I’ve been trying to think of a slightly more appropriate title–one hasn’t occurred to me yet so this will remain a placeholder for the moment. But, truth is, it’s kind of the sentiment that has been ringing loudest in my brain…
I’m a fan of Glee, a Gleek, if you will. Yes, there have been shows I didn’t absolutely love, there have been times I’ve been hot and cold, there have been stories and plot points I didn’t agree with–but it’s rare to like everything there is about someone else’s show. It’s their vision, their ideas, their characters–as a viewer, we’re along for the ride. When someone begins tailoring their show to specifically please the audience, that way madness lies.
So, hemming and hawing out of the way, here’s the thing–the whole Vocal Adrenaline’s Ms. Corcoran is Rachel’s mother storyline…wow, I just ran out of punctuation for this. Why? ‘Cause I’m still pissed. Seriously–WTF, Ryan Murphy?
I think it was on EW.com I first saw the suggestion from someone that Idina Menzel’s resemblance to Lea Michele was pretty amazing and that she should be cast as Rachel’s mother. It was a suggestion that any Gleek with any Broadway knowledge embraced. The levels on which that would be too incredible, too perfect made Gleeks giddy. Both great singers, great looking in unique not at all cookie-cutter standards of beauty (unlike, say, Diana Argon as Quinn). The rumours flew…Ryan Murphy would make polite demurrals to tv reporters while speculation ran rampant, especially after word got out that the show was, in fact, talking to Idina about a guest spot. Murphy said in one interview that no way, absolutely no way would Idina turn out to be Rachel’s mother but that she would have a different part to play. Most Gleeks theorized and were proven right that she would turn out to be Vocal Adrenaline’s leader.
Idina turned up as the club director and ended up making out with Matthew Morrison’s character. I don’t think I was alone in feeling that it was a rather big buildup with not much of a payoff…there had to be more to come, right? And then it did…eventually we discovered that she had sent her handsome, self-centred, self-obsessed male lead to befriend Rachel. Somehow, this would help her to find out more about Rachel and slowly lead Rachel to find out that Ms. Corcoran, rival showchoir leader, was her mother.
There was a wonderful moment of Rachel listening to the tape her mother had made for her, singing “I Dreamed a Dream”. We saw Rachel listening to the tape…and her mother listening to it in her car, singing along. Eventually, we were treated to the two of them singing the song together. Powerful, simple, emotional…lovely.
Then–WTF, Ryan Murphy?
Then comes the episode in which a couple of the girls accompany Rachel to listen to Vocal Adrenaline’s rehearsal. In doing so, they hear Ms. Corcoran sing…and Rachel realizes she’s listening to her mother. The two talk briefly–Idina’s character explains that she had seen Rachel sing, been very impressed with her and wanted to get to know her, to help her, to be a part of her life. But she wonders why she doesn’t feel a need to run to Rachel for an embrace; Rachel wonders the same. They ponder their lack of instant bonding. The two of them realize that they need time to process the situation and go off to other stories for the episode.
Eventually, the episode ends with Rachel’s mother explaining that she realizes that Rachel is grown, not a small child. She has had sixteen years without her mother and her mother is not a part of her memories, of her upbringing, of her stories, of her creation. She decides that it’s too difficult to try and have a relationship with a child she has no feeling for, who she can’t shape. They agree that they’re not feeling overwhelmed with love and instant bonding and a need to hug. They go their separate ways.
So, the mother had more or less forced a reunion by having her student plant the cassette tape of her singing for Rachel to find. Rachel discovers the identity of her mother with next to no hunting, no searching and, let’s be frank–no preparation. To go from no mother for sixteen years, to having one standing up at the front of an auditorium singing more or less to you? Bit of a shocker, wouldn’t you think? In fact, when adopted children wish to find their birth parents, if they seek any advice for experts, they’re warned to take their time, have low expectations and realize that it could take substantial time to build a relationship with this person. This is the person who gave them up–who, for whatever reasons, chose not to raise them, to be with them. The person not necessarily looking for them or looking out of curiosity, but not necessarily looking to be instantly a parent to a grown child.
Rachel’s mother’s motives are presented as partly selfish–would she have been as interested if Rachel hadn’t been such a spectacular performer? Was there some sense of transference–of wondering whether she could get another shot at the success which had eluded her by living it through her daughter? They meet, unplanned by either, and both are flummoxed and confused. Not at all an unusual situation–but both decide that it is an indicator of the truth of their relationship. In a world where televison generally shows these moments with both parties throwing themselves at each other, weeping, and tearily proclaiming, “Mom!” “Daughter!” one could see how they would think that. One might even have a brief moment of thinking it was brave of the show to not have them be close…to have them decide it wasn’t for them. An exceedingly brief moment–if one has any understanding of the reality of human emotions whatsoever.
The idea that Shelby announces that she can’t do anything for Rachel, that she can’t teach her anything, that she isn’t part of her history–Rachel is SIXTEEN YEARS OLD! She IS a child, still. She is not an adult. She has time to go yet…but Shelby walks away after the two of them share a strange and slightly inappropriate duet of Gaga’s PokerFace.
It was so startling, so unbelievable that I, and others, had to hope, had to assume that there was something more to the story–there would be a redemption to this. The knowledge that Idina was booked for more episodes gave people room for hope.Then came the last episode of the season…
After Rachel realizes that Vocal Adrenaline is likely to win, she goes to her mother and makes her a proposal: Shelby should quite VA, come to teach at Rachel’s school and become co-leader of Glee Club. And, says Rachel, that Shelby will be able to teach Rachel–because Rachel has so much to learn, so much that Shelby could teach her. True words…true if simply from a student to a winning showchoir leader, but with the hint of truth of a daughter talking to a mother.
And so, I waited for that moment…disappointed that I hadn’t believed that the show’s creators/writers knew better than I. Disappointed right up until Shelby explained that she had decided that it was time to leave Vocal Adrenaline…and that she thought it was time to have a house and a family…a child of her own. That meeting Rachel and realizing that she had missed out on “everything” with her had made her realize how much she wanted it.
Sure I could go on about the utter idiocy of the final denouement–Shelby adopting Quinn’s baby girl so that she can realize her dream–but that is just extra weight to the bitter disappointment I felt over this storyline. Really? Really? WTF!
So, a mother is a mother only if she’s there from birth, if she’s part of the child’s early memories and stories…if she can point out which parts of the child’s makeup are hers? Well, fuck stepmothers then, right? So much for people who adopt older children…people who foster teenagers–they’re idiots, as there is nothing for them in that relationship but to be caretakers until the child gets bored and leaves the house, making clear to give proper credit for who they are to those who were there in the early years of their lives.
And fuck teenagers, too. They don’t need parents after a certain age–they’re done. There’s no ego-gratification left for parents to achieve–those darn teenagers are their own person and no one else can take credit for them.
And fuck parents. So parenting is only about ego-gratification? Only about seeing yourself replicated in your child? Not about raising a sane, healthy, responsible human being who will go out into the world and be who they choose to be?
WTF, Glee? WTF, Ryan Murphy?
Maybe…maybe, Idina Menzel will decide that she wants to do series television at some point, or extend her recurring guest star status and you can revisit this issue…but the damage is done. And my enjoyment of Glee, of the wonderful, silly, surreal circus/spoof/parody/zeitgeist of Glee is slightly less than it was half a dozen episodes back.