

Everywhere I turn, I'm reading about how horrible glee has gotten (and it has), but it seems as if RM and the writers are living in a fantasy world and aren't getting the message. The question is why are they not getting the message? Or do they not give a shit that people think the show has spiraled downward so quickly? Are people really feeding their egos that much on twitter? WHO THE HELL IS TELLING THEM THAT THIS SHOW IS STILL GOOD AND HOW CAN WE LET THEM KNOW HOW EVERYTHING SUCKS SO BADLY?

Chris said...

I, like many, have a DVR that can only record 2 shows at once. This often leads to scheduling mishaps that leave me girlfriend unimpressed with me but not in any kind of serious way. 5 days later, she is STILL angry that I managed to DVR this mind-numbing except when disgustingly offensive episode of Glee over Grey's Anatomy. (Parks and Recreation took spot number 1, which is the only show every person in my house watches and likes. My 11 year old son and I were watching an epic battle scene the other day and he asked if we could turn it off to watch Parks and Recreation. That good.)

Anonymous said...

We couldn't have said it better ourselves. Thank you for this!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the laugh. Way to be biased. Rachel is still the same selfish girl from season one, Santana is a bitch and a bully who never gets blamed for her disgusting action and says homophobic comments as jokes but keep worshipping these pathetic characters and bashing the white males. Way to not be a bully. People like you are the problem.

Anonymous said...

Typical Brittany fan. Whine whine whine and pretend Santana deserves happiness when she's nothing but an unapologetic bully who has never learned a lesson. People like her deserve every ounce of misery they get.

Anonymous said...

^ To the two anons above: Rude. And way to completely miss the point of this whole article.

Anonymous said...

Me thinks your last comments were written by Finchel fans. They organize in groups to spam websites that aren't positive about their ship (this is true).

This being said, thank you for your article, I feel like we need more media to get hold of this situation and spread the word. I've lost faith in GLAAD since they seem to completely overlook Glee's fuck ups for some reason I'm not able to comprehend.

Anonymous said...

I have been a fan of Ryan Murphy since Nip/Tuck and I initally loved Glee but I just can't anymore. I feel like I'm in an emotionally abusive relationship with that show. I love some of the actors and actresses and will support them in other projects but I just can't deal with RM anymore. I'll stick to my fanfiction from here on out.

Anonymous said...

Have you read some of the tweets Ryan gets all the time? People accuse him non stop of being a homophobe and a racist for breaking up Brittana and Samcedes and maybe introducing Bram. Fans of those two ships seem to completely forget, that without Ryan, they wouldn't have existed in the first place!