Glee: Season 1, Episode 15
The Power of Madonna
I understand that Madonna gave Glee the rights to all of her music in a highly publicized move that doesn't at all smell like a publicity stunt. I think that's decently cool of her, and when I heard the news, I imagined the show would put her music to good use. What I didn't think they would do is devote an entire episode to her. But then again, its Glee, so they have to tie all of their episodes together tenuously through obvious song patterns instead of subtly with things like "themes" or "depth."

The plot of this episode, if you can even call it that, did not work on any sort of level. I get that Sue Sylvester is a powerful woman, but everything about her character pretty much screams that she would think Madonna was a "cheap whore" (or the equivalent, as she often refers to her girls as such for similar behavior), and the only reason she doesn't is so that this episode can have a Madonna song in literally every scene. This comes about because the Principal is a total coward, to the point that his cowardice defies realism. If any Principal anywhere allowed Madonna music to be blasted throughout the halls of his school all day, he would be pretty immediately fired. Beyond that, it isn't even necessary for the show to have those songs playing in the background. It stinks of the show using the songs simply because it can, which really hurts their potentially cool ability to use some pretty iconic songs well. Just because Glee now has the ability to use every Madonna song, did they have to try to cram them all into one episode? It took some of the joy out of the musical numbers to know that they were shoehorned in basically because they were a Madonna song, not because they did anything to move the story at all.

The main storyline had all of the girls being mistreated by all of the boys (who this week are assholes) and losing all of their confidence (because this week the girls are meek and lack the self-possession it takes to belt songs like they do). This leads Will's amazingly convoluted assignment machine to pop out the idea that they all sing Madonna songs. Meanwhile Rachel, Finn, and Emma all deal with the possibility of losing their virginities (I wonder where the show got the idea to have three characters feel..."Like a Virgin"?). Over on the Sue Sylvester front, she kept beating the dead horse that is the Will has bad hair jokes, but also got in some wonderful absurdities in her exchange with Kurt and Mercedes. And, just in case you were worried the show had gotten over its seriously problematic misunderstanding of what it means to be gay, Kurt threw in another line about him being an honorary girl tonight. Because, you know, being gay means you're a girl.

All of that being said, the musical numbers tonight were some of the best the show has ever done. They were pretty perfectly produced, sounded great, and were a lot of fun to watch. In a vacuum, each of the songs in this episode were excellent. But tied together by this lazy, boring, offensive after school special of an episode, even the wonderful musical numbers seemed tarnished. I still feel like there is a great show buried somewhere (deep, deep, deep) inside Glee, but with each passing episode I lose a little more faith that it will ever emerge. This show could easily be truly about something. With a little effort, the show could transcend its tropes, cliches, and offensive stereotypes in favor of plot arcs, character development, and thematic resonance. If the show tried at all, it could use the power of song to convey complex, subtle, or insanely over dramatic emotions in a way no other show on television has ever done before. Yet it seems that Glee is satisfied to settle for the least common denominator and be a mainstream success with an empty soul.

Grade: B-


-The grade on this episode was bumped up because the musical numbers were really that good. The rest of the episode was more in C- territory, but they transcended the shittiness around them.

-Simply saying the word aloud makes me feel powerful...even in voice over."

-"When I pulled my hamstring, I went to a misogynist."

- I loved the absurdity of Sue's exchange with Kurt and Mercedes. She claims her parents were Nazi Hunters, but also that she is currently 29. And as an explanation for her hairstyle choice she says, "We bleached my hair with whatever chemicals we could find around the house. Ammonia, napalm..."

-"I've decided to add vocals to my already wildly overproduced Cheerios numbers."

-I got a kick out of the way Lea Michele choked out "No!" when Jesse challenged Finn to a sing off.
Tags: Glee
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