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'Glee': Defying gravity with heart and soul

You hear that?

That's the collective sigh in response to a fresh new "Glee" episode! After being off for a couple of heart-achingly lonely weeks (I had the loveliness that is "Modern Family" to fill that void; I imagine others just turned off their TV on Wednesdays), the show we all love to quote and dish on is back.

If you keep up with all things "Glee," and you do, then you know this week was a big episode, and with all such episodes comes controversy. And those who know me well know I love me a good controversy.

The episode, simply titled "Wheels," finally addressed Artie's (brilliantly played by Kevin McHale) challenge of living life in a wheelchair. But of course we know in Hollywood that nothing you do is correct.

I was very disheartened to see Advocates for the Disabled in an uproar about the episode. Here we have an episode bluntly addressing the complexities of disability and doing so with so much respect and dignity, and there are complaints about Artie not being wheelchair-bound in real life? Cooooome on, guys.

Must we always reach so far in Hollywood?

Acting is acting. Does every gay or straight role have to go to those actors of the same orientation; does every role about the homeless have to go to a homeless actor, or does any role that requires difficulty in life have to be re-cast to put someone who lives that life in that role? That's what makes acting so beautiful, when done right. Case in point: "Precious."

Instead of focusing on the boldness of the episode, many stories focused on the criticism, and that is understandable. It wouldn't be fair to ignore the criticisms, I wouldn't be doing my job.

But moving on...

Boy, Ryan Murphy was not kidding when he told us the episode was a game-changer. My heart broke into little pieces when watching the kids be so passive to Artie and his issues, but I understood.

Artie has always been so independent on the show. And he adds his own swagger (even if he is adorably dorky). Him being in a wheelchair has zero to do with his personality, and as a viewer you don't notice it -- and not that the kids didn't care because they loved him. They just never took the time to think how hard being disabled could be because Artie doesn't make it seem so bad after all. Besides, he's as big a dork in his own way as any of them. But he's such a lovable dork -- with a great voice. I mean, if you weren't tapping your feet, or were as giddy as a kid in a candy store to his pop-tastic rendition of "Dancing With Myself," then you have no soul. I'm not ashamed to say I was dancing with myself in my living room.


I thought it was sheer brilliance on the part of Mr. Schuester to make the kids spend time in a wheelchair. It humbled them all and even made the viewer think twice.

Of course you couldn't have "Glee" without a fine dose of the funny. And we all knew it would come to the showdown of two divas: Rachael and Kurt. Don't get me wrong, I'm always the one to argue that my "chocolate thunder" Mercedes (Amber Riley) isn't getting enough shine in the show (but then again her version of "Bust Your Windows" surpasses the original and she completely owned the national anthem, which whets my appetite enough for what's to come from her). But seeing these two face off was necessary, because other than the masterfully crafted "Single Ladies" homage that included probably the best and most realistic coming-out scene on television (sorry Ellen), we don't get much back story on Kurt.

Sometimes it's hard for me to accept Rachael's woe-is-me attitude. It's like, girl you're beautiful, you can sang (yes, sang!) and you made out with Puck. Life is good, yet still you want Finn (I get it), and you want this acceptance. Other than dressing like you shop strictly at Talbot's, you have a lot going for you.

The face-off was beautifully done. How amazing was Kurt’s father demanding he get the chance to audition for “Defying Gravity"?

And this is where I become an emotional wreck. When Kurt's dad received an anonymous prank call with "that word" shouted at him. That little three-letter word, that no matter how often you unfortunately have had the pleasure of hearing, never gets any easier. Watching Kurt's father tell his son that he wished his mother was still around because she could deal with it better was just pitch perfect. And it was seeing the hurt in Kurt's father's eyes and the acceptance in Kurt's that was just painful. Kurt subsequently allowed his voice to crack in order to throw the competition to protect his father from having to deal with the harassment.

If you weren't already crying like a newborn, there was this little gem: "I'm just saying that I love you more than I love being a star." Pass the Kleenex please.

Wednesday night was sheer perfection. And I hope I'm not the only one who didn't notice Mrs. Schuester wasn't present.... Take the hint. Now if only we could rid ourselves of this ridiculously preposterous pregnancy subplot. Just saying, it's not working and I know I'm not the only person both annoyed and over it. 

If Wednesday night was the game changer, consider the game officially changed. Welcome back, "Glee." You know why you were missed.

-- Gerrick D. Kennedy

Follow me on Twitter @GerrickKennedy

Photos: Top, Artie (Kevin McHale) performs in the "Wheels" episode of "Glee."; Bottom, members of the Glee club hold a bake sale to earn money to hire a bus that could transport Artie. From left to right are Cory Monteith, Mark Salling, Dianna Agron and Naya Rivera. Credits: Carin Baer/FOX


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Comments () | Archives (28)

Thanks for a great review; reading this blog a day or two after each week's episode is always like getting another little dose of Glee, knowing someone else appreciates the show as much as I do. But I was disappointed that you didn't have any comments about Sue's subplot with Becky, and learning about her own sister's Down syndrome. I'm sure I wasn't alone in dreading Sue's inevitable hatching of some devious plan when she made the utterly charming Becky a Cheerio, but I was in tears at the end of the episode, when we were introduced to Sue's own big sister. I'm the big sister of one very special girl who just graduated high school herself, and 'Wheels' has definitely been the highlight of Glee for me. Thank you for a truly amazing episode, Ryan Murphy!

Yeah Rachel is pretty and talented but she still is harass by the student body.

I think I have more sympathy for her than anyone else.

She just wants friends is trying, yet people she torment her.

How can you not feel for that?

can't win for losing.
I had a college professor who had been blind since birth. He was (still is) an accomplished scholar and director, and also an actor. He once received a poor review in a show where he played a blind character: in the critic's opinion, he wasn't a believable blind man.
I completely understand the frustration with wheelchair-bound actors needing greater opportunity to perform. But I can't begrudge the casting choice of Artie. (I'm wondering how long the list is of wheelchair-bound teenaged actors with a nerdy-yet-loveable look, an impressive set of vocal cords, who meshes well with the voices and personae of the other cast members.) For all we know, casting directors looked for a disabled actor before choosing the able-bodied actor for Artie.

Thought the number with everyone in a wheelchair is a bit of overkill.

As far as the pregnancy storyline goes....one very frustrating thing is the triangle...you watch this episode and here you had the babies real father taking responsibility...albeit slightly illegally (see pot cupcakes). Anyway, at a time when we have deadbeat dads and people unwilling to accept responsibility for their actions, we have a character really trying and I mean I feel Puck is genuine in his desire to support Quinn. I understand she wants to protect Finn and also his friendship with Puck to a small degree and admitting that she cheated is worse than being pregnant....I know its all coming out in a few weeks,,,you can see the friendships and relationships being protected when it happens but come on in real life...a. Finn would disown Puck as his friend (bro's before hoe's!) and b. Finn would be totally done with Quinn and c. everyone else would back Finn because the guys would understand the code (HIMYM reference there) and the girls would want Finn well some of them.

Kim's comments are so heart-felt. Even though I feel Artie was portrayed admirably, I actually appreciate the uproar because it does highlight the need for Hollywood (and indeed, all industries) to actively recruit social and physical minorities.

@Andrew Re: Stereotypes

Since you're up in arms about the "flat" stereotypes, it feels kind of redundant to point out that the biggest fault of stereotypes is that they make people two-dimensional rather than complex and robust right?

But it is ironic that the critics who lampoon Glee for being "stereotypical" only look at the surface details of characters.

Yes, there's a "black female diva", but good grades and middle class educated parents... that's not as common as the poor-prOn Lifetime characters of "white people are awesome and save everyone" genre is it?

Ooooh... Asians, yeah. Let's talk about the male football player who can break dance. Yeah, that's a common stereotype. There are so many masculine Asian males with rhythm flooding our screens.

How about the lead cheerleader with good grades? The Jewish jock (yeah, no seriously, that football team could have been concocted by a ethnographically driven ad campaign with its diversity never before seen on a TV show)?

The Gay diva? Yeah, whoa! His father the accepting car mechanic. I wish that was common on television. We might have legions of guys who don't think homophobia is the brotherhood of dude-dom.

Yeah, our protagonist male is a dumb jock, but he's also sweet, a bit of a coward, but definitely nice to all the "rejects" of the school. You know, as opposed to the hammer-fist of bullies that is his Jewish best friend (again, breaking that awesome stereotype of the weak-wristed uber activist Jew who can't play sports).

Wait wait, how about the mixed-race gay family that mixed up their sperm in a surrogate mom? The Jewish one that we're calling stereotypical of the lead "Jewish American princess"? Please let me know where you've seen that so often.

And I could go on... but you would've noticed those things by now if you took your nose out of your notepad and stopped writing down all the obvious stereotypes your other homogeneous friends talked about.

I'm so sick of white middle class liberals jumping to defense of things they don't understand - clearly. Thanks, but no thanks buddy. Condescending patronization swings 2-ways and we are not your hobby.

I love this show so much!!! This whole episode had me in tears with everything going on and with some real issues. You got the wheelchair issues the mental handicap issues the pregnancy the homosexuality just everything! This had to be one of my all time episodes.

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