Saturday, July 16, 2011

is the glee project racist?

Just putting the question out there...
For those who don't know, The Glee Project is an elimination-based talent show where the winner will get cast in a multi-episode arc on the show Glee. The show started with 12 contestants. Each week, the contestants sing, dance, rap, perform in videos. The "bottom three" are given a chance to save themselves with one more song. The loser of the week is eliminated.

The show started off with 4 out of the 12 contestants being people of color (or as W. Kamau Bell says, "obvious ethnics"). One identified as a black gay man, one who identified as a biracial woman, one Nuyorican Latina, and one man who (as far as I remember) never talked about their background but was pretty obviously of African descent (possibly biracial). That last guy was the first one eliminated. And in the first four weeks of the show, all but the black gay man were eliminated. Coincidence?

The world of Glee is at times like a cross between a Bennetton ad and an afterschool special so I certainly wouldn't argue that the creators of the show are racist in a crudely exclusionary way. But I do suspect that the writers of the show would have trouble writing extended story lines dealing with race and ethnicity.

Planet Grenada: is glee racist?
Racialicious: When will Glee stop ignoring race?

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

It's both clearly racist and sexist. The show has had hints of racism and sexism - but only to those who are used to looking for them. I can see people overlooking it. But it's so obvious in the glee project...

danielibnzayd said...

Hints? I think it is pretty obvious.

Oddly, here in Beirut, we get Glee on the OSN (via the Gulf, I'm sure). I find it incredibly painful to watch, exactly for its racism and tokenism hidden under a gloss of "multi-cultural Shangri-La".

I remember in high school our drama club went down to Six Flags Great Adventure in South Jersey for the tryouts for their summer jobs. This involved dressing up like cowboys and singing from the Great American song book. We performed music from Anything Goes, itself full of racist tropes (the kowtowing pigtailed "Chinamen", for example). It was obvious that we wowed the crowd, but were informed afterward that they were looking for more "all-American" types. The epithet stung, and has haunted me throughout my life.

The hidden racism of Glee is to be found in the want ads that were most likely placed in Hollywood trade papers looking for "ethnic this" and "ethnic that". The overt racism of Glee is to be found in the fact that I am pretty sure the main audience for this show is white America. To this audience, this is still a parade of "freaks and geeks", performing for their entertainment the stereotypes that are expected of them. The roots of this go all the way back to minstrelsy and vaudeville, and are still prevalent today, with the added bonus of class difference: Jersey Shore, Sopranos, etc.

There is not much difference between this "put 'em in a room and watch 'em perform" type of thing and, well, ethnic studies in the university. Anglo-Saxon culture will never allow for a true crossing of culture of any kind, and we do ourselves a disservice in assuming that this is some kind of aberration, as opposed to a fundamental aspect of the culture.

Just my 2 cents on the subject.

Javan Nelums said...

There is not much difference "between this "put 'em in a room and watch 'em perform" type of thing and, well, ethnic studies in the university. Anglo-Saxon culture will never allow for a true crossing of culture of any kind, and we do ourselves a disservice in assuming that this is some kind of aberration, as opposed to a fundamental aspect of the culture."

They will allow crossing if it work in there favor

Javan Nelums said...

There is not much difference between this "put 'em in a room and watch 'em perform" type of thing and, well, ethnic studies in the university. Anglo-Saxon culture will never allow for a true crossing of culture of any kind, and we do ourselves a disservice in assuming that this is some kind of aberration, as opposed to a fundamental aspect of the culture.

they will if it's on their level