ellydash: (sue <3)
[personal profile] ellydash
This is a show about singing teenagers with terrible continuity and less attention span than a three year old. Most of the time something about it makes me upset or frustrated, I usually just shrug it off with, well, you know, Glee, and it's not worth getting worked up overI'm in this fandom because sometimes the show makes me laugh really hard, and sometimes it makes me feel feelings about ridiculous people, and every so often there's great music and terrible dancing and we see Howard Bamboo. That's enough for me. 

"Funeral" made me angry, though, in a way I don't usually let this show make me angry. I don't know what I was expecting, honestly - maybe something along the lines of "Grilled Cheesus," which admittedly, I wasn't crazy about. "Grilled Cheesus," at least, seemed somewhat interested in having a discussion about faith, and what faith might mean to individual people, as seriously flawed as that discussion was. This episode did a lot of really appalling things in the name of sentimentality. I'm not going to even find the space here to address Rachel singing "My Man," which in context made my jaw drop, and not in the way the show intended, or the terrible pacing, or the way we get, yet again, a condescending nod towards Mercedes and Kurt's chances for a solo in a competition. The episode's central and worst offense, though, was using the death of a character largely defined by her disability as a catalyst to 1) ricochet Sue from literally homicidal to suddenly relatable and 2) force Will and Finn into the hero roles the show so desperately wants them to occupy. 

One of the major foundational problems in all of this is Sue and the terrible way she's been written this season. Glee's consistently unable to reconcile its over-the-top, intentionally unrealistic absurdities (see Sue attempting to torture a student with dental tools just last episode) with its more serious notes, and she's been one of the biggest victims of that conflict. It's not like there haven't been moments on this show where Sue's been humanized in effective ways - in the judging room at Regionals, where she defended the glee club; her reaction to Quinn's pregnancy; even her defense of fitness in schools to Bryan Ryan. But in S2, outside that brief interaction with Kurt during her tenure as principal, the smatterings of her humanity have come entirely from over-the-top, emotionally manipulative moments inserted out of nowhere into the larger narrative, and then never addressed again (see especially the Will/Sue teary-eyed singalong over the heads of dying children in "Comeback"). 

So, yes, killing off Jean is lazy writing, pushing the reset button: a shortcut to erasing everything the show's done badly or hasn't attempted with Sue this season. Worse, though, and more troubling, is the way Jean's used here as a prop, as the sanctified disabled character whose death serves as catharsis. I'm not going to pretend Jean was ever anything more to this show than a vehicle for Sue's humanization; she's never been a character in her own right, in much the same way that Finn's paralyzed friend Sean - remember him? - was a character in his own right. But I'm still left with a bad taste in my mouth from the way Jean's disability is supposed to function on its own as a kind of narrative. A large part of the pathos Jean's meant to create has always stemmed from her disability, in a way that reinforces tropes of the disabled character as other, somehow different, somehow better or sanctified (thankfully, Becky's largely escaped this latter treatment). I'm not disputing creating a minor, recurring character whose innate goodness brings out Sue's humanity. What makes me pause is the way the show unapologetically uses her disability and related death to further other characters' plotlines, specifically characters that have absolutely no connection to Jean or to Sue. 

Because Jean's death, ultimately, isn't about Jean. It isn't even just about Sue, which is where the major reverberations of Jean's death should end. Somehow it's about Will, and his "pure heart," and even more inexplicably, it's about Finn. There's absolutely no reason, really, for Finn to be in Sue's office with Kurt attempting to comfort Sue - Quinn would've made much more sense, or even Mercedes, because at least those characters have history with Sue. No, Finn's there so the writers can give him Jean's funeral planning as a device to indicate his leadership capabilities, and separate him from heartless Jesse, who points out that New Directions really has no business getting involved in planning a funeral just a week away from Nationals. Finn's there so he can tell everyone, with all the sanctimony of Will, that "Jean is just like us, guys. She's been an outsider and an underdog all her life." (I'm not the only one who immediately thought of Will's similarly infuriating "we're all minorities" line in "Throwdown," am I?) This episode uses Jean as both relational device - we're just like her! - and aspirational device - she was so pure and good! - without ever thinking about how troubling both of those moves are.

And, of course, it's Jean's death that gives us two of the most infuriating moments in an infuriating episode: Finn's relationship crisis and Sue's comparison of Will to Jean. We were treated to an obvious camera pan during Will's reading of Sue's eulogy, the shot lingering on Finn's miserable face while we hear about how Sue and Jean were tethered together. This transfer of emotional weight might not be such a mockery if the entire season, leading up to this point, hadn't showcased Finn's hypocrisy and general terrible treatment of both Rachel and Quinn. And while I'm not going to object to most of Sue's interactions with Will this episode, that final scene, where she compared his "pure heart" to Jean's, was horrifyingly jarring and came across as ridiculously OOC, even for a vulnerable Sue. We went from a begrudging "you're a good educator" in last year's season finale to "you have a pure heart" at the end of this season? Really? Will, at his absolute best, is earnest and somewhat well-intentioned, but the writers have given us absolutely nothing to indicate Will's anything right now but self-absorbed, ineffective, self-righteous, short-sighted and occasionally, alarmingly angry. To map St. Jean over Will, just to make sure we're on board with him as our hero, is the absolute laziest kind of narrative prosthesis. 

The funeral scene still hit me, hard, thanks to Jane Lynch's acting - she gave those lines and that situation more resonance than most would've been able to do in that situation. But so much of this episode is just lost for me in a miasma of offensive, careless, shamelessly manipulative writing that doesn't deserve the emotions it wrung out of its audience. The problems with Sue's characterization aren't fixed, just because her sister's dead and she's realized what the audience did about ten episodes ago: her vendetta against the glee club is tired and annoying. The problems with Will and Finn aren't fixed, just because Sue tells us Will is a great human being or Finn realizes he wants with Rachel what Sue had with Jean (!). 

I'd like to forget this episode ever happened. Luckily, with the continuity on this show, that should be pretty easy.
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