Archive for Glee

The Good, The Bad, and the Evil

Leaving the church: Princess Diana and the Princess of Wales looked away from each other as they left St Paul's, the new Duke and Duchess couldn't take their eyes off each other

Well, it’s been a hell of a week . . . from the Royal Wedding to the death of Osama Bin Laden to Cinco de Mayo, there has been no lack of drama in our world. As a result, I want to quickly mention a number of thoughts I’ve had over the past week or two related to the subject of body issues.

First up, the Royal Wedding . . . I’m probably the only person on the planet (besides my Facebook peeps Sophia, Kristie, and Ajsela) who didn’t love Kate Middleton’s dress—what was up with that stiff armor-like bodice?—but I did appreciate some aspects of the royal gown.

I was thrilled, for instance, that the new Duchess of Cambridge wore sleeves. Not because I’m a prude who wants everyone to dress like a sister wife but because I’m sick to death of the long-running American obsession with all things sleeveless. Most of us don’t look good in sleeveless, people! Let’s try something else for a while.

For that reason, I’ll file Waity Katie’s dress under bad with a huge side of good.

I’m also happy that Kate—unlike Diana—did not have to be a virgin to marry her prince. Nor did she have to be of royal blood. These outdated requirements are no better for us than the idea that only thin women are beautiful.

This is very, very good.

Second, the death of Osama . . . I’m not a big fan of celebrating the death of anyone—even someone we can actually call a mastermind of evil without exaggerating, but it was hard not to be a bit pleased that a person who killed so many people has been banished from the earth. I’m also glad that a man who still wants women to be covered from head-to-toe is gone too. I may not want to wear sleeveless, but I want the RIGHT to wear sleeveless.

An evil killer who hated women is no longer among us?

Good.

Third, my haircut this afternoon . . . today I got my hair cut for what feels like the first time since Princess Diana’s wedding. And while the stylist was lopping off my split ends, she looked at me and said, “You know, your hair could look just like mine if you wanted.”

This woman had bleached blonde hair that she had blown out in a straight but fluffy cupcake-like style. I couldn’t imagine why she would think someone with dark, curly hair would want to look like she did. But rather than say this directly, I said, “I like my hair curly.”

Unfortunately, the stylist didn’t take the hint.

“But it could look like mine,” she pleaded. “Just use a big curling iron every morning. And you could have highlights like mine too. That would look great!”

A person who wants me to change who I am to fit her image of beauty?

Bad. Very bad.

Fourth, tonight’s episode of The Office . . . in which the old boy network, embodied with scary authenticity by Will Ferrell, finally gets what it deserves . . .

So good I want it to get an Emmy.

Fifth, the guy who waited on me a couple of weeks ago and said “Big appetite, huh?” after I cleaned my plate of lean pork, rice, and vegetables?

Bad and maybe even a bit evil given that kind of comment is designed to undermine our self-esteem.

Finally, last week’s Glee . . . I haven’t had a chance to write about last week’s amazing episode in which all of the glee clubbers don t-shirts advertising what the world sees as their worst quality, thereby reclaiming that part of themselves.

If you missed it, Rachel Berry’s shirt said “nose”, Artie’s said “four eyes,” Emma’s said “OCD,” Finn’s said “Can’t Dance,” Mr. Shoe’s said “butt chin,” and Kurt’s said, “likes boys.” (Perhaps the funniest, though, was Puck’s which said “I’m with stupid” and had an arrow pointing to his crotch.)

If you know me at all, you know that I simply loved this idea. So much so that I’m thinking about getting a t-shirt that says “curvy.” Or maybe “gossip.” Or both.

A television show that encourages us to turn our “flaws” into something we wear with pride?

All good!!!

Choose the path less traveled, Gwyneth. Get your cheeseburger on. And I promise we’ll still love you.

A recent New Yorker article talked about Gwyneth Paltrow and the new cookbook she is releasing.

I’ve enjoyed Gwyneth’s recent run on Glee as Holly Holiday, the substitute teacher turned temptress who wins the heart of McKinley High’s glee club director, Mr. Shoe. But during Gwyneth’s last appearance on the show, I noticed that she looked frightfully pale and thin during one of her musical numbers.

Gwyneth has always been willowy and thin, but she looked really drawn and thin on Glee. Almost sickly. And then I read the article in the New Yorker.

The first half of the article includes a direct quote from Gwynnie in which she runs down what she has eaten that day: “A cappucino, some poached eggs with spinach, an apple, almonds, some cheese and bread, and a turkey sandwich with avocado and tomato.”

Pretty light fare—and it might explain why she looks so skinny these days on Glee. But later in the article, they quote friends of Gwyneth’s who say she eats like a truck driver.

A truck driver? Really?

Have you ever seen a truck driver eat a turkey sandwich with avocado and tomato?

I don’t want to offend truck drivers. And I really don’t want to offend Gwyneth since she will likely be my best friend some day. But tell me the truth—which version of Gwyneth do you think is accurate? Skinny girl who eats like a truck driver or skinny girl who lives on rabbit food?

To her credit, I suspect she was being honest about what she’d eaten that day (and I love a girl who can be honest about her food intake), but it doesn’t sound like enough for a busy thirty-something working mother of two.

Gwyneth is at that age when women in Hollywood have a choice: stay rail thin and start to look unhealthy, or eat like a normal person and say good-bye to the good movie roles.

Gwyneth has clearly chosen the latter, and like I said above, I’m glad to see her still working. But tell us the real truth, Gwyneth, aren’t you just dying for a greasy hamburger, cheese fries, and a shake?

It beats the hell out of turkey.

Shows about big people: step in the right direction or more jokes about fatness?









Glee‘s new hot couple: Puck and Lauren.

If you haven’t noticed, there has been a drastic increase in the amount of big people on TV lately. There are still very few medium-sized people (which is a problem), but the rise of big people is worth noting.

We now have numerous shows about obese or overweight people: Mike & Molly, Huge, The Biggest Loser, and Dance Your Ass Off are the most obvious examples.

The question is, are these characters being presented in ways that are helping us a society or hurting us?

My favorite of these shows is Huge, a smart and moving scripted drama about teens at a fat camp, which I’ve written about before. Not only does this show avoid the usual fat jokes, it also treats each character as a unique and interesting individual, something I’d like to see more often with characters of all sizes. Unfortunately, this might be the only show on television that regular depicts big people as real people.

I don’t watch the reality shows about losing weight, and I’ve only seen one episode of Mike & Molly, and that was enough to turn me off. As Slate’s Daniel Engber says in his outstanding photo and video essay, “Tele-Tubbies: The Rise of the Obese Actor on TV,”Each episode [of Mike & Molly] delivers an onslaught of rim-shot-ready, anatomical putdowns. (Hey, this shirt looks like it was made in an awning store, ba-dum-bum!) After [several] months on the air, the scripts still vacillate between sweetness and fat shame. So what should we make of Mike & Molly? Does the show reflect some new phase of size acceptance in America, or just the opposite—a growing appetite for weight-based minstrelsy?”

Engber raises a good point—are shows about big people just a way for us to laugh at fatness? And if they are, is it still good for us to see people of different sizes on television or not?

The answer is ultimately that the jury is still out.

The most recent episodes of Glee have brought an obese character—Lauren, played by Ashley Fink who also has a supporting role on Huge—into the spotlight, but I still haven’t decided if Glee’s treatment of Lauren is good or bad.

Lauren joined the show last fall, but her character has taken center stage since one of the show’s main character’s—Puck—started pursuing her this winter.

On the one hand, it’s nice to see someone Lauren’s size being depicted as the object of desire.

On the other hand, it’s disappointing and frustrating that a show as envelope-pushing as Glee still falls back on so many clichés—Lauren eats all the time, she’s loud and a bit crass, she has attitude to spare, etc.

Still, probably the most off-putting thing about the introduction of Lauren as a major character is that Puck sang Queen’s “Fat Bottomed Girls” to her while he was trying to seduce her.

Thankfully, Lauren told him what she thought of that, explaining that though she’d always wanted a boy to sing to her, she never thought it would be a song like that, adequately expressing her—and our—disapproval. And, as some people have suggested, maybe that’s WHY the writers chose to have Puck sing that song, to demonstrate how insensitive and cruel people can be.

So, yes, the show is laughing a little bit at the “fat” thing by including such a song and showing Lauren as a lover of chocolate, but her character isn’t taking the abuse either, and just by doing that, she’s pushing the envelope.

As Lauren explains, “I look like America. Deal with it.” One of my friends called the war between Lauren and Santana (Puck’s on-again-off-again super fit girlfriend) “a fight between ide0logies”: raising the question, what makes us happy? Having our bodies worshipped by men or accepting ourselves the way we are?

Ultimately, Lauren is intelligent, mature, and thoughtful, and not just there to make us laugh, and since Huge is the only other show on television with obese characters depicted this way, that makes her characterization a positive to me.

Like I said, the jury is still out on whether the increase in big people on our TVs is a good thing or a bad thing, but I think we can all agree, we’ve got to start somewhere.

It’s just a jump to the left. And then a step to the right.

I had all kinds of plans for tonight’s blog . . . but those plans will have to wait because tonight I have to write, yet again, about that pop culture phenomenon that is Glee.

Tonight’s episode of Glee was a play on The Rocky Horror Picture Show. And while it’s been years since I saw that movie as an unworldly seventeen-year-old, I really enjoyed their take on the musical. But the music wasn’t nearly the most interesting part of the episode—nor is it the reason I feel so compelled to write about it.

What really made the episode work was it’s theme of reversal.

One of the show’s main characters, Finn, was cast as the male lead in the show’s version of Rocky Horror. And that role required him to do something that women do on stage or on camera all the time—take off his clothes. No, he wasn’t going to be naked, but he was being asked to strip down to his underwear in front of an audience.

To look at Finn, one wouldn’t think he had anything to worry about when it comes to his body. He’s the quarterback on the football team. He’s tall and in great shape. He’s dated the most attractive girls on the show. But something about standing on stage in his underwear terrified Finn. He worried that his body wasn’t up to snuff, especially when compared to the chiseled, sculpted frame of the new kid in school, Sam. At one point, Finn—who is a little bit of a dim bulb—admitted that the underwear scene had him so freaked out he had started showering with his shirt on.

I’m not certain, but I’d venture to guess that every woman alive has felt the way Finn did in that moment.

We’ve know what it’s like to walk into a room and feel as though everyone is judging our bodies—examining every little flaw, critiquing every article of clothing, running their eyes up and down us in laser-like fashion.

But tonight’s episode of Glee reminds us that men can feel that way too.

When Finn is asked to strip on stage, he gains an understanding of what it’s like to worry about having some extra flab around the middle. He finds out what it’s like to worry that people might laugh at him for not looking like a perfect GQ model, a reality most of us women live with every day we step out the door.

But at the end of the episode, Finn decides to empower himself. And in order to prepare for his on-stage performance, he takes the bold step of strolling down the hallways of the high school wearing nothing but his boxers, his sneakers, and a pair of glasses. (His Rocky Horror costume.) Naturally, everybody laughs and points. (Sounds like the stuff of nightmares, doesn’t it?) But Finn comes through the gauntlet with a greater sense of his own worth—and with his dignity intact.

I’m not going to be walking down the halls of my school in my underwear any time soon, but I understand the desire to bare it all—for better or worse—and yet again I love Glee for tapping into that innate desire to put it all out there.

Real is the new sexy

CRYSTAL RENN


197 pounds
A few months ago,
The Globe and Mail ran a story I’ve been wanting to talk about for a while called “We’re having a fat moment: Go ahead and have another slice of pumpkin pie. Thin’s not so in any more.”

The article asserts that there is currently “a backlash against a culture that has long perpetuated futile strict diets and impossible exercise regimes. People are finally tired of the yo-yo meal plans that help them melt off pounds but also pack them back on. And the media are making more efforts to reflect a public with ever-expanding waistlines.”

Though I’m not sure I agree that there really is a backlash as big as this article implies, I do think things are beginning to change.

In fact, just yesterday, my copy of Glamour magazine arrived with this cover:





















The one on the left is a “plus-size” model: Crystal Renn, author of Hungry: A Young Model’s Story of Appetite, Ambition, and the Ultimate Embrace of Curves. Though it’s somewhat hard to tell in this image, Renn is actually a size twelve, and her body does look real. Meaning it does look like she eats from time to time.
Sure, Renn appeared next to two more traditional sized models here, but this is progress, people. A woman who wears a size twelve is on the cover of Glamour! This is huge.

An article called “Real is the New Sexy” appears in the same issue, and in that article another “plus-size” model—Jennie Runk, who is 5’10” and around 175 pounds—says, “I used to compare myself to others, until I realized it’s better if I don’t look like everyone else . . . my curves make me feel sexy . . . Every woman, of every body type, should be able to stand up and say she’s beautiful.”

Words to live by.

Even some fashion designers are using larger models on the runway. No, they’re not overweight, but they’re not underweight either. And I’ve never advocated that we idolize overweight women—just woman who have real bodies, which is exactly what’s beginning to happen in some magazines, with some fashion designers, and on some television shows.
Case in point: on tonight’s episode of Glee, Mercedes was pursued by one of the “popular” boys, Puck, and no mention was made of her body size except that Puck said he liked “curvy” girls. Unlike other actresses her size, Mercedes isn’t being relegated to playing the BFF of the girl who got the guy.

There’s no denying that things are changing. Changing for the better. The only question is how far will it go? And will it be far enough?

Wow, just wow: Why Glee is the best show on TV


I had already posted Tuesday’s blog when I watched Glee on Tuesday night, which is too bad because ALL I WANTED TO DO after that was write about Glee.

Well, now I finally have my chance.

The reason I was so anxious to write about Glee is because, as Dave said while we were watching it, this week’s episode was kind of like watching my blog being brought to life.

***WARNING—THERE ARE SPOILERS AHEAD—DO NOT READ IF YOU DON’T WANT THIS EPISODE RUINED.***

As some of you know, one of the main characters on the show—Mercedes (played by the luminous Amber Riley below)—is not your typical skinny actress.
And in this episode, Mercedes is told by her new cheerleading coach—the always crazed Sue Sylvester—that she has to drop ten pounds in a week or be kicked off the team.

Mercedes responds by doing what any high schooler would do—she goes on a diet.

But after eating chicken breast and salad for a few days, she hasn’t lost weight. She’s gained it.

So she turns to the other cheerleaders—all of them about as big as my pinky—and asks them for help. They tell Mercedes about the “Sue Sylvester Master Cleanse: water, maple syrup for glucose, lemon for acid, cayenne pepper to irritate the bowels, and a dash of Ipecac, a vomiting agen,” all of which is designed to make them flush every unshakeable calorie out of their bodies.

Mercedes joins their cult, drinking the cleanse she even admits must be unhealthy and otherwise giving up food altogether. A few days later, she’s on the verge of starving and starting to see visions—her glee club friends looking like giant pieces of food.

Not long after that, she passes out from hunger.

In the nurse’s office, Mercedes runs into former head cheerleader Quinn (kicked off the squad for getting pregnant), who tells Mercedes:

“You are so lucky. You’ve always been at home in your body. Don’t let Miss Sylvester take that away from you. . . You are beautiful. You know that.”

The next time the Cheerios perform, Mercedes takes the floor and says this to a gym full of awkward, sweaty teenagers:

“So most of you know Cheerios is about perfection and winning, looking hot and being popular.Well, I think that it should be about something different.How many of you at this school feel fat? How many of you feel like maybe you’re not worth very much? And you’re ugly and you have too many pimples and not enough friends?Well, I felt all of those things about myself at one time or another.Hell, I felt all of those things about myself today. And that just ain’t right.And we’ve got something to say about it. And if you like what we have to say, come down here and sing it with us.”

After this call to action, Mercedes launches into a heartfelt rendition of Christina Aguilara’s “Beautiful.” If you don’t know the lyrics, they go something like this:

You are beautiful no matter what they say
Words can’t bring you down
You are beautiful in every single way
Yes, words can’t bring you down
Don’t you bring me down today…

Of course, everyone in the gym joins in before the song is over.

Obviously I loved this episode because it was incredibly uplifting, and I completely embrace its love-yourself-the-way-you-are message.

But it is so much more than that.

I also love that in this episode, they show a character who is overweight eating HEALTHY FOOD! In the past, we have seen so many overweight characters who have been depicted—ridiculed even—as junk-food-loving pigs.

I’m sure we all remember the awful “Fat Monica” on Friends—who was never shown without a candy bar in her hand.

Just because you’re overweight does NOT mean you eat a lot. Trust me, as someone who eats healthy food six days a week at least, I know. A balanced diet does not always equal a skinny body.

My father-in-law always says that if you don’t see an overweight person eating a lot of crap, it’s because they’re doing it in private.

Do I have to say it again?

Puh-leeze.

That is some of the biggest crap I have ever heard.

(It’s right up there with the same father-in-law telling me, “Why buy the cow when you get the milk for free?” when Dave and I moved in together. And we all know how that worked out. And, yes, it is not lost on me that I’m the “cow” in this scenario.)

If you know anything about science, you know that our genes and the chemicals surrounding us play a huge role in our body size. Assuming that everyone who struggles with their weight also stuffs their face is just plain ignorant.

And that’s what I love about Glee. The writers get that. They get that just because you try to lose weight—just because you starve yourself or use miracle diet aids—that doesn’t mean you’ll be thin.

The other reason I love these writers is because they do something else that so few writers have done before—they broach the obesity issue head on.

As Entertainment Weekly said, “The weight loss subplot involving Mercedes may have been one of Glee‘s riskiest and edgiest storylines to date. Talking about teenage girl’s weight is definitely a tricky topic.”

Sure, every once in a while we see overweight characters who are not pigging out, but I can’t think of a single other time when a television show or a movie actually addressed the issue of obesity with any seriousness. In fact, most of the time overweight characters are only there for comic relief. So it’s insanely refreshing to see Mercedes’ character being treated like a real person with real issues, real hopes and dreams, real assets and real flaws.

In my creative writing classes, I teach my students that all good characters must have both good and bad qualities if we are to find them believable, and that’s what the Glee writers do so well.

Yes, Mercedes is overweight, but that doesn’t mean she has to be treated like a punchline or that the writers have to feed us with immature fat jokes. No, the writers of this show get it—we want fun and uplifting entertainment about REAL, BELIEVABLE characters.

Thank you, Glee, for giving us just that.

It’s time for everyone to start watching Glee

194 pounds

A few weeks ago, my cousin Jennifer asked her Facebook friends if it was weird that, at the age of 43, she was in love with a television show about teenagers called Glee.
Since I have totally and completely adored Glee and everything about it since the very first seconds of its premiere last spring, I didn’t think it was weird at all. And I told Jennifer that immediately.
Because Glee isn’t about teenagers—it’s about all of us. Who we were in high school and who we still are now.
It’s about the nerdy girl who just wants to be liked, the jock who just wants to sing about his feelings, the kid in the wheelchair who wants to dance, the closeted gay boy who wants to come out, the overweight girl who wants to feel pretty. It’s about doing what you always dreamed of doing and being your best self.
And in that way, Glee perfectly embodies the message of this blog: that we should all accept—no, love—ourselves the way we are and sing about it from the freakin’ rooftops.
And did I mention that the kids on this show spend a good portion of their time singing?!
They sing like Maria in The Sound of Music, like Satine and Christian in Moulin Rouge, like Sandy and Danny in Grease. I mean, these kids can belt it out. And when they do sing, you feel like you could do anything. If you don’t believe me, watch this clip, and you’ll see what I mean:
And before another second passes, do yourself a favor: set your clocks for the next episode of Glee, airing Wednesday nights at 9 p.m. (EST) on Fox.
I promise that you won’t regret it.
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