Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Us Sistas Gotta Stick Togetha

Okay, so I got some mad love for Glee. I will acknowledge, that the show's female characters are not the strongest ladies on television... but hello... they're teenagers. This seems obvious.

Tonight's episode featured the Glee kids trying to funkify their act. Mercedes tells the group that she's got it in the bag, and Quinn protests. Mercedes accuses Quinn of only having white people pain, Quinn, the disgruntled pregnant teen, comes in and sings "It's a Man's Man's World" with the rest of the unwed mother's club of McKinley High.

Afterward, Mercedes finds Quinn and gives her the sista talk: she underestimated Quinn's empathy for how Mercedes, as a black woman in Ohio, has faced discrimination all her life, and that she wants Quinn to move out of her baby daddy's house and live with her. "Us sistas gotta stick together," she says.

There have been a few heartfelt conversations between Quinn and Mercedes throughout the second half of the season, and I think they are great, this one especially. Girls are so socialized to work against each other; to scheme, to gossip, to lie, to backstab... I mean, you've seen "Mean Girls." This is a problem.

However, the healthy, friendly, even "sisterly" kind of communication that sets a good example for behavior (male or female) is hard to come by in the media. In the past couple years, boys have probably made more progress than girls in having realistic models of healthy, realistic male friendship portrayed in the media. Pop culture takes girls for granted: it has long been the model that girls will watch shows (and movies) about boys, but boys will not watch shows (and movies) about girls. Ergo, shows and movies featuring male characters are the money makers, able to reach a larger audience. It wasn't until 1995's Clueless that the big wigs started paying attention to how much of a money maker girls on their own were. After Clueless, the Chick Flick was spawned. Whether the Chick Flick is a positive or negative thing for women is a topic for another post, but Clueless was somewhat remarkable in 1995 for having 3 female characters who were not only the stars, but were funny and engaging, and occasionally didn't talk about guys.

Back to Glee. Mercedes' and Quinns' little chat tonight represents more of what we need on TV: female characters who are portrayed learning from their mistakes and bonding in a meaningful way with one another. And at the same time, Mercedes' and Quinns' honesty about their hurt, frustration, and understanding regarding each other's situations does the audience a world of good. Now, I don't think TV shows should turn into one giant PSA (that would make it like Canada's Degrassi... which I watched 6 episodes of earlier today...), but media does have a HUGE HUGE HUGE influence on popular opinion. Showing girls who are not pulling each other's hair out or banging pots at each other or stabbing each other's metaphorical backs (God, reality TV kills me!), who are actually friends, actually talking to each other, actually ACTIVELY trying to have empathy for one another... that's going to make a difference! And I didn't feel like I was watching a PSA while watching their scene, I just felt glad that Glee wasn't perpetuating negative stereotypes not only about women, but about black women and pregnant teenagers.

Most girls have other friends who are girls, and have really important friendships with them! If they exist, shouldn't the media show that kind of stuff?

Again, pop culture is making progress, albeit slowly. It's our job, as pop culture consumers, to support that which we like and agree with. It just makes sense!

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