Glee-cap: Turn Your Sorrows Into Treasured Gold

According to Lea Michele, this week’s episode of Glee is considered one of the show’s best to date.  And since I pretty much take anything Lea Michele says or does seriously, I had some VERY high expectations.

So were they met?  Yes and no.  Unfortunately, this week’s musical performances fall short – in fact, it’s highly likely that none of them will even make it to my iTunes library, and that’s huge.  Also unfortunate is the fact this episode is not the most satisfying – actually, all of the storylines this time around are so directly connected to the whole prom theme, it seems as though none of them were fleshed out the way they should have been, and the episode just seems abrupt.

But there are some positives.  Glee is at its best when it focuses on the struggles that real teenagers face, when it stays away from life or death situations and kooky guest stars and outdated tributes.  Unlike popular teen-centric shows like Gossip Girl and 90210, Glee actually acknowledges things like body image issues and unrequited crushes.  Last night’s episode – despite its flaws – did a great job of focusing on the quiet sentiments of inadequacy that all teenagers inevitably face.

We’re introduced to prom season when we hear some brutal news: Air Supply canceled their McKinley High Prom appearance, leaving Figgins to enlist the new Directions to perform at the Prom.  But not all of the members are planning to go: Mercedes is dateless, Sam doesn’t have the funds, and Lauren is struggling to find a dress that fits her.

When TV shows and movies portray high school traditions like prom, they often glamorize the whole experience – but the reality is, not every girl ends up with the perfect guy at the end of the night.  We don’t all have our faith in fairy tales restored on Prom night – I know I didn’t, and the inclusion of dateless Mercedes’ struggle was a really important aspect of this episode.  Mercedes says that all she wants is to feel like a princess for one night, to have a guy tell her she is beautiful and dance with her all night long…and why wouldn’t she?  According to the media, that is what a typical prom experience looks like.  It doesn’t include struggling to find a date, or even a group of friends to go with.  We never see examples of girls who are always the third or fifth or seventh wheel the way Mercedes is, or the girl who is forced to make her own dress because she goes largely ignored by the fashion industry the way Lauren does.  Kudos to Glee for shedding some light on those issues this time around – they may not be as urgent or newsworthy as homophobia, bullying, and plastic surgery, but they definitely deserve to be examined.

Something else that’s rarely addresses by the media?  That not every teenage girl has a collection of Chanel purses growing in her closet.  Sam’s inability to afford to attend one of America’s most notorious rites of passage speaks is a financial struggle that gets little attention.  Luckily, Sam has good friends like Mercedes and Rachel, who arrange a system that will allow Sam to be a part of the whole experience.

Still lookin' (and sounding) dreamy. Swoon.

A surprising guest star is also along for the Bargain Prom Experience:  Jesse St. James.  Mr. St. James allegedly flunked out of college – after all, who knew that show choir majors are expected to go to normal classes?  And more importantly – who knew that show choir is an actual major?  Jesse joined the scene during Rachel’s solo rehearsal, joining her for a (highly disappointing) duet and apologizing for breaking her heart and ruining her hair (refresher: he and his Vocal Adrenealine buds threw eggs at Rachel last season.)  At the Prom, an obviously lovestruck Finn spots them dancing and jealously attacks Jesse.  Both the boys get kicked out of the dance.

This week, the biggest moment belongs to  Kurt and Blaine.  Kurt asks his boyfriend to prom, and even though Blaine had been the victim of post-school dance violence at his old school, he agrees to go.  Kurt is feeling like maybe the bullying has subsided – he’s so confident that he forgoes the traditional tux and wears a flamboyant throwback to the Royal Wedding to prom – until he is announced as Prom Queen.

I almost feel as though Kurt was elected because his peers were trying to show love and support for him – regardless, people really need to realize that “gay man” and “girl” are not the same thing, and that electing him to the throne is the most offensive, hurtful thing.   Still,  Kurt dried his tears (even though I couldn’t seem to!), accepted his crown, and danced with his boyfriend in front of everyone – unlike Karofsky, who skips his Prom King coronation because he is not ready to come out.  Same sex pairings usually have a difficult time navigating things like high school proms, and it was so important that Glee looked at this issue.  And one moment that made me so happy?  When Brittany is shown slow dancing with another girl – the moment is completely nonchalant and underplayed.  The sight of two girls dancing is treated like it’s nothing out of the ordinary – which is exactly how it should be.

Rachel and Quinn have a moment in the bathroom that more or less sums up the whole episode for me.  Quinn tells Rachel that she envies her – unlike Quinn, Rachel doesn’t have to be afraid of the future.  It’s a sentiment that makes a lot of sense: characters like Rachel and Kurt, who obviously struggle to get through high school unscathed, are the kind of people who are expected to thrive in “the real world.”  But for every former geek who reinvents him or herself and becomes a smart, successful, desirable person later in life, there is a member of the ‘in’ crowd who grows up to learn that high school is sometimes the best it ever gets.   It’s  a message of hope for teenagers who feel like they’ll never fit in.  Rachel and Kurt are obviously symbols for the idea that sometimes the most misunderstood people often have the most potential – in fact, modern studies show that high school outcasts often end up on top, and Quinn understands and fears this edge Rachel has over her,

The truth is, high school is difficult for everyone, but especially for the people who stand out.  That’s essentially the entire premise of Glee, and this week’s episode took us back to those ideas.  We’ve all faced a lot of the issues that were brought up this week.  It may not have had the best musical numbers (especially that Adele mess – what happened there?!) or the Rachel/Finn reunion that I’ve been so anxiously awaiting, but this alone makes it worth celebrating.

Best lines:

Brittany: “I don’t have a date, I’m just going to dance.  And then all your dates are going to ignore you and come dance with me – so really your dates are my dates.”

Finn: “That’s one of the good things about being in Glee Club – you really get to learn your way around a cummerbund.”

Jesse: “I don’t know what a recession is, but I understand that we’re in one.”

Santana: “As soon as we get to New York, I’m bailing and moving to a lesbian colony…or Tribeca.”

Rachel: “Most girls would hate to be hit in the face, but I kind of appreciate the drama of it.”

Best performance:

I’m going to have to pull a Randy Jackson and say the same thing about all of them….”it was just alright for me, dawg.”

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