Tina during I Wish (4x21)
So Tina was angry through most of this episode (which is not really new, to be honest, and I completely understand since I just re-watched Props, where she was told over and over and over that she’ll get to shine this year, and guess what, she didn’t). But during this number, it’s really noticeable.
I don’t really know ~why~ but Tina, during I Wish was so bored and irritated and she just generally had enough and the disdain she projects towards everyone burns everything in sight. It’s really conspicuous, especially compared to the others, who are pretty into it (and we got lots of reaction shots of her too).
And it’s not even that she didn’t enjoy anything, she had fun during Higher Ground where she just watches, or YATSOML where she got to perform. It’s this particular number, where she just gives up pretending.
And I wonder if it is because of Mike specifically, or because yet another member (who is just a sophomore!) is put into the front instead of her (by Mike who told her last year to wait for her turn to shine when she dared to complain after three years of silent teamwork) doing something that she can do just as well (see Gangham Style).
That moment when Mike sets up the song is interesting, too. He makes a big deal out of highlighting someone’s talent, and what’s odd is that Sam actually stands up—and while there’s laughter I don’t think Sam is trying to be funny. But yeah, given what Mike says, it’s easy to see how Tina would be offended. Remember what a big deal he made of her talent during Grease, even though she had such a minor role—he’s often pushed her to be a team player. And here he is singling someone out.
The more I think about this, the more I wonder (tentatively!) if this is another instance of Glee engaging us on the subject of race. Think about it. Tina is a character who has been passed over and over and over for others not one bit more talented; who has been told, when she dares to complain, that she should be a team player; and whose very real plight is more or less totally invisible to those around her. Her anger is understood by her peers not as a reasonable response to injustice, but as evidence of a generally bad attitude emanating from within, not from without. Is this what it sometimes feels like to be Asian American in Hollywood? I am neither Asian American, nor in Hollywood, so I am 100% open to correction, but I can’t help but think: being Asian American in show business may mean being passed over for roles that you deserve, it may mean being part of the ensemble, and it means that even occasional starring performances often feature ethnicity prominently. (Gangnam Style, anyone? Not that she wasn’t totally amazing, but still. HER ONLY COMPETITION LEAD EVER.) One could generalize beyond Hollywood, as well.
Why do I think that Glee may be urging a conversation about race, rather than (just) being racist? Because while Tina is certainly not a featured character on Glee, the PTB have taken great pains, over the course of four seasons, to revisit the theme of Tina being passed over again and again and again — it is arguably the central narrative of her character — and to build up her simmering rage incrementally in a way that parallels the experience of certain kinds of discrimination: each instance may leave plausible deniability to the offender(s), but the accumulated pattern leaves no doubt as to what is really going on. Tina is being systematically overlooked. It is emphatically NOT in her head. (Something that people are often told.) Can anyone who watches the show, even casually, doubt this fact? We, the audience, share her point of view. We sympathize with her pain. It is not invisible to us.
Also, of course, Glee has made a habit of engaging, in its own awesomely subversive way, on the subject of race. See Lettersfromtitan on the subject of Blaine and Passing. [Please visit her LJ to read.] See Brit’s (established) face-blindness and the way it makes us cringe when she confuses Unique and Mercedes in a manner designed precisely to confront stereotypes surrounding Black women. See, even, Kitty’s cheeky comment in 4.21 on her disability: she doesn’t know how to recognize when things are offensive. Despite a possibly problematic use of the term disability here, which of course is intentional, this could also be seen as a metaphor for White/Able/Straight/etc. Privilege. If you are a member of the dominant group — and all of us are, sometimes — you might genuinely have no idea what you are doing. But that doesn’t mean you aren’t doing it.