It should be said up front that I don’t think Ryan Murphy, Ian Brennan and Brad Falchuck hate women, despite their best efforts to prove otherwise on GLEE. I don’t think that they’re working out some serious mommy issues, or exorcizing some evil past girl-friend demons—I think they are lazy writers. The reason that there are no good, well rounded female characters on GLEE is because they have only fleshed out a single character in the three whole seasons of the show, Kurt Hummel (Chris Colfer). If you go to McKinnely High and you aren’t Kurt Hummel then chances are you are a broad stereotype and vehicle for lame jokes and cover songs. That’s just the way things are in GLEE’s Ohio.
Before you start yelling at me about how much you love GLEE, and how progressive it is, and how fun it is, think to yourself for a second. Think about the female characters on the show and try and show me one that is not a diva, bitch and/or shrieking shrew—being fat doesn’t count, she has to be fat and have a distinctive personality outside of being a total bitch. Sure Rachel (Lea Michele) is talented, but she is a harpy shrew who’s largely hated by everyone, Santana’s (Naya Rivera) a straight evil bitch, Brittany (Heather Morris) is sweet but probably has a head injury, Mercedes (Amber Riley) is a diva who has literally no characterization at all, Tina (Jenna Ushkowitz) exists apparently but I’m starting to doubt it. Oh, can we talk about Quinn (Dianna Agron) for a moment, poor Quinn who has cheated on every boy she has dated and is now working to destroy the life of a seemingly fine mother and inflict serious psychological damage on her child. When I asked my friends who love GLEE if I was missing anyone, they came up with the teachers- Emma (Jayma Mays) and Beiste (Dot Jones)- a woman with a crippling mental disability whose prude hatred of sex is made light of and a woman whose name is seriously pronounced beast. Hey, I mean, at least they’re in school right…
Credit where credit is due, GLEE does take on some serious issues- like bullying and feeling marginalized and different, and it takes on those serious issues with Kurt and Kurt alone. Santana and Brittany’s romance is colored by the fact that Santana is a pretty nasty, evil girl willing to do anything and that Brittany is so stupid she should probably be in a ward somewhere, seriously that girl is a danger to herself. Not to mention the fact that they never leave their short skirted cheerleader outfits and are used as a comic tool. Every moment the girls have together that brings real emotion to the screen is undercut by one being mean and the other being stupid. If Kurt and Blaine’s romance is one that is helping questioning boys everywhere feel like they will one day be accepted, then Santana and Brittany’s is helping questioning girls fear that they will always be laughed at and exploited for blatant sexuality. Kurt and Blaine (Darren Criss) are serious; Santana and Brittany are comic relief.
As I said before, the lady problem that GLEE has is not an issue with the writers and producers not liking female characters—it’s a problem with not caring about characters as much as they care about moment. The spectacular coverage of GLEE over on the A.V. Club likes to point out that GLEE is all about moments with plot and character work coming in at a distant second. Each of the female characters I’ve named have had moments of great pathos and humanity—and then they go back to being whatever the writers need them to be for the next moment to work. If that means that Santana goes from singing “Songbird” in a way that makes her seem like the most deep, contemplative person on earth to an over the top villain within an episode then that is a price they are willing to pay. Moments are fine and good, but storytelling is about the whole story, not just the best parts of the story. If GLEE was able to get a bit more story in the show, maybe the ladies wouldn’t have such a huge problem.