I'm a big fan of Glee. Let me just make that clear at the outset. Last night marked its return with new episodes after three weeks of reruns. I was really excited; I had heard good things about the episode, Wheels, and was looking forward to the return of the show and the songs, specifically, Defying Gravity from Wicked.
And while last night's episode had some serious moments of win, specifically Kurt's father, and Sue's tenderness towards her sister with Down Syndrome, parts of it made me uncomfortable. Scratch that, extremely uncomfortable.
Things got off to a bad start when Will brought up to the entire Glee club that the school could not afford to pay for the wheelchair-accessible bus that would be needed for Artie to ride with them all to Sectionals. Way to embarrass the kid in front of everyone, Will. Seriously, maybe we could have displayed some tact there? Then, the kids reacted with surprising and casual cruelty stating that Artie could just get a ride with his Dad. After all the talk about sticking together no matter what, it didn't fit with the characters for them to be so dismissive. Finally, when Will observed Artie struggling a bit to tie his shoelace, he said, "Let me help you with that!" and promptly bent down and tied it for him.
Now look, I'm no etiquette expert, but I would never presume to tie someone's shoelace who was in a wheelchair without asking their permission first. It seemed totally rude, and even though Artie seemed cool with it, it bothered me.
Things picked up from there, as I noted above with instances of awesomeness from Kurt's Dad, and weirdly, Sue, but at the very end of the episode when Artie announced that he would use the money from a bake sale to make the school auditorium wheelchair-accessible, Finn busted out with some comment along the lines of, "that'll be loads easier than lifting you up and down the stairs everytime!" and everyone laughed along. Awkward.
This is definitely not the first time that Glee has pushed the boundaries of good taste. In the past, I always defended the show, noting that it was firmly grounded in satire and fantasy dance sequences. But the parts of last night's episode that I described above didn't have that feel to me. Maybe it's because the jokes themselves weren't actually funny, or that the writers were having characters act, well, out of character.
Or perhaps it's my own hang-ups: maybe I'm more comfortable when the show makes jokes targeted at the kids' races or sexuality because that's somehow ok these days. But in any event, the weird comments and actions regarding Artie, and to some extent, Becky (a special needs student that Sue put on the Cherrios) made me uncomfortable.
I wasn't "offended" per se, in the clutching of my pearls sense, and I'm not going to stop watching or even make more of a haboo about this than I already have. But I just wanted to register my distaste to some things that went down last night. I think I'm going to chalk it up to the show still finding that balance between humor, pathos, and satire, and leave it at that.
Anybody else have a similar reaction? Or think I'm just overly-sensitive? Comment away!