I just watched GLEE’s entire second season. I continue to like the way the writers of the show tackle all the important issues of our day by showing us what goes on in the lives of its high-school characters as they sing and dance their way through their day-to-day problems, including how many of them are dealing with their sexuality—how Kurt and Blaine are both out-of-the-closet and are now a happy couple; how Santana and Brittany are still going through a lot of angst while struggling with their secret lesbian relationship; and how Karofsky, the hateful homophobic football-playing bully, is himself actually gay, having forced himself on Kurt sometime ago by kissing him in the locker room, and who now lives in fear of Kurt not keeping his lips sealed.
Given GLEE’s seeming advocacy of topical gay and lesbian issues, I am greatly puzzled by the song which Rachel sings in the episode about whether or not she should improve her looks by submitting to plastic surgery after her nose is accidentally punched and broken by her boyfriend Finn. For those who don’t watch GLEE and don’t know, Rachel is Jewish. She admires Barbra Streisand for not getting her nose fixed. She herself has never thought about getting the procedure done, until now, when the plastic surgeon tells her that he can make her look more like Quinn, the school’s reigning cheerleading Aryan blond beauty queen.
In the end, Rachel does the right thing and decides to keep her schnoz. She starts to sing “I Feel Pretty,” the Rodgers and Hammerstein song which the Asian-American Nancy Kwan sang so fetchingly in the movie adaptation of FLOWER DRUM SONG. The lyrics to the song are fairly well-known: “I feel pretty/Oh so pretty/I feel pretty and witty and gay…” But when Rachel sings the song, she changes the lyrics to: “I feel pretty/Oh so pretty/I feel pretty and witty and bright…”
So what’s going on here? Is the heterosexual Rachel afraid to use the word “gay” for fear that her peers might not know that the word also means merry and happy? And since when did gay become synonymous with bright anyway? Or is this Rachel’s way of admitting how dumb she is for not singing the song the way it was written? In any case, did the writers and producers of GLEE clear this word revision with the Rogers and Hammerstein estate?
Last night, at the 63rd Primetime Emmy Awards, GLEE won none of the awards, and MODERN FAMILY won five, including the Best Comedy Award, which it also won last year. I used to like both GLEE and MODERN FAMILY equally; but now, if I have to decide which of the two shows is braver in its depiction of gay and interracial issues in America today, like the Emmy judges, I too would have to go with MODERN FAMILY.
For me, GLEE lost some of its luster when it substituted the word “bright” for “gay.” And, for all her gay agenda last night as host of the Emmy Awards, I thought the GLEE-ful Jane Lynch should have just worn her usual Sue Sylvester polyester gym sweats for the show, instead of all those ugly gowns which made her look like Ichabod Crane in drag. Not a bright choice for someone’s who’s gay. That’s how Sue would have called it.
It makes Cary Grant as the palentologist in _Bringing up Baby_ pronouncing “I’ve turned gay” seem braver in 1938 than Glee is today too!
I always enjoy your posts, Paul. Thanks for sharing.
I would love to know the rational for changing the wording of the song.
If you find out, let us know!
I believe “bright” is the word used by Sondheim in the second verse of the song. One could say that the term “gay” gets too many giggles from the shows demographic base (teenagers and soccer moms).
Paul, where you see reticence, I see diplomacy. They’re trying to get “Marcus Bachmann and wife” to feel okay with the “idea” before they put that nasty label on it.
As always, brilliant and provocative insight on a really dumb American culture. I”m sorry I’ve been so long absent from your comment box… (If you make that an innuendo, I swear to god…)
Sondheim? “I Feel Pretty” from FLOWER DRUM SONG is by Rodgers and Hammerstein.