Like any good queen, I've been keeping up fairly religiously with Glee. I mostly enjoy it, despite never buying into that whole 'high school is the best time of your life' bullshit (not that the show does, either; I've just had too many conversations with people who think back to high school with decidedly too much fondness). Without question, my favorite character is Sue Sylvester, even if some of her antics are over the top enough that sometimes it's difficult to maintain my willing suspension of disbelief. It's obvious that Glee is doing its damndest to be all-inclusive, as evidenced by the diversity of its characters. There's some who are African American, some who are Asian, some who are Latino, and some who are white. The show goes further, however, incorporating even more diverse people: the girl who stutters, the guy who's paraplegic, and the token gay guy. But, oh, what's this? We have some problems!
- Tina, the girl who stutters? She's faking it.
- The actress who plays her? She doesn't stutter.
- Artie, the guy in the wheelchair? He's played by someone doesn't need a wheelchair.
The only thing they got right here was that Kurt, the token gay, is played by a gay actor. (Of course, Hollywood has a double standard here, too. Critics will likely assume that Chris Colfer is merely 'being himself' on screen. Just like, you know, all straight actors play themselves when they're on camera1.)
Last week, Glee brought on even more variety: a full Deaf choir. It was obvious that they wanted it to be really, incredibly heart-wrenching, and the cast even sapped it up with downcast gazes and uncomfortable shifting in their seats. I was thrilled that they used actual Deaf actors for it, and through the small world that is the Deaf community, I even know a few of them within two Kevin Bacon-style degrees. However, once the scene had played out, I was more disappointed than touched.
There was signing! And real Deaf people! And yet, I am not sold on the whole 'emotional' thing. The entire scene turned out to be more oppressive than empowering, honestly. I would never tell someone how they should or should not communicate, but I question the choice of utilizing such a hearing presentation when so many proud Deaf people are acting. Deaf people do not need hearing people to make music; their culture, their language has a music and a power all its own, and it saddens me that what could have been a national showcase of creativity and talent was spent half-heartedly signing a song that will probably make most hearing people watching it think it's about wishing they could hear.
The whole presentation, from the dapper red suits to the literal, unpracticed interpretation of the song's lyrics, makes it seem as if the Deaf students should earn props for their Glee club based only on pity. Where was the vibrancy? Why did the McKinley students have to join in and provide the harmonies to the song? Why did the Deaf performers merely stand in place for the duration of their performance?
I ask these questions not to criticize, nor to suggest that Deaf and hard of hearing performers should not sing or speak, if they so choose. I only ask these questions because here was a chance to showcase not only one's Deafness, but one's creativity and talents. Deaf theater is amazing, and I've been fortunate enough to know many incredibly talented Deaf actors, dancers, and performers. There are Deaf cheerleading troupes, Deaf dance troupes, and Deaf theater productions. I know Deaf people who are even in all-Deaf rock bands. A year and a half ago I got to see Rathskellar, a Deaf dance troupe that has toured the world.
It would have been amazing to see a solidly Deaf take on what a glee club/show choir can be. What it comes down to is that while I liked the inclusion of the Deaf glee club, and I liked the song, and I even liked their performance... I didn't love it. I saw heaps of potential for their show and a chance to really be wowed, as I have been on many occasions, but I still can't help but feel like it could have been so much more than it was.
Next time, I want to hear thumping bass beats and see impeccable choreography. I want to see a performance from Deaf artists that makes hearing people unable to move because they're so enthralled, instead of trying to be "inspirational" by rushing to share the stage. I want to see them stomping onstage, hands flying through the air, faces flushed with adrenaline. I want the only thought in people's heads to be "OMG DID THEY REALLY JUST DO THAT?! I WISH I COULD DO THAT!" In short, I want them to knock my fucking socks off. I trust that, next time, they will.
1That was sarcastic. There are, however, notable exceptions that fall outside that sarcasm: Adam Sandler, Owen Wilson, Ben Stiller, and of course, Jennifer Aniston Rachel.