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Monday, October 11, 2010

Grilled cheesus

A couple of people have asked me what I thought about the grilled cheesus episode of Glee. Too many thoughts for Facebook, but I also doubt, given all the work (stupid work) I've got going on right now, that I'll organize them well enough for a full-on blog on theodicy, religion in schools, and what a pale shadow of Aretha's magnificent cover of "Bridge Over Troubled Water" that was. Here are the highlights, though, and I welcome comments/discussion:

First of all, I just don't think Glee deals very well with more serious material. I think Kurt's a good character to do it with because Chris Colfer is pretty compelling, but I don't think it's their strong suit as a program. From the fake baby to teen pregnancy to the eating disorder to religious faith (or the lack thereof), I think there "big issue" episodes are always disappointing. Except the drug use one (with the "vitamins"). That was hilarious.

Narratively, I thought it was sloppily done, and I was severely underwhelmed by most of the music.

Theologically, I thought it was dismissive of the atheist's viewpoints. In addition to the fact that "I or a loved one have had a tough time" is not the only reason one might be an atheist, surely the complaints made by both Kurt and Sue deserve a better response than "Well, we believe, and you're a bad friend if you don't let us pray for you."

Also, while there must be churches where you can bring a friend, announce that he's an atheist and get nothing but smiles and nods from the rest of the congregation, I really thought that scene was disingenous. Like, a lot.

But I liked grilled cheesus, and Kurt's version of "I Wanna Hold Your Hand."

PS - Aretha

Aretha Franklin - "Bridge Over Troubled Water"

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Slowly easing back into this...

I feel like I've said here before that I find the "colorblind" approach to diversity harmful in that it attempts to ignore or erase difference, rather than actually accepting or -- grilled cheesus forbid -- valuing it. This study, which I ran across a while back (someone linked to it, but I don't remember who), suggests that "not seeing color" it makes it less likely for people to recognize and respond to racism.

In other news, we're reading Baldwin's The Fire Next Time in class right now and a student asked, legitimately, I think, how he should read the book if he's not Black, White, or American. This sparked an interesting discussion among the students about racism, power, and the stories we (human beings of all sorts) tell to elevate ourselves (often at the expense of others). All of which Baldwin would have been thrilled about, I think.

We hadn't started Baldwin in class yet when I read that piece above, but it put me in mind of one of Baldwin's central claims in that book: that people (individually and in groups of various sizes -- families, nations, religions, etc) cultivate blindness to the humanity of others to protect themselves from their own fears and insecurities. Baldwin's rather hopeful solution is that we must learn to love, which he describes as a ripping away of the masks behind which we hide (no touchy-feely "acceptance" or begrudging "tolerance" here). To love, we must learn to truly see ourselves and others.

I think there's something very compelling about this, and I think maybe it gets to the heart of why the colorblind rhetoric troubles me so much. I don't think you can actually love someone - and I might substitute here "respect them as fully human" - if the only way you can understand your shared humanity is by not seeing something that is a fundamental part of who they are. And I think that it is entirely possible (by which I mean absolutely necessary) for human beings to learn the difference between saying that some of the contingent factors of our personhood (race, gender, etc) determine us completely (as is the root claim of much racism, in my opinion) and acknowledging that they do, in fact, form some part of our being.