I’ve decided that each week I’m going to try to do a recap of Glee, but only focus on the story that pertains to Rachel. Let’s see if I can keep it up.
Last night’s Glee, entitled “Asian F” was touted as “Glee’s best episode ever” all week by various media sources. Except for Mike Chang’s sweet storyline about following his dreams into the musical and a bit of back-story for Emma, I cannot see how they came to this conclusion. (Spoilers to follow.)
The episode starts off with Mercedes running late for Mr. Shue’s dance boot camp because she overslept, even though it’s currently 4:30 in the afternoon as Glee‘s resident expositioner, Quinn, points out. Mercedes promptly does three spins and heads to the nearest garbage can to hurl up her Quizno’s. Mr. Shue scolds her because it’s “not about doing your best anymore, it’s about doing better”. Okay, Mr. Shue, I haven’t heard you tell that to Left-Feet Hudson, but fine. Glee wants us to feel sorry for Mercedes. I’ll play along. For now.
Later we find Mercedes in the cafeteria with New Boyfriend who chastises her for hugging Rachel, her now “arch-nemesis”. The two are going up for the role of Maria in West Side Story. New Boyfriend tells her that Rachel isn’t her friend right now and Mercedes is the one to beat for the part. It’s nice that her boyfriend is being supportive but it is also extremely out of line for this brand new male character to come in and dictate how girls should respond to other girls. I can’t help but feel that all of Mercedes’ following actions are tainted because the catalyst is New Boyfriend.
The scene then transitions to Mercedes’ singing “Spotlight” in the choir room while begrudgingly watching Mr. Shue and Rachel get chummy as if they aren’t at each others’ throats every second. Rachel may get more leads but there is no way the two of them would be sitting together giggling over sheet music. The song also serves as Mercedes’ audition piece with Tina and Brittany singing and dancing backup and Rachel pouting in the wings. The song is good, but it is definitely not Maria material; the judges however think otherwise. I continue to wonder if the judges (or the writers) have seen West Side Story.
In the teachers’ lounge co-directors Emma and Coach Beiste debate their options. Rachel “is Maria” but, to them, Mercedes is the riskier and maybe more exciting choice. Will decides he’s going to take credit for Mercedes new found “maturity” (a trait I wouldn’t exactly call Maria-esque, but there you have it), after all he’s been whipping her into shape during dance boot camp.
They decide they must have a “Maria Off” and we’re back to one of Glee‘s favorite tropes: the diva off. Obviously, in a creative and competitive environment, heads will clash but it is always the ladies. Why? Especially since this very episode tries to espouse some trite feminism with Brittany wanting to run for student council president because there have only previously been males in office. She even preforms Beyoncé’s “Girls (Who Run the World) while wearing a very short leather skirt, garter belt, and what look like, thigh high hockey socks. Feminism! But also exploitation! Obviously a woman can’t win without using her sexuality, but I digress.
It’s getting rather difficult to feel sorry for Mercedes. The first fifteen minutes of the episode focused on what a hard time she’s having juggling school and Glee and essentially convincing us that she’s the underdog. However, the judges seem think that both girls are an even match up for the role. Rachel tries to hug Mercedes in congratulations but Mercedes pushes her away. After all, they’re enemies now and girls supporting other girls is wrong!
We’re back at dance boot camp and Mercedes can’t tackle some move that New Directions will never be able to pull off. Mr. Shue tells her to push herself harder and Mercedes blows up. She thinks that he’s always picking on her and that Rachel is his favorite, a ridiculous notion if you consider the inappropriate amount times Mr. Shue has berated Rachel (and every other Glee girl). She complains that Rachel gets everything even though, in season two’s “Funeral” we’ve learned that Mercedes feels above practicing and it’s always been reiterated since the Pilot that Rachel goes home and practices for hours. I can’t understand how Mercedes feels like she deserves more if she’s unwilling to work for it, especially against Rachel “Wants Everything Too Much” Berry.
The dance boot camp transforms in a scene from Dreamgirls (“It’s All Over”) which is actually kind of wonderful. Although it’s slightly confusing that everyone calls her “Effie” within the context of the song, while everyone else is called by their actual names. Still, the song is a great bit of musical theater, if only it was in a better context. Say, Mercedes attempting to figure out her place within the group and what she wants to do in life (we still don’t know what her college plans are). So, we’re left with Mercedes leaving the glee club because of Rachel.
It’s time for the “Maria Off”. Rachel wins the coin toss and concedes to let Mercedes sing first. The girls both preform “Out Here on My Own”, which is hardly a song for a Maria (why do they continually audition with non-West Side Story songs? Ah yes, the money). Rachel feels that Mercedes’ performance was better and immediately heads to Coach Beiste’s office to throw her hat into the ring for senior class president, a move that seems slightly out of character.
Now Kurt is angry with Rachel for running because, not only would it take away his edge for the NYADA application, but it would take away an opportunity for Kurt to make a “huge difference” at McKinley for other queer folk. I’m sure that’s not really Kurt’s main concern with Rachel’s campaign because she says that she’ll make him VP and you don’t have to be gay to champion gay rights. They’re called Allies. In fact, in this very scene Rachel has a Gay Pride flag in her locker! I’m not buying it, Kurt. Why is it always Rachel who has to feel like the guilty one?
The directors call Mercedes and Rachel into Emma’s office to announce (ta da!) they’re double casting the role and they’re both get to preform for a week as Maria, perhaps an homage to The Glee Project‘s tie. Rachel gracefully accepts but Mercedes is having none of it. She dares Rachel to say she was better but the room remains silent. Mercedes asks everyone in the room why no one wants to hurt Rachel’s feelings which is a ridiculous accusation considering the totaling amount of times Rachel has cried on the show far exceed the cracks Sue has made about Will’s hair. Mercedes doesn’t want it to be The Rachel Berry Show anymore and storms out which ironically makes it even more The Rachel Berry Show.
Artie posts the cast list (of five?) and Mercedes’ decides to join Shelby’s new glee club where she can be the “star power”, mirroring Rachel’s first season move of quitting the glee club to star in the school musical. Maybe Rachel is growing up a little faster than Mercedes, but in this very episode Emma and Coach Bieste refer to her as “mature”. Quitting a team to be the star of another team is hardly a sign of maturity; Neither is turning down a part because you have to share.
The problem with this is that it seems like the show wants us to side with Mercedes. She’s been under Rachel’s shadow and enough’s enough. Although, as a viewer we haven’t seen Rachel preform a solo since season two’s “Funeral”, so it’s hard to grasp that Mercedes is truly in Rachel’s shadow. Nonetheless, Rachel is always the villain. Week after week, everything is her fault. She works hard for what she wants and when she gets it she isdemonized. This week we see her fall out with the only two friends she’s made in Glee, excluding her boyfriend. Heck, even her boyfriend is disgruntled with her over her run for class president. Last season made strides in fostering a very real friendship between Rachel, Kurt, and Mercedes. Yet, in one episode, those relationships have found themselves on rocky ground.
If only Glee could find conflicts that don’t involved ganging up on Rachel. If they could find a way for ladies to compete without having to hate each other. The show’s internalized sexism is inherent in the fact that both the rivalries between Kurt and Blaine (for Tony) and Brittany and Kurt (for Pres.) got little screen time, being brushed out within a single scene, even though Rachel vs. Mercedes has been the centripetal story line in, at least, two previous episodes.
Please, Glee writers, stop rehashing the same story and let Rachel have friends again. Also can you at least attempt to bring the funny? I’m going to have to move you to “Dramas” soon. Until then you get an actual “F” from me.