Read the other entries in this installment of the water cooler.

Ben writes,

Rich, it seems you are arguing that instances of absurdity in the show require the watcher to suspend normal standards for ALL aspects of the show. So, a teacher acting crazy over here means you can’t expect reasonable behavior (or even basic knowledge of procreation) from a high school senior over there. This is a mistake; the show thrives on both elements.

So, on the one hand it is purposefully silly and absurd to suggest that cheerleaders’ dry cleaning goes to Europe, or a woman would get the whole school high on Vitamin D, or that a local TV station would promote Sue’s Corner. On the other hand, the show asks that you believe in sincere things like the emotional struggles around a teen pregnancy, the ups and downs of romance, or the desire to help the unpopular kids gain confidence in themselves. Is it really so wrong for me to think a high school senior have basic knowledge of the world? Does this really need to be an instance of absurdity?

I think we just disagree on the Glenn Beck reference in regard to Quinn’s parents; in my mind that portion completely overshadowed the problem of poor parenting as a whole and focused attention on a particular type of hyper-religious, thoughtlessly conservative person, allowing everyone else to feel smug and superior.

My biggest issue for discussion after this week is that I have come to both appreciate and be frustrated by the way the show takes characters through cycles. I appreciate it because we learn about the characters at different paces… instead of ten little four-minute vignettes per week, we get strong focus on two or three stories at a time, with the strongest focus on different people every couple of weeks. This allows us to have deeper appreciation for and understanding of the characters.

That is why I would disagree with you about whether the show is making Puck and Quinn more central characters than Finn and Rachel. It’s true that the last few episodes have placed stronger and more interesting emphasis on the “bad couple,” leading us to see their more complex sides. I think this is a great way to tell the story. However, I feel fairly confident saying the larger story arc is going to keep the original, “good couple” at the center, while not becoming boring by ONLY talking about their narrative.

I do have some frustrations with this approach. For one thing, story lines are left hanging all the time (do we even know whether Tina has dropped her speech impediment in normal company, or how Ken and Emma’s “relationship” is progressing?). More problematically, it can often lead to inconsistent character arcs. In Quinn’s case, as we said, we have seen a slow turnaround whereby her participation in Glee and the coinciding drama of her pregnancy have slowly brought her around to being a more thoughtful, interesting character… though still manipulative and demanding. That’s great stuff. But what about Puck? For a long time he was an extremely cruel, self-centered character… then he suddenly put Glee higher in priority than football, went out of his way to pursue love interests in a gentle and romantic way, and sought to take responsibility for the baby. Then, in “Hairography,” he seems to take it all back, sexting with another girl and not feeling even remotely guilty. Explain it how you want, but this is simply uneven storytelling and I think it flows from the way they cycle key characters in and out.

No arguments on Schuster’s wife, she was clearly placed there to add tension to his relationship with Emma. False pregnancy, car distraction, Vitamin D, taking someone else’s baby… she seems beyond redemption as a character of value.

Here’s hoping for fleshed-out stories and consistent characters!

Rich writes,

I guess I just expect that the show has reserved for itself the right to be silly and over the top in regards to outward, trivial aspects of characters and their qualities, but that the show has a habit of clearly signaling when it wants you to take something seriously. I’m not convinced this is the best way to handle these situations (as evidenced by our confusion) but it establishes why Finn’s absurd stupidity is basically ignored in the midst of the story’s more realistic and emotional moments.

I am officially claiming the last word on the Glenn Beck & Quinn’s parents argument. I win. There, let’s move on from that.

I feel you on the problem with character cycles. On the other hand, isn’t that how life works? Television has a unique ability to portray the utter inability human beings often have to change in any real way over a small amount of time. This is why it was such a brilliant moment when Puck declared, “I’m gonna be a good dad. But I’m not gonna stop being me to do it.” Though Puck was probably a little bit too self-aware and self-aggrandizing, he did acknowledge a real struggle that we face in life. It’s just freaking hard to change. Quinn’s assumption that Puck was suddenly a great guy who got rid of all of his horrible ways was just wrong.

Obviously, though, I’m going to disagree with Puck’s definition of “good dad.”

I don’t want to dwell too much on who’s the star of the show. My point was that Glee seems to treat each of its characters as real characters, at least when it’s their turn to have a storyline. It mimics, again, the way life works for many of us. We view people from afar and they are just characters to us, but when we get to know them and their problems, they become real people with sympathetic problems and difficult struggles.

I guess I feel like Glee’s apparent inability to make up its mind may actually just be a reflection of the characters themselves and their inability to make up their mind. That’s why I’m willing to be patient with the show. People suck, and sometimes the show sucks because of it. Call it artistic sacrifice. Or Something.

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