Sunday, January 30, 2011
It was not exactly rocket science to think that putting Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg on stage with Jesse Eisenberg would be a fun sight gag. But...if, like me you were a huge fan of The Social Network it was more than just a fun gag seeing Zuckerberg, Eisenberg not to mention Andy Samberg (who was impersonating Zuckerberg, it was surreal. Kudos to SNL for putting the three together and for the joke about poking. The joke was funny but Zuckergerg's awkward delivery sold it.
Against my better judgement I purchased the first half of of Glee's second season this week. I say against my better judgement as I could have saved a bit of money by waiting til the fall and gotten the entire season. There were some moments though, mostly involving Harry Shum Jr I was looking forward to seeing again. Sing from the Duets episode was a stand out as was Harry's dancing on Make Em Laugh and Valerie.
Traditionally, when putting together one of those big Broadway musicals of the 40’s. 50’s and 60’s most of the main characters tended to be a series of stereotypes thrown together to ‘put on a show’. The beautiful virtuous leading lady, the heroic leading man. The secondary characters tended to be more comedic, the loose flirty second female lead, the buffoon secondary leading man. Think Oklahoma, Guys & Dolls, Pyjama Game or most other shows from the time. Throw in a crotchety old grandmother, a slick gangster, and a dutiful best friend and the ensemble is complete.
Below: Kurt and his father (Mike O'Mally).
As time went on, audiences got smarter and expected more from the shows they paid to see. In the 70’s musicals began to spend more time on character development, not relying as much on standard archetypes.
Glee is a musical. But although set in the present, it’s characters remain decades in the past. Like those shows from the past, Glee has a set of fairly standard high school stereotypes which make up it’s world. The driven star, the jock, the cheerleader, the bad boy, the nerd, the supportive teacher and of course the gay kid.
Kurt and the cast during the Rocky Horror episode.
Kurt is beloved by many, but I find the character, or maybe writing of the character, frustrating. I love Glee, and see the immense talent exuding from Chris Colfer. The power in many of his scenes, especially with his father, can be intense, yet...I can’t fully commit. Glee’s creator Ryan Murphy has created a wonderful character, but Kurt is also a collection of stereotypes and therefore often teeters between character and caricature.
It is somewhat depressing how stereotypes so strongly stick. We all know they actually don’t represent a group of people. What they do represent is how that particular group has been presented, usually by the media. Over the past couple of decades, gay characters on television finally went beyond the swishy stereotype of the 70's and 80's with shows like My So Called Life, Degrassi, Brothers and Sisters, Grey’s Anatomy and others creating many unique and real characters.
People have often challenged me when I talk about Kurt, or my frustrations with the show and ask why I watch. I guess it is because of the enjoyment, especially for the music. That brings me more joy than the issues I have with the writing. I am invested in the depiction of gay characters on television and I worry when I see one that is taking risks. Kurt is popular, making headlines and on magazine covers, all that is great. I just ask Ryan Murphy to be careful. My experience with Murphy shows is that he often jumps on what is hot and squeezes every bit out of it so quickly the audience ends up sick of it. Kurt is being squeezed. Last season viewers grew a little tired of Rachel, I think Kurt could be the Rachel of this season… Glee has such a huge cast, many of whom have barely gotten screen time this season I am hoping some of the rest of the cast will get a chance to shine before the season ends.
Below: Darren Criss is a nice addition as Blaine, although the writers have yet to commit to Blaine and Kurt as a couple.