I’ve been thinking a lot about Sam and that diner scene. Specifically, that “oh hell no” moment where he asks Mercedes’ friends whether their hair is real and reaches out to touch it.
I laughed at it. I thought the whole scene was well-executed, from Sam’s obliviousness to Mercedes’ distress to…
From what I’m reading in the Glee fandom, this went over a lot of people’s head. Some people seems to not have understood the problem with Sam’s behavior in that scene, instead, they saw it as an example of Mercedes not accepting who Sam really is. They saw Sam as the blameless, harmless, innocent victim of people who are racist and a girlfriend that doesn’t accept him.
I can’t really blame them because the writing was so simple in regard to this issue, that it didn’t really show why what Sam did was wrong and Mercedes not really addressing it reinforce their believe that Sam did nothing wrong.
But I have to say that I kind of do blame those viewers if that’s the reaction they had to the scene. I mean, I can definitely see people not understanding why Sam was wrong specifically in this specific case if it’s not a problem they’ve ever heard of before, which is absolutely possible, and you’re right that the episode doesn’t elaborate much more on the issue other than having Mercedes’ friends be irritated at Sam. But it’s the responsibility of the individual to be able to recognize racist actions whether a TV show blatantly spells it out for them in cliff’s notes or not, and the fact that they might go as far as to interpret Sam as the white victim of…black…racism?…says more about them than it does about Glee. I mean the episode wasn’t clear about that stuff but you had to have had some iffy personal preconceptions to come away with that.
And like, even that’s kind of besides the point because, well, on some level Glee can even be as problematic or outright bigoted about an issue as it can possibly be (and I’m not saying it went anywhere as far as that in this instance, just laying out a hypothetical) and if the viewers we’re referring to actually agree with that bigoted depiction, well, they still have to take responsibility for that. We fans are not mindless drones whose only interaction with the world and its issues revolve around what a 1-hour TV episode shows us once a week. Or at least, we shouldn’t be. We can’t be.
So at the end of the day, I can only judge Glee on what Glee does and not how its fans watch Glee. Because I’m sure all of us here have seen a lot of viewers give some super iffy reactions to Glee’s treatment of its issues, whether Glee depicts those things a little right or a little wrong or even a lot right or a lot wrong. Glee’s audience is simply too diverse to use as that standard.
I was totally wondering the same thing— why I hadn’t seen any feminists or humanists, or, you know, humans who care about other humans’ feelings, ranting and raving. I figured everyone was still nursing their Klaine-overs.
When I saw the scene, I pretty much only laughed at the hair part. I thought it would only be that, but it just got worse. However, after I thought about it for a while, not all of the blame can be placed on Sam, imo, for a few reasons:
1. One of his main character traits is the “hot but stupid” stereotype. It’s unfortunate, but that’s where the writers stuck him.
2. He may actually think what he was saying was okay. Some people think that. Mercedes nor her friends corrected him; I’m not saying that means he’s in the clear. It’s just another idea.
3. He straight up told Mercedes he runs his mouth when he’s nervous. (oh, side note, hasn’t Blaine been Sam’s political-correct-er person all year?)
With that said, I’m definitely not saying that what he was saying was okay, funny, or even should have been done. I think that it was completely mishandled after the fact.
The entire focus was on what Mercedes and Sam looked like together, and that just adds fuel to the flames of the diner scene. When he acted the way he did, it was all about race; there were no talks about why it was wrong, not really. The fact that there was a massive focus on color and difference, and only throw away comments like “it doesn’t matter,” makes it a big problem for viewers who don’t see any problem, because it just normalizes that kind of behavior.
I agree that viewers should assert their autonomy (yea! autonomy! dig it!) and take ownership of their opinions. However, the way Glee promotes itself and all that jazz, is a show that takes on issues (and it has, it just often doesn’t follow through in the best way), so if it’s going to do that, they need to at least have a 3 sentence explanation why-this-is-wrong. Fuck, they could honestly probably cover it in 5 minutes if they just talked about stereotyping and prejudging, but it would ruin half of their characters. I still love the show, lol.
I’m not trying to harp on the writers, fans or anyone— but while watching Glee, sometimes it’s better to be… cautiously optimistic about how they’re going to approach stigmatized subjects.