Fighting with the Sky

Glee: Wheels

Posted on: November 12, 2009

chairsI saw this promotional picture before this week’s episode of Glee, “Wheels,” aired and I started dreading what was going to happen.  Glee has a track record of using Artie’s wheelchair as a prop and not really respecting what people with disabilities have to go through on a daily basis.  I have to say, though, that this episode was a mixture of using the chair as a prop and of actually having some semi-good things to say about disabilities.

It all started when the school wouldn’t provide the money to get a handicapped bus for the glee club to go to sectionals, which meant that Artie would have had to get to ride from his father instead of riding with the team.  Mr. Shue wasn’t going to stand for this, but the other glee members didn’t seem to bothered by it at first.  Mr. Shue had to put his foot down.  The glee club ended up holding a bake sale to raise the money and they all had to spend at least three hours a day in a wheelchair so that they could better understand what Artie goes through.

One of the side stories was that Kurt wanted to sing the solo in the song “Defying Gravity” from Wicked.  Mr. Shue had originally given the solo to Rachel, but after Kurt complained of discrimination, he agreed to hold tryouts for the solo.  In the end, Kurt ended up blowing the high note in the solo on purpose because he was afraid of the harassment that his father might get if he sang a girls part.  The other side story was that Quinn and Finn are coming to terms with what having a baby is going to cost.  Finn is trying to get a job (which he ends up doing, but only by comvincing the manager that he was actually in a wheelchair — more on this later), and Quinn keeps bothering him about paying the bills.  Puck tries to offer to help with the money, but Quinn won’t accept it.

So, there were lots of things going on in this episode.  Let’s talk about disability to start off with since that is what the show centered around this week.  I did like that they were trying to get the other glee members to realize what it is like to be in a wheelchair.  There were some semi-good themes of not excluding people based solely on their disability.  But in the end, I feel like the wheelchairs were just used as props again.  Both Finn and Puck use their wheelchairs for their benefits — Finn to get a job to support Quinn and Puck to get marijuana to put in the bake sale goods to raise money to support Quinn.  And at the end, they all performed a number, “Rolling Down the River,” in wheelchairs (get it…rolling…because they’re in wheelchairs).  It was nice to see Artie take the lead in the song, but I felt like having the other kids in the wheelchair this time made the wheelchair the prop.

But on a positive note, we got to see that Artie is not asexual, that he is capable of a romantic relationship.  I’m really glad that they included this storyline because there is often a perception in society that people with disabilities are not sexual.  In this episode we see Artie and Tina connecting on a romantic level…if sometimes in a really awkward way.  We see them on a date, racing wheelchairs, where they kiss for the first time.  But then Tina reveals that she does not actually have a stutter, she just started it because she was shy and didn’t want to talk to people.  Artie is not okay with this and ends up leaving because he cannot understand why someone would want to push people away like that, saying something along the lines of “I’m glad that you are normal now and I’m still in a wheelchair.”  We also get to hear about how Artie ended up in a wheelchair, which I think is important to talk about.

I was very frustrated with Quinn this episode.  Not only is she lying to Finn about the baby being his, she expects him to completely support her.  She keeps yelling at him to get a job, even though he does seem to be trying, and she’s not taking any responsibility for the financial aspect of having a baby.  I’m not saying that Finn (or Puck, since he’s actually the father) should not be responsible for the baby and the money, but Quinn needs to realize that she is also responsible.  Quinn is just getting deeper and deeper into the writers need to portray pregnant women as crazy.  It’s really annoying.

Puck is also really growing on me.  I didn’t like his character at first, but now he’s become really sweet and you can tell that he does care about Quinn.  He spends the episode trying to show Quinn that he can support that baby, that he would be a good father.  He also tries to talk to Finn about his constant complaining.  Puck tells Finn to think about what Quinn must be going through carrying the baby, that it’s not all about him.  Which is important for Finn to hear, but it also falls into Quinn’s whole thing this episode where she doesn’t seem to be taking responsibility for the baby other than getting Finn to pay for things.

I also really liked Sue’s storyline this episode.  She is ordered to hold open tryouts for the Cheerios, supervised by Will.  She ends up choosing a girl who is mentally disabled and really excited about cheerleading.  Will criticizes her for being too hard on this girl.  Sue comes back by saying that she’s hard on everyone and that Will wants to “treat this girl like she has a disability, when it seems to me that she just wants to be like everyone else.”  Sue brought up a really good point there.  And then at the end we see Sue visiting her older sister who has a mental disability and being really sweet with her, which is a huge change of pace for Sue.

I came into this episode expecting to cringe the whole way through because of their continuing treatment of disabilities.  While there were definitely some cringe worthy parts, it wasn’t as bad as I was expecting.  But, for such an Artie-centric episode, we didn’t really see him a lot.  He had a solo song (“Dancing With Myself” — it was really good), he took the lead in “Rolling on the River,” and we saw him with Tina.  But the show still seemed to center around how the leads dealt with being in a wheelchair and the whole Finn/Quinn/Puck romantic triangle drama.

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