Tuesday, June 08, 2010

In Praise of Normal

Now that The Good Wife and Lost are over, I'm catching up on episodes of Glee. Last night, I watched the Lady Gaga episode. I wouldn't exactly call myself a Gleek, but it's a fun show and generally I love the underdog makes good message.

Last night, I had a little trouble with it. In case you haven't seen it, Finn and Kurt are forced to share a room. Finn has an issue with it. He's uncomfortable. Kurt redecorates the room, but really just makes it even more uncomfortable for Finn. Finn loses his temper and calls it all "faggy" just as Kurt's dad walks in. Finn is shamed for using that kind of derogatory language and is kicked out. Later, he "comes to his senses" and rescues Kurt just before some football players are going to beat him up for wearing weird clothes.

Now generally I love it when the weird kids win. I was a weird kid. I was the girl in Lincoln, Nebraska reading Sylvia Plath poetry and wearing a LOT of eyeliner. But in this episode, I didn't feel bad for Kurt. I felt bad for Finn. No one cared that he was uncomfortable. No one cared that he didn't have a space that reflected his personality and interests. No one cared. He was the "normal" kid and apparently because of general acceptance in the world, didn't need personal acceptance at home or from his friends.

Maybe I'm having this reaction because regardless of being a weird kid, I've raised two really normal kids. They're smart, but not freaky smart. They're athletic, but not being scouted by colleges. They're popular, but not Homecoming kings. They're . . . normal. They're not homophobic, but chances are that sharing a room with Kurt would make them a little uncomfortable, too. I never want them to feel that by being normal, they're not special enough to have their needs met.

So . . . here's a little praise for "normal." Go ahead. Wear blue jeans and a t-shirt. I will still love you and honor your right to do so.


MJFredrick said...

I agree! While I loved Kurt's dad standing up for him, I felt bad for Finn, because he is a good guy. He'd just had his life turned around, and was manipulated by Kurt.

I love me some Glee, but the second half of the season doesn't have the magic of the first half.

Molly O'Keefe said...

Eileen - I totally understand your point and I feel like they took a lot of time to get to the moment in the story where that speech from Kurt's dad would have tons of believable impact for Kurt, but they didn't take the time on Finn's story to get to where we'd believe that the speech needed to be made to him. It was a huge jump from selling thier house to moving into the basement.

That said - it was a gorgeous speech and every performance (despite story shortcomings) I thought was amazing.

Are you watching Friday Night Lights - because that show is a prayer to normal. Last weeks episode was one of the most moving and realistic pieces of television I've ever seen. Amazing.

Eileen said...

Now see the moment I thought was the most touching with Kurt and his dad was that wonderful episode where Kurt becomes the kicker for the football team and makes them all do the Single Ladies dance. When Kurt realizes that his father has known who he is his whole life, I actually shed a few tears.

You are not the first person to tell me to watch Friday Night Lights. I keep resisting. I grew up in Lincoln, Nebraska and the football-as-a-metaphor-for-life makes me nervous. That said, it's summer time and the kids might enjoy that one, too.

Stephanie Doyle said...

I agree. During that particular episode I thought... Poor Finn.

The reason is that's it's not a question of Finn being homophobic. It's a question of being uncomfortable sharing a room with a person who clearly has a crush on you who you don't feel the same way about.

If this was a case of him sharing a room with a girl in that situation it would be equally uncomfortable.

The "faggy" was a reaction to that and I think that's what the Dad was standing up for. Be mad, fight, but don't use that kind of language.

Love Glee. Really do. Despite it's faults - it just goes where I don't think it will sometimes.

Eileen said...

Oh, Steph, I think you nailed my problem. If Finn really was homophobic, it would have been different.

I don't get to watch it all the time and am really hoping they rerun the season over the summer so I can catch up, but I have enjoyed what I've seen very much. Well, except the fake pregnancy storyline. That made me want to scream. Don't know why. It just did.

Molly O'Keefe said...

Eileen - don't resist. Honestly, go rent the first season, sit down with your normal boys and all of you will love it.

And I don't think the metaphor is football as life. It's not that...can't say this right, honestly, my love for the show is making me tonguetied. It's not easy. Whatever football is to these people and whatever the metaphors are - none of them are easy. So freaking good.

Eileen said...

I'm putting FNL on the Netflix queue now. We're almost done with Chuck and will need a replacement for family viewing.

Maureen McGowan said...

I felt bad for both of them... And I was actually kind of impressed by the actor who plays Finn because I thought we saw a lot of his side of it, just by looking at his expression. Even though he said something totally inappropriate, I didn't think they painted him like the bad guy.

That said, I do hope that they explore Finn's side of that dynamic a bit more.

Also, while I get that Finn used that word out of justifiable anger at his situation etc. it still didn't make it okay for him to say what he did... which is what I thought the point of that whole exchange was.

It's become such an easy word for people to use. I mean, if Kurt and his dad were African Americans and Finn was suddenly being forced to leave his home and move into Kurt's room and he wasn't comfortable (what kid would be when uprooted and moved into anyone else's space), and he used another offensive word (that starts with an n) to express his anger and discomfort at Kurt's style, I don't think anyone would side with Finn.

Maureen McGowan said...

and Eileen, you must watch FNL

I was so skeptical when if first came on and Molly was singing its praises. But it is definitely one of the best things to come on TV in a long, long time. Perhaps ever.

Fabulous writing. Fabulous characters. And it never panders to the audience. (Well, maybe one storyline in the second season pandered a bit. I assume they were fighting to stay on the air and the networks said they needed more "drama".)

That show is about the drama of real life... not contrived drama.

Yes, there is football, but it's not really about football. And there's Tim Riggins. The best bad boy ever, who's had such a heart breaking and awesome character arc on that show over the seasons so far.

Rent them. You will gobble them up.

Note to Molly: Of the many, many great moments of last week... I loved when coach called Landry "Lance" when he asks him to lead a prayer...
But Saracin's bloody hands on that shovel at the end????? OMG

Eileen said...

See . . . I still felt that Finn was painted as the bad guy. He used hate speech and originally refused to stick up for Kurt with the football guys. It wasn't until he showed up in a Lady Gaga outfit and threatened to take on the football players that he was back to being okay.

The hate speech is not okay. As a writer I know that words have power and Finn was clearly looking to be hurtful. I just thought the grownups should take a second to look at the position they'd put him in. Allowing people to be who they are includes letting teenage boys be regular dudes, too.

In real life, I think that term is getting less acceptable (along with the "that's so gay" remarks). There are a fair number of kids who will stand up and say that it isn't right and I'm not talking about just the kids who are out and proud. I'm talking about all the kids.

Now, my kids go to a hippy dippy alternative school in California where diversity is encouraged and rewarded, but still . . . they're teenage boys and they don't think it's acceptable to use that term. I also think they'd have a lot of sympathy for Finn, though.

Molly O'Keefe said...

Oh Maureen - don't get me started on the little moments in that episode. It was like all the restraint they've used in all the characters and all the plotlines culminated in this episode.

One of my favorites though was the funeral home guy, after the big scene and the boys leave and the last shot is just him standing there by the casket. Tell, me how freaking genius that the FUNERAL GUY gets an arc in that episode? An arc that is as heartbreaking as the rest of them. killed me. Watched twice, cried both times.

Maureen McGowan said...

I totally agree that the grown ups are being unreasonable about Finn right now.

Kurt's dad's reaction was too strong. (Kicking him out of the house? Where was he supposed to go?)

And his mom not seeing that he'd be uncomfortable sharing a room with Kurt? Or at least not even talking to him about it first, was absurd.

And while we're talking out of character, Finn even putting on that Lady Gaga costume was ridiculous. I didn't buy it. But now that I'm thinking about it, I'm not sure I cared that I didn't buy it.

I think I give that show a lot of slack because i think it's supposed to be ridiculous -- fake pregnancies, agreeing to get married with no touching allowed, multiple blackmail schemes, everything about Sue Sylvester... I mean she slams kids against lockers for no reason? Tell me she'd still have a job if that show was supposed to be even vaguely real life... But she's hilarious.

And I mean, any show where high school kids break out into production quality, fully choreographed numbers without rehearsal... (I laughed my head off when a pianist showed up when Rachel was talking to her mom and Rachel said something like: He's always just around.)

I don't take anything on Glee too seriously. It's painted in such broad strokes. When they want to make a point, they make it with a battering ram, not a fine tipped marker.

As opposed to Friday Night Lights which is the polar opposite.

But I enjoy both shows for different reasons. That said, Glee is starting to lose my attention. I think you can only take that over the top stuff so far, before it gets tedious. Time will tell...

PS. You should be very proud of your boys, Eileen!

Eileen said...

Yes, the piano player moment was wonderful. As well as the Kiss number with all that makeup and leather! Of course, they just have that stuff lying around!

I am so so so moving FNL up on Netflix queue now. Right after I finish watching the British State of Play miniseries. I gotta see how that one works out.

I am proud of my boys. My little one (ha! He's close to 6'2" now) in particular has had a reputation since grade school for sticking up for kids who were being picked on.

Sinead M said...

Friday night lights is so good. It's almost never over the top, which is what makes its dramatic moments so wonderful, and usually so understated.
The funeral, where Matt starts to shovel dirt on the coffin and the look on his face... to me it read he's burying every last hope and dream.. that he's forever trapped and his secret wish that his Dad would come back and take over responsibility...

I read so much into a boy shoveling dirt.. the beauty of FNL..

Eileen, I have no time for football, but I can guarantee, you will love FNL... I could go on and on...

Maureen McGowan said...

Great insights about the shoveling scene, Sinead. I just kept thinking about the blood on the shovel at the end and how in the hands of lesser writers they would have drawn more attention to that -- shown his hands, or had someone try to stop him. As it was, it was flashed so quickly, I had to go back and watch it again.

And the funeral guy thing, Molly. I don't remember even noticing that... (Cause I was probably crying.) That show has so many layers. Now I need to watch the episode again.
I also loved how the Riggins boys think their go-to solution to every problem -- get plastered -- will make Matt feel better... and it just makes things worse. That bit where he was trying to eat the plate of food???

I think this very interesting Glee discussion has been officially highjacked by FNL. LOL

Molly O'Keefe said...

I've been thinking about the Glee/Kurt/Finn thing...and I know we needed to get Finn to that place where he'd say faggy - so the situation had to be extreme, I get it. And it was, totally ridiculous that he was expected to be okay sharing the basement room with another kid who was attracted to him and that attraction made him uncomfortable...but I think that we didn't see any scenes of him talking to his mom and his mom saying - "i know it's rough, but I'm so happy. Please just try to make it work." We didn't see the screws get turned, so when that plot point happened - it didn't seem supported. Finn didn't seem supported, it was a huge plot line and turning point that for me needed one more scene to make it totally work on the Finn end.

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Maureen McGowan said...


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